Thursday 25 October 2012

Catch up post - Manchester Literature Festival

Well, it's all over, and it has been a hectic fortnight, especially for Cathy and Jon; I ended up doing nine events but between them they were at everything. I was going to be really organised and write about each one but I have been too tired the last week to settle down to it and now they are a bit of a blur. 

Jamaican poet Kai Miller at the Whitworth was a disappointment to me, I'm sure he was great but the acoustics in the vast gallery were so bad I could not hear him (admittedly we were sitting by the entrance not in the audience). 
'The Conductor' at the RNCM was wonderful. Author Sarah Quigley read two sections from her novel, which is about the composer Shostakovich and the siege of Leningrad during World War Two. It was followed by a performance of his Eighth String Quartet. I have very rarely been to hear classical music and it was just beautiful. 
I jumped in at the last minute to go to the 'Manchester Sermon' (someone had cancelled on the volunteer website) which is a specially commissioned piece in it's third year, this year given by Ali Smith. You can read previous year's sermons on the commissions page of the website and the text of Ali's should be up sometime soon. She was absolutely fantastic but spoke so fast with so many ideas tumbling over each other that I could barely keep up, I am planning to go back and read it because it had some interesting ideas for NaNoWriMo writing. Although technically the remit was that it only had to be based upon a biblical passage she seems to be a lapsed catholic and I liked the fact that when the interviewer, Edward Stourton, tried to pin her down about her religious beliefs she just said no. 
Sunday was the big day for me, the Family Reading Day, a mammoth session from 10am til 6pm (no wonder there were not many volunteers for this one, and Jon admitted that someone had dropped out at the last minute so we were rather short handed). The town hall is the most unwelcoming of buildings, with 'no public access' signs at all of the entrances, not helped by the fact that the front door was blocked by the Sea Cadets parade. Once people made it inside it was no better, with most of the stairs blocked by 'no public access' signs, so it was with some perseverance that the audience managed to find us at all. But the draw of real telly people meant that the main event, an appearance by the lovely Alex and Cerrie from CBeebies, was a rousing success. But we had a busy day all day, story readers and drama aimed at variety of ages, with crafty activities going on all day for before and after the events and drinks supplied. I sat in on a couple in the afternoon: Sita Brahmachari and V Campbell both reading and talking to a small but select audience about their respective stories and the process of writing, and then a slightly bizarre avant-garde performance by a group of drama students of their adaptation of the story of Stanley's Stick, which left me confused so I'm not sure what the collection of young children at the front made of it.
The last night saw us at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (where I spent most of my time last year) to hear Jonathan Harvey read quite a chunk from his first novel 'All She Wants'. Some of his friends in the audience gave him a hard time over whether it was based on people they all knew but he denied it vehemently. Who would have thought there was such a things as the Manchester Gay and Lesbian Chorus, but their rendition of 'Perfect Day' was just perfect and it rounded off a rather raucous evening. 
Me, well I'm already looking forward to next year, and maybe I'll even try and get an official blogging spot.

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