Celebrating its 30th year, Chester Literature Festival has a special Guest Director and artist-in-residence in the form of acclaimed poet, artist and filmmaker Imtiaz Dharker. She will be heading up the programme, full of creative writing workshops, spoken word performances, and talks and readings by a raft of famous story-tellers and best-selling writers all rocking up at Storyhouse over a packed three weeks.
Inspired by Storyhouse and its communities, new poems and illustrations by Imtiaz will be displayed across the arts venue’s spaces to create an enormous poetry book. She has also curated four special events including evenings with deaf British-Jamaican poet and Ted Hughes Prize winner Raymond Antrobus, reading from his book The Perserverence on 20 November (9pm, £12.50), Andrew McMillan – whose debut collection physical was the first-ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award – on 24 November (6pm, £12.50), and poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Warwick University David Morley on 30 November (6pm, free), when they will be joined in The Kitchen by Deva Flamenco dancers.
On 22 November (7.30pm, £15) the special event Imtiaz Dharker & Friends will see her joined by former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (Imtiaz herself recently turned down the laureateship, the highest honour in British poetry, citing a need to focus on her writing) plus emerging poets Ella Duffy, Keith Hutson, Mark Pajak and Molly Underwood.
Imtiaz Dharker & Friends will see her joined by former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (Imtiaz herself recently turned down the laureateship, the highest honour in British poetry)
Last year’s guest poet-in-residence is back on 21 November: the poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, Chancellor of The University of Manchester and awarded an MBE for services to literature, will be reading from his number-one Sunday Times bestseller memoir My Name Is Why. Fellow poet topping the bill for this year’s Chester Literature Festival is Benjamin Zephaniah with his The Life And Rhymes Of… show on 23 November, while writers and broadcasters Nadiya Hussain (Bake-off), Neil Oliver (Coast), Lucy Worsley (Queen Victoria) and Gavin Esler (Newsnight) will be talking 13, 14, 17 and 20 November respectively.
There are two An Evening With… events chalked up: the first sees War Horse creator Michael Morpurgo (9 November) interviewed by award-winning actor and comedian Katy Brand to coincide with his 75th birthday; the second sees LGBT activist and much-loved author of the bestselling and long-running Tales Of The City series Armistead Maupin (11 November) chatting to award-winning author Bernadine Evaristo.
The always popular Uni at the Fest strand is back, with a session on writing literary fiction (22 November, 6pm, free but booking required) when Cristina Pérez Valverde joins academics from the Modern Languages department at the University of Chester, and another on reading flash fiction to write flash fiction, headed up by short-short story experts Drs Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler from the Department of English (13 November, 2pm, free but booking required).
Performer Jo Blake presents Bloeuwedd Untold – unravelling the myth of the Frankinstein of Flowers – and Luke Wright pretends to be the Poet Laureate, while the Chester Writers introduce themselves and how to get involved in the group on 17 and 18 November, and the Cheshire Prize for Literature is awarded on Friday 29 November. Rounding off this year’s festival is the Festival Finale Poetry Party on Saturday 30 November (8.30pm, £20), when poet Molly Naylor and singer Gavin Osborn take over the Garret theatre and bar for a night of booze-fuelled poetry and song.