Huddersfield Literature Festival

Part of our Literature guide

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Poet Helen Mort.
Poet Helen Mort.

Huddersfield Literature Festival, online, Until 2 April 2023, free entry - Visit now

Huddersfield Literature Festival is a celebration of poetry, prose and performance, spanning venues across the town and streamed online. Drawing audiences of 4,000 an counting each March, Huddersfield Literature Festival plays host to around 50 events, from in-conversations, talks and panel discussions to creative writing workshops, open mic nights and poetry slams.

From this year’s line-up, we’d recommend catching award-winning poet and novelist Helen Mort, who will be talking about A Line Above The Sky on Thursday 30 March, 7-8pm. Helen has always loved climbing, but when she becomes a mother, she finds herself re-examining the sport, as well as the way the world views women who aren’t afraid to take risks. Melding memoir and nature writing, A Line Above The Sky was one of The Guardian’s Books to Watch 2022, Evening Standard‘s Books to Watch 2022 and The Bookseller’s Editor’s Choice, and Jon McGregor calls it: ‘A wonderful book – exhilarating and taut.’

Based in Sheffield, Helen Mort teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her poetry collections Division Street (shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and Costa Poetry Award, and winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize), No Map Could Show Them and The Illustrated Woman (shortlisted for the Forward Prize 2022) are published by Chatto & Windus. She has also published a novel, Black Car Burning, and her non-fiction includes Never Leave The Dog Behind: Our Love Of Dogs And Mountains.

Sticking with poetry and it’s worth blocking out Saturday 1 April, when the afternoon (3.30-5pm) sees three acclaimed poets – Patience Agbabi, Jason Allen-Paisant (whose new collection is out soon with Manchester’s Carcanet Press) and Sharena Lee Satti – perform their work and talk about their craft, and in the evening (7-8pm), you can hear about Linton Kwesi Johnson’s exceptional life and writing, from the man himself. He’ll be performing some of his work, including from his latest prose collection Time Come, and answering questions during a Q&A session and book signing. The festival blurb reads: ‘Ranging from reflections on the place of music in Caribbean and Black British culture as a creative, defiant response to oppression, to his penetrating appraisals of music and literature, and including warm tributes paid to the activists and artists who inspired him to find his own voice as a poet and compelled him to contribute to the struggle for racial equality and social justice, Time Come is a panorama of an exceptional life.’

On the prose front, there’s a crime fiction special on Saturday 25 March, 4-5pm, when Penny Batchelor and Nell Pattison will discuss their writing journeys, how they create believable characters and their latest domestic noir thrillers, Her New Best Friend and Friends Don’t Lie respectively. There will be the opportunity to see this streamed online if you can’t make it in person. Also hybrid (in-person and online, with BSL and live subtitling) is national treasure Celia Imrie (c’mon, Miss Babs of Acorn Antiques, if not Calendar Girls or Mamma Mia!), closing HuddLitFest 2023 on 2 April, 5-6pm. Celia will be presenting her new fiction book, Orphans Of The Storm, set on board the doomed Titanic.

Huddersfield Literature Festival plays host to around 50 events, from in-conversations, talks and panel discussions to creative writing workshops, open mic nights and poetry slams.

Huddersfield Literature Festival also gives creatives from the area a platform to share their skills and engage with their community. You can head Inside The World Of Bridgerton on 26 March, 12.30-1.30pm, when local author and historian Catherine Curzon explores the historical inspirations behind the hit series and illuminates the fascinating details of real life in Regency high society. Meanwhile, West Yorkshire-based international bestselling authors Linda Green (In Little Stars; 30 March, 6.30-7.30pm) and Milly Johnson (Together, Again; 2 April, 2.30-3.30pm) will be talking about their latest books.

Hands-on events include flash fiction writing with tutor Bonnie Meekums, on 25 March, and an interactive poetry workshop with Sharena Lee Satti, presented alongside Sangam Festival, on 1 March, both 11am-1pm. On 23 March, 7-8pm, you’re invited to share your published or unpublished fiction or non-fiction at prose open mic A Novel Experience, with a prize for best entry, while on 1 April, from 5.30pm, there’s a poetry open mic session. There are also lots of fun free activities for families, including the chance for younger audiences to learn to rap with Rob Bradley in association with Kirklees Year of Music 2023 – there are two sessions on 25 March: ages 7-12, 1.30-3pm, and 13-16, 3.30-5pm.

Established in 2006, the award-winning Huddersfield Literature Festival is well known for its inclusivity and accessibility. Many events are free or low cost, many have live subtitling by Stagetext for audiences who have hearing difficulties, and there are also autism-friendly events on offer. Huddersfield Literature Festival is known for its diversity, and works to specific goals in terms of representation for BAME, disability, gender, LGBTQ+, social class and age-groups across audiences, performers, volunteers, venues and management. The Festival also boasts a pretty amazing approval rating from audiences, ranging from 98% to 100% each year.

A Line Above The Sky by Helen Mort
A Line Above The Sky by Helen Mort

Some tickets are free, some are not. Some events are in person, some are hybrid with online availability. Please check the Huddersfield Literature Festival website for full details.

Huddersfield Literature Festival, online

Until 2 April 2023
Free entry