With interests including poetry, politics, performance, journalism, short stories and education, the three Guest Curators bring an enormous range of creativity to the 2022 Birmingham Literature Festival.
I have had the privilege of being involved in some amazing projects in my career, but this one feels particularly special. I am a Brummie, I wear it with pride and it is something that often colours my writing. The Birmingham Literature Festival is a cornerstone of the region’s literature scene, and it has been a pleasure to to attend and participate – so to be in the position to curate some of that experience for others is just awesome.
As the Birmingham Poet Laureate, the festival will mark the end of my tenure, but what a way to end it! If I’m honest I really wanted to pull together events that feature writers that I respect and enjoy, in a not (purely) selfish manner, sharing their magic in different settings with audiences that I am sure will love to hear from them, too. When I took the role of Poet Laureate of the city, I said I wanted to bring poetry to Birmingham and bring Birmingham to poetry.
The writers I have asked to join us on the Birmingham Literature Festival stages are reflective of this ambition, with some amazing local talent and some outstanding writers from outside the city combining for a great series of events.
I’m honoured to be one of the three authors guest curating this year’s festival.
As a short story writer, I’m delighted we can offer a workshop on this form – one which writers often start with and which allows them to find their voice at the start of their career.
I want to shine a light on LGBTQ+ voices and some wonderful authors from Northern Ireland.
I also wanted to have a chance to interview two people I admire greatly: Kit de Waal, who I am honoured to call a friend as well as a writer I admire; and Osman Yousefzada, a designer and artist whose work has inspired many.
I’m really looking forward to speaking to all of these fantastic writers at Birmingham Literature Festival in October.
It occasionally occurs to me that hosting a literature festival is a rather quaint exercise in our modern age, where information and ideas are so readily accessible at the touch of a button.
That one should make a pilgrimage across town, or perhaps even to another city, for the sole purpose of exchanging ideas, is ultimately unnecessary in an era where you can do so with greater ease simply by logging onto Twitter.
And yet the immediacy of digital communication is precisely why I think literature festivals still matter – why they matter now more than ever. Rather than the frenetic pace of online forums, we can offer a painstakingly put together programme of ideas and people that has been discussed and finessed over many months – leading to conversations that I hope will endure long after the final chair has been cleared away.
The events I’ve curated this year speak to issues and themes I’ve always found deeply fascinating, and at times confronting.
I hope you’ll enjoy these events as much as I’ve enjoyed curating them – do let me know your thoughts.