Woman’s Hour presenter Dame Jenni Murray and internationally-renowned crime writer Ian Rankin are among the A-list authors at this year’s Huddersfield Literature Festival next month.
They will be joined by Festival Patron and poet Lemn Sissay, Countdown word expert Susie Dent, MP Alan Johnson, Booker Prize-shortlisted author Michele Roberts, best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah, Huddersfield’s own claim to literary fame Joanne Harris , and many more respected writers.
This will be the 11th festival and the biggest literary celebration in the town to date. Back in 2006, when the festival began, it was barely more than a weekend. In the last couple of years it has grown into a 10-day event and this year, for the first time, will span two weeks from March 4 to 19.
Michelle Hodgson, Festival Director, said tickets for the main Huddersfield Town Hall events are already selling well, and added: “One of the things I’m very keen on is keeping ticket prices affordable - it’s not about getting the most money out of the audience, it’s about getting to a wide, diverse and large audience. We have many free or low cost events.”
The 2017 festival, which is funded by the Arts Council, Huddersfield University , Kirklees Council Arts in the Neighbourhood and sponsorship from local organisations, has a budget of £61,000 - double what was available in 2016 - and, unlike some literary festivals, pays authors for their contribution. Michelle explained: “I feel very strongly about this. We pay our performers a fair rate and we cover travel and hotels. This is not something that all literary festivals offer. But for some authors, particularly if they have to travel from outside the area, it can easily take a day or two of their time and even if they are promoting their book they deserve to be paid.”
This year’s festival has a treasure trove of diverse and entertaining events, including writers’ workshops, poetry sessions and a comedy evening to a guided walk, an afternoon of Pride and Prejudice-themed regency dancing and a manga comic convention.
Highlights include town hall ‘in conversation’ events with Dame Jenni Murray, author of A History of Britain in 21 Women; Ian Rankin, whose latest Rebus novel is Rather Be the Devil; and Alan Johnson, who recently published the third volume of his memoir, The Long and Winding Road. The festival also celebrates the return of the popular Polari Up North event, an evening showcasing LGBT performers at the Lawrence Batley Theatre .
As Michelle, points out, as well as crowd-pullers, there are many, smaller events that will appeal to those with an interest in everything from poetry and memoir writing to publishing and even brewing. As she explains: “When you get the big names you do a dance around the room, but to put together really interesting events like a celebration of Pride and Prejudice is so much fun. We’ve got all sorts of workshops and authors talking about their books. And we’re using all sorts of venues - the Magic Rock brewery , for instance, is running three events as part of the festival, bringing a new audience into their venue but also a new audience to our festival.”
Ticket prices range from £2 to £15, with some including refreshments. However, many events are entirely free.
For a full programme and to book tickets visit litfest.org.uk
(Events due to take place at the Oastler Building at Huddersfield University have been moved to other sites on the campus while renovation work continues. Anyone who has booked tickets should check the website for details.)