Saturday, 29 October 2016

Poetic writers & Feminism at Ilkley Literature Festival

I love literary events and I especially love literature festivals. There's usually the chance to hear one of our favourite authors speaking (and to get them to sign your books!). There's also the chance to find out about something new, to learn something unexpected and maybe even discover something that you didn't know you'd enjoy. Sometimes, you even get entertained. And, of course, you get to chat (which I always like!). I think Little M likes the cake too but my eye is usually wandering in many other places.

We went to so many events at this year's Ilkley Literature Festival, probably more than usual. I'm making up for lost time. Here are some of our highlights.

I don't read that much poetry. At school we had to learn it word-for-word and make copious line notes. At uni, well, in many ways that was worse. But, I like the odd poems and I do own anthologies and there have been many nights where reading poetry out loud is our dinner table entertainment. And, some of my favourite events at literature festivals are poetry inspired ones (a late and recent realisation!).

The books we bought

Kei Miller, a self-proclaimed middle-class Jamaican, read an extract from his novel Augustown. Kei Miller is a poet and you could hear it. I was on-the-spot sold. He also made an interesting comment about magic realism suggesting that from some people's perspective it is their realism, their belief, their experience, and that there is nothing fantastical or magical about it. Hmmm. I'll bear this in mind when I read  his novel. He was completely charming and his event was definitely one of my most entertaining of the festival.

Garth Greenwell is also a poet. But, I went to an event about this debut novel What Belongs to You. He was being interviewed by Andrew Motion, also a poet, and the festival's poet-in-residence. The chat, inspired by the novel and gay literature, explored topics of novels of consciousness, desire, disgust, bodies, shame, the ethics of seeing and of course (!), sex scenes in novels. Most thought-provoking and literature-exploring event that I attended. Oh yeah, and Little M's first encounter of being read an unflinching sex scene. Gosh, the difference a few years make.

Inua Ellams, another poet. He read a couple out loud. He chatted about being a black, male poet in a Western world. His response to what is the most interesting thing about women question was "clothes". I bought two of his books.

I bought the Selected Poems by Walter Swan, a late friend, whose Memorial Lecture was given by James Brining, creative director at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I learned quite a bit from this lecture, especially about dementia-friendly theatre performances. And Walter's poetry brings a smile to my face.

Little M and I also went along to a couple of 'feminist' events.

Well, Jenni Murray, is so funny (among other things!). Thoroughly enjoyed her chat about A History of Britain in 21 Women. Yep, she started off talking about the engineers and ended by saying that although she'd like to think she would have been a nice-talking Suffragist she suspects she'd have been a stone-throwing Suffragette. Little M thinks an audio version would be heavenly.

And then Laura Bates's Girl Up talk. Nothing especially new in this - for me - but she definitely engages people brilliantly. A packed room full of inspired  (and inspiring!) girls (and even older women) attended was was less a book-reading than an hour long campaign.  Guess that's the way to get the wheels on revolutions and book sales turning. Nice one, Laura.

Between Little M, Daddy Cool and me, we also attended events about Star Trek, peace activists, politics, war, and work-in-progress dramas.

This year, Little M was a volunteer steward. At one point, she asked me why I wasn't doing it. I laughed: good question. I'd probably love it but I'd just never thought about it. Next year then, maybe.

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