Literature: On the write road to festival success
Mar 5 2010 by Val Javin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
IF YOU want to experience the Word In Action then look no further than Huddersfield.
The now well established Huddersfield Literature Festival returns next week with its director, the writer Michael Stewart, describing it as the most exciting and innovative yet.
This is the second year of a three year commitment Michael has made to the festival which chimes perfectly with his own creative career.
He continues to combine a successful writing career with lecturing two days a week at the University of Huddersfield on creative writing.
“I have a new novel coming out next January and am currently working on that with the editors,’’ he said.
“I’ve just got a commission from Radio 4 for an afternoon play and the next Grist anthology comes out in May.”
Michael continues to write stand-up comedy with Nick Stanley and has an unabated passion for music.
Combine all of that and the preoccupations of this year’s festival become very clear.
We have poet and wannabee rock icon Simon Armitage performing with his band The Scaremongers.
This is the band Simon set up with Shelley-born songwriter and fellow poet Craig Smith.
Little wonder they are playing on the same day as one of the festival’s big new ideas kicks off – create and record an album in a day.
Last year Michael kickstarted the idea of lyrics as an intrinsic part of the literature festival and this year goes a step further.
“We don’t think it has been done before,’’ he said. “We want poets and lyricists to come and make music history with our team of professional writers along with composers from the university to write, compose, perform and record and album in a day.
“People can either bring along a poem or lyrics they are working on or use our masterclass to write a new one. “Musicians will then turn the lyrics into a song and the performance will be recorded and a CD made.”
And that ambitious creative project is just the start of a festival which promises to fizz along with 30 events packing five days at venues across the town.
It all begins on Wednesday, March 10, running right through until Sunday.
“What is so nice about this year is that we have got new premieres, new commissions,” said Michael.
And what has got Michael particularly excited are commissions of new work from storytellers Tim Ralphs and Simon Heywood and from animator Lisa Risbec.
“Tim and Simon are both brilliant performers,’’ he added. “We’ve commissioned them to retell the ancient tale of Gilgamesh which is regarded as the oldest written story.
“It is over 5,000 years old and it is all in there about the gods bringing floods to punish man.
“It’s an interesting piece of archaeology but it is also a piece of literature.
“What’s good about what Tim and Simon have done is that they have made it really sparky and new. It feels like a contemporary piece of work.”
See this new commission in the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s Cellar space.
The festival has also commissioned, in partnership with Comma Film, a new adaptation of Sara Maitland’s acclaimed short story Moss Witch directed by Lisa Risbec.
The film receives its world premiere at the Peacock Lounge in Huddersfield on Saturday, March 13.
“We are excited about the film project, turning a piece of literature into a film script,’’ said Michael.
“We are also running a film and adaptation workshop where we can look at the structures that films demand of stories. ”
That workshop, also on March 13 at the university’s Milton Building, runs in two sessions at 1.30pm and 3pm.
Michael will be involved in a masterclass on structure in short fiction which is one of the opening festival events at the university on Wednesday.
The showcasing of emerging writers continues and who better to celebrate the power of the written – and spoken – word than writer, comedian and actor Alexei Sayle.
He will be in Huddersfield next Thursday to share work from his, as yet, unfinished memoir of his teenage years.
He will also share a few tales from his extraordinary life and will answer questions from the audience.
Word has it that he will take questions on anything from his career and writing through to stain removal. What answers you will get is another matter.
Another introduction to the festival and one likely to attract a lot of attention is the inclusion of Manga.
There’s a whole day on Saturday, March 13, devoted to this cartoon style comic book phenomena which is big business in Japan and fast reaching across the world.
Details of all the events on www.litfest.org.uk