Northern Fiction Alliance readings at Leeds Lit Fest

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Spoken word performer Lisa Luxx.
Spoken word performer Lisa Luxx.

Northern Fiction Alliance Readings at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, 5 March 2022, free entry - Visit now

The award-winning Leeds Lit Fest this year runs Saturday 26 February to Sunday 6 March, showcasing local, national and international writers, performers and artists, and aiming at not just lovers of books and the written word but also audiences who might not normally consider a literature festival to be their thing (we know, right?).

Of the 50 events or so at the fourth Leeds Lit Fest, we’re sure you can find something to get your pulse running (though not Peter Hain, we’re sorry), with a Brontë-based cabaret, a Dickens drama, a talk and walk about George Orwell, a pop-up from Leeds Poetry Festival (on in full later in the year) and much more, but here are a few ideas of our own if you’re stuck deciding.

The award-winning Leeds Lit Fest this year runs Saturday 26 February to Sunday 6 March, showcasing local, national and international writers, performers and artists.

On opening day, head to Leeds Central Library (2pm, pay what you feel) for family-friendly event “Wandering Wildly with poet Dom Conlon”. Dom Conlon’s Wild Wanderers books (Leap, Hare, Leap!, Swim, Shark, Swim! and more) explore ecological diversity and environmental change through poetry and pictures, and he’ll be taking little listeners on their very own journey – with the help of a giant world map – to see how hares adapt to climate, how sharks protect the air we breathe and how the wind brings life to the Amazon rainforest…

Poetry for grown-ups is also in plentiful supply and, on 4 March, Maytree Press, an independent poetry publisher based in Marsden in the Pennine hills, will be hosting a lunchtime reading with Clint Wastling (whose collection Layers was published by Maytree Press in 2019), Joe Williams (The Taking Part came out in 2021) and Hannah Stone (Swn y Morloi was Maytree’s inaugural poetry volume, in 2019, and Reflections, Maytree number 23, was launched at last year’s Leeds Lit Fest) – “Nowt But Verse” is at Leeds Library, 12.30pm, PWYF.

Prose is also covered, with the event “What’s the point of Short Stories?” (1 March, Hyde Park Book Club, 8pm, £5 plus booking fee) promising to be an interesting topic; indeed, the Observer just featured an article claiming the “literary form is enjoying a renaissance”. Award-winning writers Owen Booth (The White Review Short Story Prize 2015 winner) and Richard Smyth (BBC Short Story Prize 2021 shortlist) will discuss why they still write short stories, chat about some of their recent favourites and read from their own work. Owen will also argue that short stories are actually superior to novels, which may lead to a heated debate…

Maybe you could continue the discussion with David Gaffney, “In Conversation” on 5 March (Leeds Library, 1pm, PWYF) with a reading from his brand-new third novel, out with Manchester’s Confingo Publishing and launching 17 February, Out Of The Dark, a gripping tale of grief, obsession and duplicity, set partly in a high-rise block of flats in Birmingham and partly in the script of a film noir. The event includes a Q&A – the perfect opportunity to ask the author of four collections of short stories and flash fiction, not to mention two graphic novels, what his take is on the subject of story versus novel.

The same day, things take an uncanny turn, with a series of “Writing the Uncanny” workshops followed by a panel talk. The creative writing sessions with Lucie McKnight Hardy and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan are sold out, so get a shimmy on and book with Claire Dean (Carriageworks Theatre, 12.30pm, £12 plus booking fee) for “In the forest, stories grow: writing uncanny fiction with fairy tales”. The panel discussion (Carriageworks Theatre, 6pm, £5 or £3 if you attend a Writing the Uncanny workshop) will see the three authors explaining what drew them to the uncanny and sharing their insights on horror, ghost stories, folklore and beyond. Drawing on last year’s book, published by Liverpool-based Dead Ink, Writing the Uncanny: Essays on Crafting Strange Fiction, they and co-editor Dan Coxon will offer practical guidance on how to craft unsettling fiction which resonates.

Also on Saturday 5 March, the Northern Fiction Alliance will be at Hyde Park Book Club with indie publishers And Other Stories, Bluemoose Books and Comma Press hosting a book fair (10-4pm; just drop in), including stalls from Bearded Badger, Confingo, Fly On The Wall,, The Poetry Business and Stairwell Books, and a special reading event (5-6pm) from their newest authors, Sammy Wright, Stu Hennigan and lisa luxx. Sammy Wright is a teacher based in Newcastle. His short stories have been published in a variety of anthologies, including Test Signal, published by Dead Ink and Bloomsbury and described as “showcasing the wealth of literary talent in the North of England”. His debut novel Fit, which won the 2020 Northern Book Prize, is out with And Other Stories and was praised by Maxine Peake, who called it: “A brilliant song to young people raging against their lot – tender yet unsentimental, and a joy to read.” Stu Hennigan is a writer, poet and musician. His debut book, Ghost Signs: Poverty and the Pandemic, will be published by Bluemoose in June 2022, and this is its first public reading! lisa luxx is a queer writer and award-winning performer of British and Syrian heritage. Her poetry, essays and opinions are published internationally in newspapers, magazines and anthologies, and she is the founder of The Sisterhood Salon, a feminist literary gathering in Beirut. luxx’s story “Mothers Need Mothers” can be found in Comma Press anthology The Cuckoo Cage, out on 17 February 2022.

The Northern Fiction Alliance is a publishing collective led by Manchester’s Comma Press, alongside core members Leeds’s Peepal Tree Press, Liverpool’s Dead Ink and Sheffield’s And Other Stories. Bringing together the best new titles on offer, the project is devised to showcase the diversity, creativity and spirit of risk-taking that sets Northern publishers apart. Since forming in summer 2016, the Northern Fiction Alliance has expanded to include Bluemoose Books, Tilted Axis Press, Mayfly Press, Route, Wrecking Ball, Valley Press and Saraband.

Please check the Leeds Lit Fest website for programme details. The Northern Fiction Alliance event is free, but please register.

Northern Fiction Alliance Readings at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

5 March 2022 5:00 pm
Free entry