Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh will be making Huddersfield Literature Festival his first British stop-over in a promotional tour for his new novel The Blade Artist.
Welsh, who rose to prominence back in 1993 and went on to become one of the most influential novelists of his generation, is beginning a major UK book tour with a special appearance at Huddersfield University. The afternoon, during which he will be in conversation with journalist Nick Ahad, is the final event in this year’s festival. He is appearing at the Diamond Jubilee Lecture Theatre on Sunday, April 3.
Tickets are already being snapped up for the event, which is taking place after the main festival (March 3 to 13).
Festival Director Michelle Hodgson says she is thrilled to have secured such an iconic writer. “It’s always difficult trying to book someone up in advance but I persevered and persevered. I got confirmation two days before the brochure for the festival went to print - I’d left an Irvine Welsh space in the programme,” she added. “He will fly into Manchester and come straight to Huddersfield.”
Welsh, who now lives in America, wrote a sequel to Trainspotting called Porno and has based his new book on Trainspotting character Begbie. Michelle explained: “He has returned to one of the characters, who has retired to America but gets drawn back to Scotland. It should appeal to all those who loved Trainspotting.”
Two of the big draws for the main festival, however, are comedian Ben Miller and Egyptologist Professor Joann Fletcher. Miller is well known for his television series with fellow comedian Alexander Armstrong, while Prof Fletcher is currently hosting BBC 2’s Immortal Egypt. Their television connections, says Michelle, have definitely boosted ticket sales for their respective events - The Story of Egypt on Saturday, March 5, and Ben Miller: The Aliens are Coming on Thursday, March 10.
However, there’s also been strong interest in a number of other speakers, including Huddersfield’s own Joanne Harris, who is appearing in conversation with Chralotte Bronte biographer Claire Harman and crime writer Christopher Fowler, as well as hosting her own event, Joanne Harris & The Storytime Band, an evening of storytelling and music on Friday, March 4.
The festival, now in its 10th year, began with a sell-out event, An Evening With Explorer Levison Wood, on February 9. More than 1,000 people packed Huddersfield Town Hall to hear about the explorer and television presenter’s travels. His book, Walking the Himalayas, which accompanied his five-part television series broadcast last month, is now a best-seller. Michelle describes him as an ‘engaging personality’ and says those who missed his talk can still enjoy the book. She explained: “He’s a very good writer. I picked up the book and it is really very well written. There’s a lot in the book that wasn’t in the television series so it’s really interesting.”
One of the strengths of the festival is the way it aims to provide something for everyone. This year, once again, Huddersfield is hosting Polari Up North, celebrating the work of LGBT writers and performers. “But it’s not just for LGBT interest,” says Michelle, “it’s wonderful entertainment in a cabaret style. Polari started in London and has grown. We were the first to put it on up North. It shows diversity within the LGBT community.”
Another strikingly different event is an evening Discovering Haile Selassie with Lemn Sissay and Asfa-Wossen Asserate on Tuesday, March 8. Dr Aserate, the great nephew of the former emperor of Ethiopia (considered a messiah by the Rastafarians), discusses his heritage with poet Lemn Sissay, a festival patron who recently discovered his own Ethiopian heritage.
For details of all events and tickets, visit www.litfest.org.uk Some events are free and during the 10 days of the main festival there are workshops, children’s events and poetry sessions.