This year’s Chester Literature Festival has announced its biggest line-up to date and will be welcoming a raft of major authors, storytellers, broadcasters and poets to Storyhouse over a mammoth three weeks. With titbits from Nigella Lawson and snippets from Jenni Murray, expect famous faces alongside local authors, five of whom get the opportunity to perform and answer questions about their work in the New Voices Chester evening (25 November, 6pm, free).
This is one of many free events in the programme for 2018 – others crop up as part of the always popular Uni at the Fest strand, with a series of lectures and readings from the staff at the University of Chester on subjects ranging from graphic novels to literature and the every day. We’re looking forward to hearing from one of the country’s leading flash fiction experts Vanessa Gebbie, who will be reading some of her very short stories and chatting about the process of writing them with Drs Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler from the Department of English (30 November, 6pm, free but booking required). Vanessa’s fourth collection Nothing to Worry About: Flash Fictions is described as “a delightful combination of the serious and the surreal” and copies will be available to purchase at a discount.
Another purveyor of the short form is YouTube phenomenon and Ted Hughes Award-winning poet Hollie McNish, whose fans include Robin Ince, Pink, Tim Minchen and Benjamin Zephaniah. A hit at last year’s Chester Literature Festival, her poems have adorned Storyhouse’s walls since, only now being replaced with work by the Festival’s new guest poet in residence, Lemn Sissay. Chancellor of The University of Manchester and awarded an MBE for services to literature, the poet, playwright and broadcaster has been exploring stories of resilience from people who have experienced the care system as part of his residency.
On 11 November (7.30pm, from £10), Lemn will be in conversation with Jenni Fagan. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize, Jenni was selected for the 2013 Granta list after the publication of her highly acclaimed debut The Panopticon and her latest collection of poetry, The Dead Queen of Bohemia, is published by Polygon.
As part of Chester Literature Festival’s programme for 2018, a number of activities will be taking place, including a free introduction to the new Storyhouse library (13 November, 10.30am, free); a hands-on workshop to help you translate your idea into writing (and money!) with Chester-based writer and university lecturer David Atkinson (23 November, 1pm, £15), and a Beginner’s Guide to Art Criticism (27 November, 1pm, £15) with Laura Robertson, co-founder and editor of The Double Negative magazine and a freelance writer for Art Monthly, ArtReview, Frieze and more, and critical writer-in-residence at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.
Rounding off this year’s festival is critically acclaimed, Somerset Maugham Award-winning author and journalist Horatio Clare, presenting a moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires in The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal (1 December, 7.30pm, £12.50).