Sunderland Literature Festival: city’s bumper celebration of books

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Coun John Kelly with poet Kate Fox and comic Lee Ridley

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Coun John Kelly with poet Kate Fox and comic Lee Ridley

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A book festival looks set to be a real page-turner.

The Sunderland Literature Festival is the largest celebration of books, poetry and spoken word to be held in the city.

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Comic Lee Ridley

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Comic Lee Ridley

Kicking off on Thursday, it will feature a host of events at numerous venues across the month.

It will showcase local artists and authors, as well as talks from special guests including broadcaster Kate Adie; author Mark Blacklock who penned I’m Jack, based on Wearside Jack; award-winning Bethan Roberts, author of Mother Island and graphic novelists Bryan and Mary Talbot who’ve produced a number of illustrated books.

The festival goes beyond books to feature comedians also.

Former Sunderland City Council worker Lee Ridley has gone on to win the BBC New Comedy Award 2014. Performing as Lost Voice Guy, Lee, who has cerebral palsy, communicates via an iPad and gives a unique take on being disabled.

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Poet Kate Fox

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Poet Kate Fox

Lee, a former Barbara Priestman School pupil, said: “It feels really great to be back in Sunderland because of the history I have with the city itself. I’ve seen it get better and better, so it’s nice to perform here.”

The comedian will be performing at City Library, in Fawcett Street, on October 20.

He said: “I’ll basically be looking at the funny side of my disability and everything that goes with that. I’ve had a really good reaction to my act everywhere so far, so I hope the people of Sunderland enjoy it as well.”

Acclaimed poet, writer and stand up comedian Kate Fox will also be taking part in the festival, with a poetry workshop at Washington Town Centre Library on October 7.

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Coun John Kelly with poet Kate Fox and comic Lee Ridley

Launch of Sunderland Literature Festival.'Coun John Kelly with poet Kate Fox and comic Lee Ridley

“In times of austerity it’s great that these libraries are still going, so it’s great to be involved in this event,” she said. “Some of the best gigs I’ve had have been in libraries.

“A lot of festivals are celebrity-tastic and often feature authors in London. Literature is partly that, but what gets people really excited is when people are talking about something that’s relevant to them, while opening up a whole new world.

“Literature festivals don’t often feature comedians, but it’s great to marry the two, as comedians use words in a fun and playful way. I became interested in words by reading authors such as AA Milne and making up daft poems in the car. Words are fun, but that can change when you go to school.

“So much of the workshops I do are about re-introducing that sense of fun into words.”

Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Coun John Kelly said: “This is our city’s annual celebration of the written word, and our library service teams are working with cultural partners including the University of Sunderland, North East Film Archives and Washington Arts Centre to provide people with a programme appealing to all tastes and interests.

“The festival includes events staged at some unusual venues with some unusual activities to engage people who wouldn’t usually visit the library, but is also designed to re-engage those who do by getting them involved with other services such as tracing your ancestry and local studies.

“There are many highlights with everyone from criminologists and crime writers to comedians and poets taking part, and I hope people will come along and support this fantastic event.”

•For full details visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/literature-festival

Festival highlights

•October 2 at 6.30pm at Sunderland Minster: The Sunderland Story with Kate Adie. Kate will reflect on what Sunderland means to her before a new film showcases Sunderland’s vibrant past.

•October 3 at 11am at Houghton Library: Stephanie Yearnshire MBE, a retired superintendent with degrees in criminology and criminal justice, gives a talk on Mary Ann Cotton, Murderess or Misunderstood Matriarch?

•October 10 at 6.30pm at Holy Trinity Church: Mark Blacklock discusses I’m Jack, the story of the Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer.

•October 19 at 2pm at Washington Town Centre Library: Experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Battle of Britain era with handling collections, simulated air raids and a host of extras. Performed by the Time Bandits as part of Battle of Britain commemorations.

•October 20 at City Library at 2.15pm: Lee Ridley performs his Lost Voice Guy show.