Tag Archives: Rachel New

Birmingham Literature Festival 2015

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This is the 17th year for Birmingham Literature Festival organised by Jonathan Davidson Director of Writing West Midlands.

It was the first literature festival (apart from Hays) that I attended in 2013 and I practically spent the whole season in the library at events. Last year I was fortunate enough to be chosen as 1 of 4 poets who were commissioned by Naked Lungs to write and perform at the festival. This year, I booked my tickets as soon as they were available, due to other performance commitments I was unable to manage many events this year.

Tickets are still available and the festival runs until 17th October.

Short and Sweet: Short Fiction Salon

This was an event hosted by fiction writer and Heart Breakfast presenter Rachel New, Short & Sweet allows you to dip your toe into the water of live literature, and enjoy readings we select for you – including a story from Rachel herself written especially for this event.

Rachel New is a veteran of short fiction challenges – having survived two unusual residencies at Birmingham Literature Festivals past – Ten Day Sentence in 2013 and One Page Wonders in 2014. Both these experiences saw Rachel writing against the clock, responding to prompts from the wider festival audience and producing huge volumes of creative fiction. Rachel brings this expertise, as well as her ongoing PhD studies in creative writing, to the Short & Sweet arena for performances and discussion.

© 2015 Writing West Midlands

It was a great event and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories. The writers were;

Liam Brown

William Gallagher (who recited his whole story from memory)

Lisa Blower

Pauls Bankovskis guest of BLF 15

Jan Watts

Garrie Fletcher

& Rachel New

It is my pleasure to know some of these writers and I loved discovering stories from voices and pens I haven’t  come across too.

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Rita Dove and Guests

We are delighted to welcome Rita Dove, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner, to give a rare poetry reading in the UK. A mesmerising performer, Rita Dove’s work covers a range of subjects, each of them addressed with wit and verve.

Her most recent poetry collections are Sonata Mulattica and American Smooth. She is editor of the Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry and is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Among her honours are the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, making her the only poet to ever receive both medals.

As a prelude to Rita Dove’s reading, we present three short poetry performances. Jo Bell, Canal Laureate, will be reading from her eagerly awaited new collection, Kith. She will be joined by Birmingham Young Poet Laureate 2014-15, Serena Arthur and by Oliver Sullivan, a young performer from the region who was runner up in this year’s Poetry by Heart Competition. 

Sponsored by the University of Birmingham.

© 2015 Writing West Midlands

This event was a real treat, it was a delight to listen to Rita Dove and discover her poetry. Jo Bell opened the evening with a great set and rapport with the audience. Serena Arthur provided us with a confident performance of her poems, including one of the poems she won the Young Poet Laureate with and as for Oliver Sullivan, such talent remembering classical poetry.

I was already on a high after NPD events the evening before and my night in Birmingham topped up my poetry fuel nicely.

I am a little sad that I cannot attend as much as the festival as I would have liked this year. I have had to cancel one of the tickets as I have been asked to cover as an Assistant Writer for Writing West Midlands on the same day.

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RELATED LINKS

http://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/season/birmingham-literature-festival

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/birmingham-literature-festival-2015-whats-9663804

http://visitbirmingham.com/what-to-do/festivals-events/art-photography-culture/birmingham-literature-festival/

http://www.writingwestmidlands.org/event/birmingham-literature-festival-2015/

Watching a Radio Show – Birmingham Literature Festival & BBC Radio 4

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BLF Radio 4 Roger McGough, Jo Bell, Ian Duhig and Rachel New 

Photos were taken on my mobile to capture atmosphere and although they are not the sharpest focus they are still covered by copyright.

After the launch (Thursday 3rd October) my next booked event was on Sunday 6th for the Radio 4 recording of Poetry Please (a show that has been running for 30 years) presented by Roger McGough. 1 blf r4

I was very excited! I had hoped to post about this sooner (offline issues) as the live recording was broadcast last Sunday (a week later) on the 13th October. With the wonders of the internet you may still be able to access it and give it a listen.

It was a great experience, just being part of a live audience. But the afternoon held far more treasures than just that.

Roger McGough, who I have met before, walked past me whilst I was queuing to get in for a start! He was the host of the show and they had a team of actors 1 blf ac reading many of the chosen poems. They also had Jo Bell (Canal Laurete and featured poet on my National Poetry Day post on this blog) Lifted and the first poem she performed was ‘Lifted’ it was great to hear it live. And I discovered the joys and influences of Ian Duhig’s poetry.

After the first recording I got brave and spoke to Roger and took a few photos of him. 1 blf rBless him for his time and acceptance of flashing smart phones.

One of the great things was although the majority of the audience were Radio 4 listeners, there were plenty of young people too. I heard a couple of ladies refer to us as Roger’s groupies, I have to correct, we were not. He is such a kind poet, willing to pose for photos and chat to us.

I then got braver and went to speak to Jo Bell. I forget how friendly poet’s are and still expect a bit of a brush off from them…. Fortunately so far everyone has been lovely and genuinely seemed interested in conversing. I hadn’t realised that Jo Bell was the director of National Poetry Day until we started talking. The Director of the Poetry Society was also there and she mentioned the familiarity of awritersfountain blog as she was keeping track of National Poetry Day posts and had seen that I posted Lifted – Jo’s poem on NPD. It is a great honour that someone in her position has fleetingly visited…. On a par with a Royal visit from the Queen (although I doubt she reads many wordsmith blogs…)

I realised Jo was also performing and hosting a workshop and I felt guilty I hadn’t tickets for either… I have kept excel sheet accounts of my expenditure this year and so far the world of writing has cost a monthly salary! I am running low on funds unless I enter and win some monetary competitions soon. Her performance was on a day I was already attending the festival, I thought I might try to go, as it turned out I had to work.

It was great meeting Jo after choosing her as my National Poetry Day Blog Poet (an accolade I am sure she will treasure as much as her Canal Laureate and Directorial role!)

1 blf me j After a brief chat and another photo (wish I had washed my hair and thought more about wearing make up!) – I snapped a few other website publicity shots – here’s one of Jo and Ian together. 1 blf ji

Then went out for the interval between recordings…. and found Mr Roger McGough behind a table handing out autographs! Well signing books mainly.

They (BBC Radio 4) have a new book – which they were unable to advertise (BBC) which celebrates 30 years of Poetry Please, it is a doorstop size volume that would do battle with any winter draft. Roger was signing them. I bought the last but one copy hurriedly and hoped that he wouldn’t have left the signing table. Which he hadn’t but Rachel New (the resident writer for BLF attempting a 10 day sentence – writing 30,000 words over the festival) appeared at the same time to meet Roger herself.

I also wanted to speak with her -I’d failed to find her in the library on the Knowledge floor because in my mind she was in the big circular garden room you can see a few metres away from the entrance.1 blf rachel new

Roger was busy signing books so I struck up conversation with Rachel first, then he was ready to sign mine and I was still talking to Rachel – I felt really rude about this as I handed him the book and said ‘please sign this’, I also missed out on a personal message as he couldn’t get a word in edgeways to ask me my name as I manically gushed over Rachel’s challenge!

I hope he didn’t think I was going to flog the signed book on Ebay or something. It is on my shelf along with the other publications bought at the Literature Festival. I stood there awkwardly for a few seconds trying to make up for my rudeness, but by then Rachel and Roger were in full flow (talking) and it would have been rude to butt in and only fuel the fire that I was an obnoxious member of the public who at first ignores the great names and then attempts to talk over the top of them! So I withdrew and took this photo –

1blf rr which was snapped by crew members for the official BLF website. (I spoke to Lee, the festival photographer on the last day of the festival in the hope that I may be able to use some of the brilliant BLF website pictures, unfortunately Lee was unsure and they have been locked so that we can’t use them, fair enough I suppose.)

The 2nd recording was With Great Pleasure and The Echo Chamber, with Paul Farley (due for broadcast January 2014.)

1 blfThe second half was just as fantastic as the Poetry Please recording and the production included some people choice poetry as well. I wasn’t brave enough to introduce a poem – but I did have my chance and could have been on the radio show (Poetry Please) too! I thought I had stepped into the poetry limelight enough today and instead shrank into my seat!

And not mentioned in the programme was the greatest surprise of all. Katie Sultana – blf katiean exceptionally talented and confident teen, she won a National schools competition for reciting poetry -she was so talented. I wanted to hire her there and then to perform my poetry for me.

Watch out for her name.

In stars!