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Birmingham Literature Festival announces Digital Festival for 2020

The annual festival, usually 10 days of live events in mid-October across Birmingham, will instead release a series of specially-commissioned podcast discussions, online writer workshops, and one-off live digital events curated in partnership with Durham Book Festival and Nine Arches Press.

Birmingham Literature Festival has today announced its plans for this autumn. In a year like no other, the festival in its usual form cannot take place – venues are shut, and bringing people together is not possible. Birmingham Literature Festival 2020 will take place entirely online, with a series of specially-commissioned podcasts, online writing workshops, and a handful of video events to watch.

The festival, a stalwart in the Birmingham festival calendar, running in October every year since 1998, has made the shift online in response to the Covid-19 restrictions which do not at the time of writing allow for large gatherings of people either indoors or outdoors. Birmingham Literature Festival typically has over 4,000 visitors in 10 days, across Birmingham city centre, at a mix of live author events and writing workshops.

For the 2020 Birmingham Literature Festival, audiences will be able to enjoy:

· The Bham Lit Fest Presents… podcast series: initially a run of 10 30-min audio performances and discussions, which starts recording in August and will be released from 1 October, weekly or bi-weekly as appropriate. It will be free and available on all podcast distribution platforms. Confirmed guests include:

o Coldwar Steve in conversation with Kit de Waal

o Stuart Maconie and Pete Paphides in conversation with Jo Bell

o Liz Berry introducing poetry readings with Rupinder Kaur and Romalyn Ante

o Candice Brathwaite in conversation with Dorothy Koomson

o Paul Mendez in conversation with Gaylene Gould

· Online writing workshops: 2 hour writing workshops, accessible to all, taking place throughout October. Topics include poetry, editing, introduction to publishing, and translation. Workshops will be ticketed, and go on sale on 7 September via the BLF website.

· Video events to watch online: a celebration of National Poetry Day on 1 October (in partnership with Nine Arches Press) and a series of co-produced events in collaboration with Durham Book Festival, released in mid-October.

Festival Director Shantel Edwards says:

It has been a very strange inaugural year as the newly-appointed director of the Birmingham Literature Festival! Whilst it has been really sad and disappointing to be unable to host a live event programme across the wonderful venues in the city centre, it has also offered us an exciting opportunity to be creative in the development and delivery of our festival programme and to make it accessible for everyone across, and beyond, the West Midlands.

Although our physical movements have been increasingly restricted, new ways of connecting and bringing writers together have opened up, allowing us to create a festival programme that has no borders, but still retains a distinct celebration of the wonderful writing about, and from, the West Midlands. We will really miss hosting live events this year and having the opportunity to interact with our audiences, but we hope that our programme will help keep us connected and inspired until we are able to meet in person again.”

This year, Birmingham Literature Festival is delighted that novelist and social mobility activist Kit de Waal has agreed to be Guest Curator. Kit has been working closely with Shantel Edwards, Festival Director, since the start of the year, and has personally curated several podcast episodes.

Guest Curator Kit de Waal says:

“It’s such a privilege to be able to be involved in programming the Birmingham Literature Festival in such weird times. Fantastic writers and thinkers, poets, activists, teachers - there’s a huge expanse of people and topics discussed and I hope you come along and enjoy the festival online.”


Birmingham Literature Festival 2020 starts with a live event in association with Nine Arches Press on National Poetry Day, 1 October.

The Bham Lit Fest Presents… podcasts will be released weekly from 1 October and available on all major podcast distribution services.

Online writing workshops will be available to book from 7 September.

For more information and all booking details, see www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org.

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