Dive into the first-ever Weekend Of Words festival at Manchester’s iconic Victoria Baths, awash for three days with live literature, pop-up poetry, storytelling sessions, writing workshops, and even book-buying opportunities. Proceedings get underway on Friday evening with a fundraising concert in the Gala Pool featuring harp and flute courtesy The Juniper Project’s Eira Lynn Jones and Anna Rosa Mari – let music speak your language, and enjoy Sunday’s Talks, Tales & Tours activities for free with the same ticket.
Saturday lets your imagination run – or swim – wild, starting off with three separate two-hour writing workshops to choose from in the morning. Taking the theme of place as a jumping-off point, explore the world of creative nonfiction (also known as personal narrative, life writing or memoir) with The Real Story editors Ebba Brooks, founder of Prestwich Book Festival, and Adam Farrer, Writer-in-Residence of Peel Park in Salford. Another Writer-in-Residence, this time of Southern Cemetery (see our Didsbury Arts Festival feature for details of a special tour), Tania Hershman is a flash fiction expert and author of three collections, including 2017’s Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, and this year’s Resident Writer for Synaesthesia magazine. She’ll introduce you to the art of short-short stories and get you putting pen to paper – perfect inspiration for entering Victoria Baths’ Splash Fiction competition, launching at Weekend Of Words. Carol Ann Duffy protégée and one of those featured in the brand-new Laureate’s Choice Anthology, with poems from his pamphlet Spitting Distance, Mark Pajak will be leading a hands-on poetry workshop – bring pen and paper, and plenty of ideas, and be sure to book as places are limited (each workshop is £5 per person).
Grab a drink and a deckchair and muse over the fact that there’s still a swimming pool right beneath your feet. Soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the premiere of six site-specific short stories specially commissioned
Take a pitstop in the Pineapple Room for tea and cake or a sandwich then wander to the atmospheric Turkish Baths Rest Room to join Clare Stuart, director of last year’s Women In Words event at Dunham Massey, as she hosts a special poetry panel under the watchful gaze of the Angel Of Purity. Exploring watery themes are Foyle Young Poet of the Year Ella Duffy, whose piece ‘Mantis’ was published last month in The Guardian as part of the Poet Laureate’s Poetry For The Insect Population, The Writing Squad graduate Lenni Sanders, whose pamphlet Poacher is just about out with Birmingham-based indie Emma Press, and Clare Shaw, who was highly commended in the prestigious Forward Prizes and whose third collection Flood was published by Bloodaxe last year. All three will read from their work and chat about writing about place and where they find inspiration, with the opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions. Tickets are £5 and available to book in advance.
On Saturday evening you’re invited into Victoria Baths’ middle space, where you can grab a drink and a deckchair and muse over the fact that there’s still a swimming pool right beneath your feet. Soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the premiere of six site-specific short stories specially commissioned from both established and emerging writers for the Weekend Of Words by Victoria Baths’ inaugural Writer-in-Residence and Story Cities and Port contributor Sarah-Clare Conlon, supported by Arts Council England. Performed against a backdrop of magical projections, the brand-new body of work is influenced by the stories and spaces revealed by each writer’s exploration of the place and the archive. This is the third iteration of the Re/Place writing project, and 2015 collaborator Kate Feld (The Stinging Fly, The Lonely Crowd, Hotel) is back, as is Sawn-off Tales writer David Gaffney, who took part in the Didsbury Arts Festival version in 2017. Joining them are Phil Olsen, Fiction Editor of Sabotage Reviews, Joe Stretch, whose third novel The Adult won the Somerset Maugham Award, and Lara Williams, the author of short story collection Treats and novel Supper Club, out this July with Penguin. Tickets for this (£5), and the other Saturday’s events, are available to book in advance here.
Sunday sees a full day (11am to 4pm) of Talks, Tales & Tours, when you can experience a Victoria Baths Heritage Open Day with a difference – as well as guided tours of Manchester’s famous Water Palace, expect pop-up performances and a play in a pool, in the form of the Manchester premiere of Janet Goddard’s Victorian Women In Bed. A book fair will give you the chance to browse the latest books and zines from independent presses such as Comma, Confingo, Dodo, Gordian, Longbarrow, Nightjar, Route, Some Roast Poet and many more, along with pre-loved paperbacks. There will also be talks and Q&As from Alan Turing’s Manchester author Jonathan Swinton, Women’s Prize For Fiction longlistee Yvonne Battle-Felton and May novelist Naomi Krüger; readings from poets and prose writers swapping work in a special from The Other, closing the North West tour curated by Aquarium poet Michael Conley and reviewer Eli Regan; true-life tales in the Stories At Victoria Baths slot; children’s storytelling sessions from Round The Twist, and readings from Altrincham Girls Grammar School drama students and Maggie’s Centre Creatives. Tickets for Sunday are £5 and available here.