Hay Festival 18th to 31st May 2020

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

While the wonderful Hay Festival isn’t taking place physically this year thanks to Covid-19, the #Imaginetheworld Hay Festival Digital runs 18–31 May 2020 and is free to attend!

Look out for free live broadcasts and interactive Q&As from more than 100 of the world’s most renowned writers and thinkers exploring topics ranging from our current global health crisis to climate change and our future on Earth.

Love by Roddy DoyleOn 
Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, and Monty Don will also have their say.
Other highlights include author Ali Smith and artist/filmmaker Sarah Wood’s meditation on continuance ‘The Beginning of the And‘ on 25th May, plus a festival special preview of Roddy Doyle’s new novelLove‘, on 27th May.

Find the full programme and register for the events that pique your curiosity here.

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A literary winter solstice

Welsh beach by Judy Darley
This year’s Solstice Shorts Festival hosted by micro publisher Arachne Press sweeps us into the shivery themes of Time and Tide.

Now in its 6th year, Solstice Shorts Festival unfurls in seven port towns in four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Portugal. The festival is on Saturday 21st December 2019. There will be performances by actors, authors and musicians of original  short stories, poems and song, all historically tinged by coastlines and tidal rivers, with echoes of, as organiser Cheryl writes, “fishermen and pirates, wreckers and dockers – making a new life across the sea – escaping pogroms and wars, the shipwrecked and the endlessly travelling – to paddlers and wild swimmers.”

Find full details of what’s happening where and how you can get involved at arachnepress.com

Solstice Shorts Logo

London Literature Festival 2019

RWD15_I Believe in Unicorns_a show based on Michael Morpurgo tale

London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre invites us to consider whether we’re sitting comfortably (or, conversely, too comfortably), with an unfurling array of fairy tales “for our times with today’s leading writers, thinkers and cultural observers.”

Returning for its 13th year, the festival takes place from 17th-27th October 2019.

The festival opens with opens with Poetry International, founded by Ted Hughes in 1967, which this year embraces the theme of disruption.

Lemn Sissay © Hamish Brown, Elizabeth Day © Jenny Smith, Sharlene Teo © fatiimaa, Brett Anderson © Brett Anderson

Look forward to eerie, magical, unsettling and though-provoking moments from Lemn Sissay, Daisy Johnson, Bernadine Evaristo, Jay Bernard, Elizabeth Day, Armistead Maupin, Brett Anderson, Heather Morris, Louise Doughty, Neil Gaiman, Jung Chang and many more.

Jung Chang author

Author Jung Chang

They say: “The theme Once Upon Our Times runs throughout the festival, with a series of events looking at contemporary retellings of folk and fairy tales, spanning from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to The Handmaid’s Tale and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.  The series explores and celebrates the global and democratic nature of this storytelling tradition through live readings, new commissions and discussions. The latter strand includes Charlene Teo, Daisy Johnson and Rebecca Tamas on the contemporary relevance an democratic value of fairytales, and nordic authors Linda Bostrom Knausgard, Vigdis Hjorth and Mazen Maarouf discussing the thin line between fiction and reality.”

On Saturday 26th October, London Literature Festival presents its inaugural Writers’ Day. Established in partnership with Creative Future, the day welcomes aspiring writers to attend free short talks from authors, editors and publishers, as well as special 1:1 Agent Advice sessions and a day-long writers’ exhibition space. The festival also hosts more masterclasses and workshops than ever before.

alchemymay23. Credit Belinda Lawley

Credit Belinda Lawley

There are also an abundance of family-friendly literary treats, including free events, exploring fairy tales and folklore from a variety of cultures, and Young Adult Literature Day, featuring authors of YA fiction, including Louise O’Neill, Dean Atta, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Muhammad Khan and Laura Bates.

WTC_Baba Yaga_Christine Johnston_Credit_Sia Duff

Christine Johnston stars in Baba Yaga. Credit Sia Duff

Look out for a special one-off dramatic live reading of contemporary retellings of tales from around the world, including works by Salman Rushdie, Marlon James and Angela Carter and newly commissioned works by Daisy Johnson and Charlene Teo,performed by actors and musicians, plus a brand new take on an old Russian folktale Baba Yaga by Windmill Theatre Company and a show based on Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns (pictured top).

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred.

For the full programme, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

Writing prompt – dusk

Dusk-winter-trees-cr-Judy-Darley

As the days shorten and nights lengthen, my mind turns to the winter solstice, and to the Solstice Shorts Festival 2017 due to be hosted by micro publisher Arachne Press.

Arachne Press proprietor and publisher Cherry Potts is seeking submissions of new and unpublished poetry and prose on the theme of Dusk. What does it bring to mind for you?

Cherry describes dusk as “the last ‘official’ segment, when the sun is down, but there’s still a lingering light in the sky, through to out and out night.”

The deadline for submissions is 5th November 2017.

Think about how you can turn that time when light and dark hover around each other into a story or poem. Find out how to submit your words at arachnepress.com

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com. You can help make the Solstices Shorts a nationwide festival.

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Literary Bristol

Judy Darley in Redcliffe CavesBristol Festival of Literature returns from 19th-28th October 2017, with curious, intriguing, inspiring events popping up all over the city. I wrote a feature about it for The Bristol Magazine, titled Bookish Bristol, and was wowed by the options on offer. Events are already selling out, so get your tickets fast!

You can pick up copies of The Bristol Magazine all over the city, in cafes, hairdressers, estate agents and other businesses.

I’m taking part in a least two events. The first is Bristol Writers Group and Friends Go Into The Dark, taking place in Redcliffe Caves from 7-9pm on Tuesday 24th Oct. Tickets have already sold out! I’m one of the friends, and very excited to be invited back. Reading in the caves is a really magical event – it’s a wonderfully spooky environment. I’ll be sharing my tale Merrow Cave. The pic at the top of this post (photo taken by Sally Hare) shows me at a previous year’s event.

Tickets cost £5.50 each.

Novel Nights Oct 2017 readers

Novel Nights Oct 2017 readers

The second is Novel Nights, which I’ll be co-hosting with founder Grace Palmer from on Wednesday 25th October. Three local writing talents, Alison Brown, Kate Simants and Deborah Tomkins, will share novel extracts before Cornerstones literary editor Dionne McCulloch offers her insights on novel-writing and answers questions from the audience. It’s happening at The Square Club, 15 Berkeley Square, Bristol. Get tickets for £8 here.

There are so many other fabulous literary happenings to choose from too. Find the full programme and ticketing details at unputdownable.org. Hope to see you at an event or few!

Spring literary leaps at Southbank Centre

Neil Gaiman. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Author and fabulist Neil Gaiman. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Norse myths have been a source of inspiration for author and fabulist (how’s that for a job title) Neil Gaiman throughout his literary career. Discussing this influence and his latest book Norse Mythology (due out today – 7th February 2017), Neil Gaiman is part of Southbank Centre’s Spring Literature programme and year-long exploration of Nordic culture Nordic Matters.

On 15th February you can learn how Gaiman brings Norse gods to life through his inimitable fiction, where fantasy meets fairytale, fable, nightmare and happy endings in equal measure.

Other events to look out for include the Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival returns to Royal Festival Hall from 9th-19th February (speakers and storytellers include Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, Michael Morpurgo, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, and Icelandic author Þórarinn Eldjárn), and Southbank Centre’s new year-long Belief and Beyond Belief festival, which examines belief, faith and spirituality as well as what it means to be human in the 21st century. So, plenty to inspire, intrigue and get your mind ticking!

To find out more and book, visit Southbank Centre’s website southbankcentre.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7960 4200

Victor Hugo in Guernsey Festival 2016

St Peter Port cr VisitGuernsey

St Peter Port © VisitGuernsey

Tickets are now available for events at the first ever Victor Hugo in Guernsey Festival, which takes place on the Channel Island of Guernsey from 2nd-10th April 2016. What a perfect excuse for a hit of springtime island hopping!

Toilers of the Sea by Victor HugoThe festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Victor Hugo’s novel Toilers of the Sea, which was inspired by and set in Guernsey where he spent 15 years in exile from France from 1855. If you go along, you’ll have the to chance explore some of the historic events that influenced the book, while celebrating Victor Hugo’s life and works.

The eight-day extravaganza features exhibitions, paintings, talks, walks, films, performances, photographs and a one-day seminar from four world experts on Victor Hugo, al taking place at Guernsey landmarks, Hugo’s favourite haunts, and places that provided the inspiration for Toilers of the Sea 150 years ago.

The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Festival is part of the wider Channel Island’s Heritage Festival 2016 (25 March – 10 May 2016) which this year takes a maritime focus, celebrating Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Herm and Sark’s relationship with their coastline and their seas.

Top things to do during the Victor Hugo in Guernsey Festival

1 Hugo’s Guernsey exhibition – 1-10 April

Throughout the Channel Island’s Heritage Festival, St Peter Port’s Priaulx Library will have a free exhibition of photographs and objects associated with the period of Hugo’s exile on the island.

2 Victor Hugo concert – 2nd April

Quebecois singer, songwriter and performer, Alain Lecompte, will lead a musical homage to Victor Hugo with excerpts from his internaionallly acclaimed ‘Hugo Live’ concert.  Lecompte will be joined in Guernsey by local choral ensemble, Bel Canto, at St James Concert Hall in St Peter Port. Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for students.

3 Seminars and lectures from Hugo experts – 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th April

A series of seminars and lectures from leading authorities on the life and works of Victor Hugo will delve into the writer’s inspiration, influences and legacies. Events include ‘The Life of Victor Hugo in Exile’, a day-long seminar and Q&A session with four of the world’s most renowned experts on the French writer, a lecture by the designer of commemorative ‘Travailleurs’ stamps, a talk by the instigator of the Folio publication of the novel, and a WEA Maritime Heritage Series Lecture on Hugo’s relationship with the sea. Tickets range from free, for ‘The Art of Hugo’ lecture, to £20, for ‘Travailleurs, Creating the Stamps’ lecture lunch.

 In the Footsteps of Hugo – 2nd-10th April

During the eight day festival, there will be a series of two-hour long guided walks with experts departing a 10am and 2pm, to Hugo’s favourite spots on the island, which inspired many of the settings in both Toilers of the Sea and Les Miserables. The walks are priced at £8 per person.

5 Exhibition of Cartoons of Victor Hugo – 2nd-16th April (closed 3 April)

An exhibition of the caricatures of Victor Hugo published in the satirical press of his time will be on display throughout the festival in Guernsey’s capital of St Peter Port. Original caricatures will be exhibited at the Archive Centre for one week, while enlargements will be on show for two weeks at Inner Street Market. Admission is free.

Hauteville House cr VisitGuersey

Hauteville House © VisitGuersey

6 Tours of Hauteville House – 2nd April – 27th September

Visit the beautiful house where Victor Hugo lived during his time in exile on the island. Hauteville House was where he wrote many of his most well-known novels, including Toilers of the Sea. Tours take place daily throughout the Victor Hugo in Guernsey Festival and priced from £6 per person.

3 Hugo’s Banquet des Enfants – 3rd April

A six-course feast for 200 guests at Guernsey Market Buildings, replicating meals given by Victor Hugo to poor children at his home, Hauteville House. The lunch will be accompanied by live performances of music and drama.

Tickets for all events are available to purchase at www.Guernseytickets.gg. For full details on the festival, visit www.victorhugoinguernsey.gg

Find out more about visiting Guernsey at www.visitguernsey.com.

Celebrate writing at Manchester Literature Festival

Barton Arcade, Manchester cr Judy Darley

Barton Arcade, Manchester

Beginning today, the tenth annual Manchester Literature Festival promises numerous events celebrating writing in all its forms.

Highlights include novelists Margaret Atwood and Sarah Hall sharing disturbing visions of the future through their fiction, and Joanne Harris presenting a specially commissioned Writer’s Manifesto.

Words and music combine through unique collaborations with Manchester jazz festival and Manchester Camerata, an examination of WB Yeats influence on composers, and singer songwriter Kathryn Williams performing songs from her new album Hypoxia inspired by poet Sylvia Plath.

In another strand focusing on literary re-imaginings, with Anthony Horowitz introducing his new James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, and Jeanette Winterson launching her retelling of Shakespeare’s A Winters’ Tale. There’ll be discussions and literary strolls focusing on icons such as John le Carré, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Virginia Woolf, WB Yeats, and others.

Look out for theatrical adaptations of children’s picture books, an afternoon tea with Deborah Moggach, a screening of 45 Years – an adaptation of a short story by David Constantine – and much, much more.

Find full details at www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk.

Call for writers to take part in Penzance Literary Festival

Penzance cr Judy DarleyTelltales is inviting writers of short fiction to submit stories on the theme of ‘Tide and Time’ for the chance to be selected to read at Penzance’s annual literary festival.

They’re hoping the theme will “inspire writing flavoured with sea and salt, full of ebb and flow, flotsam and jetsom, in contemplation of being castaway or of eternity – but, as always, pieces on any subject will be considered.”

Your submission must be no more than 2,000 words long. The deadline for submissions is 9 July 2014.

The chosen writers will be invited to read their submission at The Admiral Benbow, Chapel Street, Penzance at 7pm on Saturday 19 July 2014.

I took part in last year’s TellTales at the Penzance Literary Festival, with my story The Scent of Summer, and had a wonderful time at the night of readings at the Admiral Benbow. Highly recommend it!

To find out more, visit www.telltales.org.uk

Writing competitions to whet your reading appetite

The Royal Exchange, Manchester cr Judy DarleyReading your words out to a literary festival audience is a pretty special experience, so I’ve sought out a few writing competitions that are associated with a prominent literary festival.

Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize

This competition invites submissions of first collections from publishers or individual writers. Prizes include £2,000, a week of paid ‘protected’ writing time and an invitation to read at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, which runs from 8-10 November 2013.

You must submit three bound or proof copies with a note of the date of publication. The deadline for entries is Friday 26 July 2013. 

Find full details here www.thepoetrytrust.org/site/aldeburgh-first-collection-prize/how-to-enter/

Wells Festival of Literature Writing Competitions

This competition is in three categories, so youcan select wherever your literary strengths lie. Submit poetry of up to 40 lines), short stories of between 1,000-2,000 words or the the opening chapter of up to 3,000 wds plus a 500-1,000 wd synopsis of your Crime Novel (for unpublished only writers.

Prizes range from £100 to the chance to have your work read by a major publisher and by an agent, plus £100.

Entry fees start at £5 per entry.

The closing date for entries is 31 JULY 2013. Find full details at www.wellslitfest.org.uk/competitions.php

Essex Poetry Festival 13th Open Poetry Competition

This competition seeks poems of up to 40 lines, on any topic.

Prizes range from £25 to £500, and winners and runners up will be invited to read at the Festival, which runs from 26 September until 5 October. Entry fees cost from £3 per poem.

Find full details at www.essex-poetry-festival.co.uk/compa.html

The closing date for entries is 31 JULY 2013.

Manchester Literature Festival Flash Fiction Competition

Creative Industries Trafford (CIT) and Manchester Literature Festival (MLF) are teaming up to run a flash fiction competition to coincide with the festival that runs from 7-20 October 2013. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix by Francis Crick and James Watson, and to mark this, writers are invited to create flash fiction pieces inspired by the theme of DNA.

They say: “We interested in all genres of fiction and themes of creation, mutation, evolution and transformation. Stories should be no longer than 500 words and you may enter more than once.”

Entry is free. Email your submissions by 5pm on Monday 16th September 2013, to literature@creativeindustriestrafford.org.

The winning entries will be featured online during MLF 2013 and short-listed authors will be invited to read their stories at a special event on Saturday 12th October at Waterside Arts Centre. Full competition details can be found here.