Imaginative city

Waterstones Bristol. Photo by Judy DarleyBristol Festival of Literature begins on Friday 19th October and runs until Sunday 28th October, with a variety of imagination-stirring events taking place across the city. I’ve written about it for The Bristol Magazine, and can’t wait to dig into the riches promising to well up.

You can read my feature in the October print edition, or online here: https://thebristolmag.co.uk/word-on-the-street-bristol-festival-of-literature/

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

I’ve already got my tickets for two of the highlights I mention in the piece The first of these is Festival founder Jari Moate’s launch of his novel Dragonfly, taking place on Saturday 20th October at Waterstones, the Galleries. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are free but need to be booked here: www.bristolliteraturefestival.org

The second is the very last event of the festival – Finding the Positive –Dystopias and Utopias in a Changing Climate.

This CliFi (aka Climate Fiction) workshop is from 2-5pm on Sunday 28th October at Bristol’s YHA, and promises to offer insights into how we can share stories of our changing climate and inspire action in a positive way. I’m looking forward to soaking up plenty of inspiration!

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Lots of other intriguing happenings are unfolding throughout the days of the festival, including Dark Confessions with Bristol Writers Group and friends. I’m one of the friends and looking forward to sharing my story Tunnelled in the setting that prompted it – Redcliffe Caves. Find out more and book tickets here.

And if you make it to anything on the Festival calendar, let me know how you get on!

Got an inspiring event, venue, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Blenheim Festival of Literature, Film and Music

Blenheim PalaceTaking place mainly in the grand surroundings of Blenheim Palace and nearby Woodstock, Oxfordshire, from  11th-14th October 2018, Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music offers up an eclectic mix of notable talents.

Authors and speakers to look forward to include novelist Esi Edugyan, entrepreneur Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, biographer Judith Mackrell, and noted jumper-wearer Giles Brandreth.

The exquisite setting is as much a part of the attraction as the famous names. Enter The Orangery to see actors Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis perform some of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters, while vocalists and musicians, including harpist Camilla Pay and soprano Rosie Lomas, bring the era to life.

Step into The Indian Room at Blenheim Palace with curator Nino Strachey for an insight into the Bloomsbury Group homes of Virginia Woolf, of her lover Vita Sackville-West, and of Vita’s cousin Eddy Sackville-West, and how their design choices “reflected changing social and moral attitudes towards sexuality and gender in the 1920s and 30s.”

And encounter weird and scandalous flora-behaviour with Author, artist and botanist Dr Chris Thorogood in The Malborough Room.

Those are just a few of the options on offer. It may only be four days, but they’re set to be jam-packed with inspiration, opinions, intrigue and entertainment.

Visit blenheimpalaceliteraryfestival.com for full details.

Find out more about Oxfordshire, including places to stay, at www.visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com.

Head to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Child reading cr Julian Foxon Photography

© Julian Foxon Photography

Hungry for writing inspiration, or simply got young book-worms to entertain? Bath Children’s Literature Festival offers up a fantastic, imagination-stirring line-up of events chosen by artistic directors John and Gill McLay with the aim of “putting fun and laughter first.”

The festival runs from Friday 28 September – Sunday 7 October 2018, with events for all ages, including inspiring and entertaining conversations with Lauren Child, David Walliams, Marcia Williams, and Cressida Cowell, among others.

Meet author Laura James and Fabio the world’s greatest flamingo detective, take a masterclass with author and illustrator Peter Brown, sign up for a drawing lesson or a Matilda dance workshop, find out how to write picture books with Tessa Strickland, .

Find details and book tickets at bathfestivals.org.uk/childrens-literature.

Find out more about Bath, including places to stay, at visitbath.co.uk.

Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes word-lovers

Edinburgh book festival gardensThis year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from 11th-27th August, bringing writers and thinkers from across the globe to an avid lit-loving audience.

They say: “Take a journey of discovery through fact, fiction, poetry, personal stories and world affairs.”

Speakers include broadcaster and comedian Susan Calman on kindness, author Matt Haig on how to feel whole, plus discussions with graphic novelist Isabel Greenberg and Adele Patrick, the Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library. Look out for interactive theatrical experience The Hidden, and a celebration of Muriel Spark.
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Escape to Port Eliot

Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

All photographs used in this post are taken by Michael Bowles

Port Eliot Festival brings together some of the best creative talents around and plonks them in the midst of a magical sprawling garden party.

Enticingly, they say: “Our home is your playground for one magical weekend and nothing makes us happier than seeing you explore the Estate. Whether you’re swimming in the estuary, catching a literary star on the Bowling Green, rocking out at the Park Stage, canoeing on the river, catching an intimate gig in the church, watching a cooking demo on the Flower & Fodder Stage, a fashion show or dancing ‘till the wee hours in the Boogie Round – our home is yours for the weekend.”

It all kicks off on 26th July, running till 29th July, at St Germans, West Cornwall.

This year’s speakers, performers, mixologists and events include poet Hollie McNish, Helen Pankhurst, Robert Webb, Lucy Mangan, Tim Clare, Salena Godden, Geoff Dyer, Three Cane Whale, Salena Godden, Savannah Miller, Raleigh Rye, and so many others.

Look out for Travel Writing for Adventurers, the Great Diary Project, and Mindful Masculinity with Caspar Walsh.

There are also exhibitions to be inspired by: In The Round Room, you’ll find live play readings and poetry performances, a Virtual Reality installation, and late night screenings… There’s also the brand new Cinematheque celebrating women in film, Midnight Trapeze & Circus School, and Museum of Witchcraft Nightwalks.

Each of the stages have names that seem plucked straight from fairytales: Lark’s Haven, Walled Garden, Flower and Fodder, The Idler Academy and The Dead Man’s Fingers bar, being just a few.

Port Eliot woodland cr Michael Bowles

It helps, of course, that the surroundings are some of the finest SW England has to offer, with historical attractions including the oldest church in Cornwall – St Germans Priory Norman church. Natural delights range from the Grade 1 listed park and garden, to the estuary. Take a Bee Trail Workshop, go stargazing, try Canadian Canoing or enjoy a mid-summer wassail.Port Eliot estuary cr Michael Bowles

That’s not all though, not by a long short. As the organisers say: “we’ll celebrate words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration, fun and all that is good in the world!”

Now, that’s my kind of party.Night at Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

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Ledbury Poetry Festival 2018

Ledbury cr John EagerSome British towns seem better suited to literary festivals than others, and Ledbury in Herefordshire is ideal – with reams of streets and architecture that the word ‘picturesque’ could have been invented for. From 29th June till 8th July 2018, Ledbury welcomes back its annual Poetry Festival, which promises ten days of written and spoken riches.

This year’s highlights include poetry and mediation day retreats with Maitreyabandhu, Fiona Sampson and Matthew Sweeney, plus workshops led by Sara-Jane Arbury, and salons featuring poet Yvonne Green, with short reading slots available.

Don’t forget to enter the LPF Poetry Competition. The closing date is 5PM British Summertime on Thursday 12th July, 2018. Top prize is £1,000 plus the chance to attend a writing course at Ty Newydd (pictured below), the National Writers’ Centre for Wales.

All winners get to read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival 2019 – if abroad there is the possibility of Skyping at the winners’ event.

Ty Newydd

The image at the very top of this post was supplied by John Eager of www.visitledbury.info. The other image was supplied by the Ledbury Poetry Festival team. Many thanks!

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Winchester Writers’ Festival competitions

Stripe Image provided by The WInchester Writers' ConferenceWinchester Writers’ Festival returns from 15th-17th June 2018, offering the opportunity to mingle with writers, hungry agents and lots of other interesting literary types.

The Writing Competitions are now open for entries. Don’t miss the earlier than usual deadline of 11th April!

The Shortlist will be announced on the Festival website at noon on 11th May, with the Winners due to be announced on 18th May.

Founded in 1980, the conference now encompasses a festival, book fair and  in-depth workshop schedule, as well as masses of opportunities to network with other aspiring and established authors.

Promised highlights include the festival’s renowned One-to-One Appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors, authors, poets and industry experts. There will also be masterclasses, talks and open-mic readings, all devised to inspire and inform you so you can take the literary world by storm!!

The Winchester Writers’ Festival takes place June 15th-17th 2018.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Micro-Fiction competition invites entries

Buttons cr Judy DarleyI’m a fan of flash fiction that packs an emotional wallop ­– such a challenge to achieve in only a handful of words!

National Flash-Fiction Day returns on 16th June 2018, and celebrates this short-short form in all its glory.

As part of the build up, their annual Micro-Fiction competition is open for entries of 100 words or fewer. There is no minimum word count.

The deadline is 23:59 (UK time) on 17th March 2018, so you just have time to string a few powerful, carefully selected words together. No problem, right?!

This year, entries are free. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme.

Find competition rules, terms and conditions, and the full list of prizes at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/comp.html

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Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur Literary Elephant

Image © Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.co.uk

What better way to begin 2017 than with a trip to one of the world’s hottest literary festivals?

Founded by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale, Jaipur Literature Festival is celebrating eleven years old in 2018, and takes place from 25-28th January. From Nobel Laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, the annual event brings together over 250 authors, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular culture icons from India and from around the globe.

Speakers and performers taking part include Amy Tan, Anthony Horowitz, Helen Fielding, Julia Donaldson, Kathy Reichs, musician Zakir Hussain, and countless others.

Keen to take part yourself next year? Contact the organisers through the website to find out more.

Bespoke holiday specialists Steppes Travel offer tailor-made visits to Jaipur Literature Festival. Find full details here: www.steppestravel.co.uk/india-group-tour-jaipur-literature-festival/overview

Find full details of Jaipur Literature Festival here. It could be a fabulous start to your literary year.

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Share your work at a live literary event

Squat pen by Judy Darley

If you live in the UK’s South West you may be interested to learn of a literary event in Swindon seeking writers. Taking place from 7.30pm till late on Friday 26th January 2018, it offers the chance to share 1,500-2,000 words of your finest fiction.

“We are looking for six (or more) fabulous writer/performers to come along to The Squat Pen, our very first live reading event at ‘The Place’ in the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon,” says the event’s organiser and competition judge Stephen Tuffin. “Write between 1500-2000 words on the subject of your choice, or you can use the prompt ‘new beginnings, then send us your stories for the chance to be selected to read your story on stage and maybe, just maybe, be crowned the very first ever Squat Pen Rests Writing Competition Champion of the World.”

The shortlisted entrants will be invited to come along to perform their piece in front of a friendly audience of short story fans. The outright winner, as voted for by the audience, will be presented with a £50.00 cash prize.

Every finalist will be awarded a limited edition, Squat Pen Rests Writing Competition Finalist mug, as well as having their stories posted on the competition website.

The serious stuff

It costs £3 per story to enter. You can enter up to three stories per event.

Before entering, please ensure you are available to come along and read on Friday 26th January 2018

Each of the entrants will receive free entry, plus one complementary ticket.

Closing date: 19th January 2018. Successful entrants will be notified no later than 22nd January.

Find full details here.