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Nottingham’s first Festival of Literature

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8 – 13th November 2016

Powerful messages From Over the Wall: global influences in UNESCO’s City of Literature

Featuring Amit Chaudhuri, Jack Monroe, Jon McGregor, Katherine Quarmby, and Virtual Writer in Residence, Omar El Hazek

Nottingham’s first Festival of Literature delivers a series of powerful messages from ‘Over the Wall’ providing a welcoming platform to voices that struggle to be heard.

Writer and journalist Katherine Quarmby explores how disability writing conveys what it is to be human and to live with impairment.  Egyptian novelist and award-winning poet Omar El Hazek is the festival’s writer in residence.  Arrested and imprisoned by Egyptian authorities for supporting the family of a man beaten to death in custody, Omar is banned from travelling abroad.  He will join festival goers in UNESCO’s City Of Literature virtually – taking part in several digital festival events.

The festival also sees the launch of Nottingham’s very own graphic novel – Dawn of the Unread – celebrating the city’s literary history.  The launch of the book follows its online interactive serialisation, complete with YouTube videos, a computer game, dance track and app.

The Nottingham Festival of Literature, runs from 8 – 13 November 2016 with more than 30 events over six days including readings with authors Amit Chaudhuri, Jack Monroe, Sheila Rowbotham, Gillian Slovo and Nottingham’s Jon McGregor.

All genres of writing and literature are included, from novels, poetry, journalism and creative non-fiction to game poetry, graphic novels, stage drama and literature in translation.

Festival Programmer Sara Beadle says, “In 2016, it is possible to feel that there are real rifts and alienated groups in society who are fighting for recognition and the embrace of the wider community. Feminists, refugees, migrants, people with disabilities, people who identify as of non-binary gender, race, politics and religion all continue to challenge our thinking as a society and push us to re-imagine the world.

“Our aspiration is for the Nottingham Festival of Literature to provide a platform for these voices to be heard, without fear, in the spirit of greater understanding, deeper discussion, empathy and openness. It is the role of great literature to hold up a mirror and to reflect the world from all perspectives, and we embrace that idea and attempt to extend a ‘culture of welcome’ to both those who live here and those who arrive here.”

Author and journalist, Katherine Quarmby’s lecture – A Message From Over the Wall – is inspired by the words of American author and disability advocate, Hugh Gregory Gallagher, who wrote about the ‘land of the crippled’: ‘a great wall surrounds this place, and most of what goes within this wall is unknown to those outside it. What follows is a message from over the wall.’ Quarmby will explore the characterisation of disability as a message within both mainstream and emerging disability literature.

Gallagher’s words don’t just reflect the experience of people with disabilities. Omar El Hazek  is a novelist, award-winning poet and campaigner for freedom of expression, and the festival’s virtual writer in residence. El Hazek will take part in several digital events including a video conversation with Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni.  With internationally recognised poets and Nottingham-based performers, El Hazek brings a global voice to the city reflecting stories from around the world.

The Nottingham Festival of Literature also draws upon the city’s rich literary heritage to provide a platform for regional authors and poets to talk about their work as well as offering inspiration and support for aspiring writers in workshops and networking events. The line-up includes the acclaimed writer Jon McGregor, one of The Guardian newspaper’s top 10 writers to see live.

Other festival highlights include:

Tuesday 8th November: Sheila Rowbotham: Rebel Crossings. Rowbotham reads and talks about her latest book: a group biography offering fascinating perspectives on six radical pioneers who challenged and changed the emancipation of women at the turn of the 20th  century.

Wednesday 9th November: Voices of Jewish and Muslim Writers. Four poets from four countries – Michael Mehrdad Zand Ahanchian, Yvonne Green, Shamin Azad and Amir Darwish – read from their work giving insight into the complexity of identity.

Thursday 10th November: An Evening with Gillian Slovo. Playwright and author, Slovo talks about her writing, her career and her social and political influences.

Friday 11th November: Book launch of Dawn of the Unread. An innovative online graphic novel serial in which more than thirty writers and artists explore and celebrate Nottingham’s literary history – now in print form. The award-winning project has already created more than 50 YouTube videos, a computer game, dance track and an app.

Saturday 12th November:  An Evening with Amit Chaudhuri. An evening of reading and discussion with one of India’s most significant literary figures and author of six novels, Chaudhuri is also a critic, musician and composer, and is travelling to the UK specially to appear at the Festival.

Sunday 13th November: Jack Monroe: Queer, Austere and Here. Food writer, journalist and activist Jack Monroe talks about overcoming austerity; how we should adjust our thinking around gender identity, and what it means to try and live a peaceful life amongst the perils of modern society.

Built on the foundations of Nottingham’s Festival of Words in 2013 and 2014, this year’s festival was inspired by Nottingham’s UNESCO City of Literature status, re-imagining its vision for a contemporary literature festival with globally recognised authors and contributors.

Full listings and booking information can be found at www.nottsfol.co.uk

Posted on 30 September 2016

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