University plays biggest role yet in Ilkley Literature Festival


The North of England’s longest running literature festival begins today – with more events on campus or featuring staff from the University than ever before.


The Ilkley Literature Festival has a stellar line-up for this year’s event, which runs until 14 October and comprises 240 events across 15 venues.

The University is Higher Education Partner for the festival, as well as principal partner for the Words in the City spoken word festival that took place in Leeds for the first time last May.

Professor Frank Finlay, Director of the University’s Cultural Institute, said: “Following the highly successful Words in the City festival which marked the start of our new partnership, I am really pleased to see a record number of University events at this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival.

Our collaboration is a wonderful way to give our students and staff exciting opportunities to interact with large and diverse audiences, to engage with the wider world of ideas and to share new knowledge.

Professor Frank Finlay, Cultural Institute

“Our collaboration is a wonderful way to give our students and staff exciting opportunities to interact with large and diverse audiences, to engage with the wider world of ideas and to share new knowledge. I shall be taking part myself and am very much looking forward to it.”

Rachel Feldberg, Festival Director, saidː “The carefully curated line-up for 2018 includes some of the biggest names in literature as well as some of the most well-respected experts in history, poetry, non-fiction and science.

“This year, we’re lucky to have leading voices and specialists in their subject to contribute to our strands; which includes Windrush and the 200th anniversary of Emily Brontë and Mary Shelley.”

Women take centre stage at this year’s main festival, with comedian and ‘Strictly’ star Susan Calman included on the programme, along with poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, hugely successful fiction author Joanna Trollope and young adult fiction bestseller Jacqueline Wilson.

Food, fiction and cricket

Other familiar names taking to the stage as part of the festival include Alan Bennett, Mary Portas, Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and fellow food writers Jack Monroe and Ruby Tandoh.

Cricketing ace Moeen Ali will talk about his life and career as one of England’s best all-rounders, while bestselling novelist Kate Mosse will talk about her latest historical epic.

Fiona Mozley, whose debut novel was longlisted for the Booker Prize, joins Costa First Novel winner Andrew Michael Hurley for a discussion of ‘Northern ɢothic’.

Poetry to please

For those who prefer poetry to prose, there’s world-renowned Yorkshire-based poet Simon Armitage (pictured above), the University’s Professor of Poetry. He will return to Ilkley on Monday 8 October, to give an atmospheric candlelit reading of the newly revised, illustrated edition of his acclaimed modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Carol Ann Duffy will appear alongside Ilkley Literature Festival’s poet in residence Imtiaz Dharker in a special event hosted by the University’s Cultural Institute on Sunday October 14.

Ian Duhig and Christopher Fox will combine poetry, reading and cello music in a special event on Saturday 6 Octobercelebrating the Irish diaspora in one of many new commissions for this year’s festival.

University speakers

As part of the University’s increased role in the festival, a number of academics will speak on two anniversaries: the bicentenary of Emily Brontë’s birth and the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein.

Dr David Higgins from the School of English will tackle the links between Frankenstein and climate change (9 October), while Professor Sally Shuttleworth – now Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford but formerly at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, will present an intriguing discussion around the Wuthering Heights author – also this year’s Annual British Academy Lecture at the University of Leeds, hosted by the Cultural Institute and Leeds Humanities Research Institute next Tuesday (2 October).

Other varied events featuring University of Leeds staff, in chronological order, are:


Contemporary culture

BAFTA-winning journalist Stuart Cosgrove will discuss Harlem 69, the third book of his soul music trilogy, while comedian and bibliophile Robin Ince heads will present a live version of his acclaimed Book Shambles podcast, hot off the publication of his new book I’m A Joke, and So Are You.

Shedding light on one of history’s most fascinating, unnoticed stories is former Children’s laureate Michael Rosen who, alongside Kim Reynolds, professor of children’s literature at Newcastle University will look back at how children’s books played a part in radical activity.

Festival-goers can also discover speeches that altered the course of history, such as Nelson Mandela’s presidential speech, in Speeches of Note by Shaun Usher; author of international best-seller Letters of Note.

For younger readers

Known for its commitment to catering for younger audiences, the festival brings some of the best and upcoming young adult and children’s writers to the spa town, including Melvin Burgess, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Muhammad Khan and Nikesh Shukla.

Meanwhile even younger readers will love Snow Queen; a fantastic retelling of the classic story by Leeds-based children’s theatre company tutti frutti. They can also join Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins for Baby’s First Bank Heist; a fun, interactive tale of Baby Frank, who resorts to the desperate measures of robbing a bank when his parents refuse to buy him a pet.

Other shores

Windrush was one of the issues that dominated news headlines this year, the festival will pay homage to those who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean with a series of talks, conversations and panels.

Historian and writer Colin Grant will be joined by American journalist Joshua Jelly-Schapiro to explore images of the Caribbean, while renowned critic Jeremy Poynting, founder of independent publisher Peepal Tree, and Susheila Nasta, Open University Professor of Modern Literature, will discuss the impact of Windrush on literature and writing.

Further information

For further details, or interviews with University of Leeds staff taking part in festival events, contact or +44(0)113 3434031.