2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the UEA Spring Literary Festival, and also a groundbreaking year in Norwich's lifetime as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Title Image: Tombland Bookshop; credit Isabel Johnson
Norwich was once a walled city of words. Back in 1395, Julian of Norwich was the first woman to write a book in English - Revelations of Divine Love. After Julian, Thomas Browne wrote his curious explorations of 17th century beliefs and superstitions Pseudodoxia Epidemica in 1646, and political activist (and Norfolk-born) Thomas Paine wrote Rights of Man in 1791. Thereafter, modern writers (and men not named Thomas) have passed through the city to live, study or publish in Norwich: Nobel-prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro graduated from the UEA's creative writing MA, along with author of Atonement Ian McEewan. Norwich publishers Galley Beggar Press published Eimear McBride’s award-winning novel, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, and McBride lived in Norwich from 2011 to 2017.
This - set beside Norwich's fantastic sprinkling of independent and eclectic bookshops, directional publishers and printmakers, and vibrant libraries - has created a strong literary presence nationally, and so it was that Norwich became the UK's first UNESCO City of Literature in May 2012.
This year sees a lot going on in the literary scene here: foremost the Writer's Centre Norwich will become the National Centre for Writing, and its doors will be open to writers, readers and translators across the world to provide a home for new projects and collaborations. Before that though, UEA will open its 25th Spring Literary Festival on the 14th of February, and welcome a multitude of some of the most talented writers - old and new - working today. There are still tickets available for some of the these events; here are our highlights:
Stephen Fry in conversation with Dr Philip Langeskov - Live Video Link
Wednesday 14th of February, 7pm
So unsurprisingly, tickets to see Stephen Fry in conversation with Dr Philip Langestov sold out rather quickly. However that doesn't mean to have to miss out; the wonderful folks at the Literary Festival have released tickets to see a live video link of Stephen's talk, which starts at 7pm. From Lecture Theatre 2 (Stephen will be delivering his talk in Lecture Theatre 1), watch the literary giant in conversation with Dr Philip Langestov, as they discuss Stephen's new book, Mythos - a retelling of Greek Myths for a contemporary audience. Tickets £3.50
Caryl Philips & Margret Drabble in conversation with Prof. Vesna Goldsworthy
Wednesday 28th of February, 6.30pm
See these two literary heavyweights as they talk to Professor Vesna Goldsworthy.
Caryl Phillips was born in St Kitt's and raised in England, and is currently UNESCO City of Literature's Visiting Professor at the UEA. Caryl has written for stage and screen, as well as penning numerous works of non fiction, such as Dancing in the Dark, A Distant Shore and Crossing the River, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Margret Drabble DBE is the author of nineteen novels, and the wise woman behind jewel-like lines such as 'perhaps the rare and simple pleasure of being seen for what one is compensates for the misery of being it' (A Summer Bird-Cage (1963; New York: William Morrow, 1964) p. 120). As well as her novels, including the Summer Bird-Cage, The Pure Gold Baby and The Dark Flood Rises, Margaret has also written biographies, screenplays and was the editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. Tickets £9.00, £5.00 for students
Jesmyn Ward in conversation with Dr Claire Hynes
Wednesday 25th April, 7pm
Jesmyn Ward is an American novelist, whose new book - Sing Unburied Sing - was released last year and won the National Award for Fiction (which makes Jesmyn the first woman to win two such awards). Her other national book award was for her second novel, Salvage the Bones, -a story about familial love and community covering the 10 days preceding Hurricane Katrina, the day of the cyclone, and the day after, based on Jesmyn's own traumatic experiences. She is also the editor of the anthology The Fire This Time and author of the memoir Men We Reaped – a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. This is guaranteed to be a really fascinating evening, I'd recommend you book now. Tickets £9.00, £5.00 for students
Christie Watson in conversation with Dr Naomi Wood
Wednesday 9th of May,
Christie Watson, a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at UEA, was a registered nurse for twenty years before writing full time. Her first novel, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, won the Costa First Novel Award and her second novel, Where Women Are Kings, was published to international critical acclaim. Her latest book, the Language of Kindness, about her life as a nurse, is one of the most anticipated books of 2018. Having read the synopsis, The Language of Kindness sounds like an incredibly moving, very human piece of writing, around a subject we can all relate to. It's been described as 'an urgent book for our times' (Sarah Bakewell).Tickets £9.00, £5.00 for students
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