Ipswich unveils BooksEast - a family-friendly literary festival
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk gets a new books festival this summer which aims to bring the excitement of words, ideas and storytelling to the widest group of people possible.
BooksEast will be offering a fresh perspective on the literary world over a long weekend from May 13-15 along with additional events taking place on Wednesday, May 11.
The focus of the event will be centred on Ipswich Town Hall and Corn Exchange which will be offering a head-turning array of overlapping events which aims to provide a series of entertaining, intriguing meetings for anyone who has an interest in the written word. Whereas many festivals focus squarely on popular fiction, BooksEast looks to embrace the full spectrum of the book-loving world with special emphasis on children’s books, non-fiction, film, comedy and contemporary novels.
The festival is being guided by former DanceEast director Assis Carreiro in collaboration with writing consultant Andrew Burton, creative producer Sara Newman and associate director Susannah Burke.
Assis said: “I’m thrilled that our vision to create an exciting and vibrant book festival for Ipswich has become a reality. Thanks to the incredible support of our funders, sponsors and partners, the first BooksEast Festival brings an eclectic mix of events with something for audiences of all ages.”
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Andrew added that many literary festivals were aimed largely at women because they were seen as enthusiastic readers. BooksEast wants to upset that particular applecart and prove that books appeal equally to men and young people. The secret to get a diverse audience is in adventurous programming and providing multiple events in close proximity to one another, so people can move easily from one event to another.
“Ipswich Corn Exchange, Film Theatre, Town Hall and its gallery spaces and café and other venues across the town, will be buzzing as a wide range of writers descend on the town to inspire and delight audiences of all ages from 4 to 104,” said Andrew.
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“The reason my fellow BooksEast collaborators and I want to bring BooksEast to Suffolk is that we share a passion for the transformative power of books. We want families, children, groups and businesses to be as excited as we are about the way books can broaden our horizons. Books are uniquely well placed to offer us fresh perspectives on the world around us and to encourage empathy; goodness knows, as a society, we need this now more than ever.”
“Wanting to meet an author because you like his work”, quipped Margaret Atwood in Negotiating with the Dead, “is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.”
Atwood’s characteristically provocative statement contains an essential truth. What is the point of meeting an author at a book festival when the real relationship between reader and writer takes place quietly, in private, in the pages of a book or via a reading device? Are we not likely to be disappointed when we meet our literary heroes and heroines in the flesh?”
Andrew believes not and hopes that the authors, adventurers and social commentators lined up to appear at the festival will entertain, surprise and delight audiences throughout the three-day weekend.
“Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon will be talking about her latest book The Monstrous Child; adventurer and explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes will be in conversation with his long-time collaborator Anton Bowring in Life at the Limits while Granta ‘Best of British’ novelist Xiaolu Guo will discuss her book I Am China.
“A Bright Futures panel will include Eimear McBride, author of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 winning novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney, winner of the Costa First Book Award 2015, and Jessica Cornwell, author of The Serpent Papers which was the subject of an international bidding war.
“Meanwhile Britain’s leading thinker Charles Handy will reveal the thinking behind his latest book The Second Curve; and many more authors and events are planned, including pro cyclist David Millar and Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, creators of the hugely popular Ladybird parody books (The Husband: How it Works etc.)”
In addition to author interviews the BooksEast festival will also feature an introduction to the Spaghetti Western by former Arts Council chairman Sir Christopher Frayling at the Ipswich Film Theatre (IFT) followed by a screening of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, along with a literary pub crawl created by Eastern Angles’ Ivan Cutting, inviting audiences to join George Orwell and Arthur Ransome as they work out their differences while wandering from pub to pub. Best-selling adult colouring author Millie Marrota has provided colouring sheets for a competition everyone can take part in.
There will also be short story competitions for young people and writing workshops from authors like Jill Dawson whose latest novel The Crime Writer will be launched during the festival.
Andrew said that one of the most important elements of the festival was providing something for those who don’t automatically think that books or reading is something which appeals to them. He wants BooksEast to have genuine family atmosphere where various family members can all find something to attract them in the Town Hall and Corn Exchange during the sweekend.
ITV’s royal correspondent and former Radio Orwell journalist Tim Ewart will launch his book on Queen Elizabeth II; Sir Ranulph Fiennes will talk about his battling the elements and David Cavanagh will present his eagerly anticipated John Peel biography Good Night and Good Riddance: How 35 Years of John Peel Helped to Shape Modern Life.
In addition to sharing his passion for the work of Sergio Leone, Sir Christopher Frayling will also provide an insight into the life of writer Angela Carter and her gothic world while Roger Hermiston will explore Churchill’s Coalition Years (1940-45); and Dame Fiona Reynolds’ talk about British nature.
“I think the session on the new tongue-in-cheek Ladybird series will be hugely successful.”
He said that Assis and the team were keen to make the event exciting and attractive to younger readers as well.
“BooksEast wants to address the literacy deficit in some Ipswich primary schools by working in partnership with The New Wolsey Theatre’s creative learning team. Actor/storytellers will deliver fun and accessible workshops in selected schools in the weeks leading up to the festival and pupils and their families will be given festival tickets to come and experience the power of the written word. We are also in partnership with the Ipswich Children’s Book Group which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and with Suffolk Libraries.
“Our festival programme is geared to attract children and their families for a wide range of events. BooksEast is East Anglia’s newest book festival, born out of Ip-Lit, the literary strand of the Ip-Art Festival, BooksEast has ambitions to become the Hay of the East coast”
Details at www.bookseast.co.uk