Want to Write? The best of the UK’s Literary Festivals

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2012 marks a major year for literature all over the world. From Shakespeare to Dickens to the best of Ireland’s authors, literary festivals offer a jam-packed few days of writing, reading and guest speakers, as well as the opportunity to indulge in the delights of each city. A Younger Theatre has checked out some of the best literary festivals that the UK and Ireland have to offer over the coming months:

The World Shakespeare Festival will celebrate the Bard as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Celebrations will be particularly centred in London as crowds flood in for the 2012 Olympics, but the event will also be marked in cities such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle, Birmingham, Brighton and Edinburgh. Beginning on 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday, and running until November, theatres all over the UK will have productions and exhibitions on offer.

The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon – along with staging many plays – will host an exhibition, ‘The Stories of Shakespeare’, in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. There will also be many other events, such as the Swan Theatre’s Creative Dialogues (Translating and Transposing Shakespeare, Reinterpreting and Reimagining Shakespeare, and Shakespeare and the Contemporary Artist). Stratford-upon-Avon will also have its own Literary Festival from 22-28 April.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London will host all of the playwright’s 37 plays on stage in Globe to Globe: “a multi-lingual Shakespeare project”, from 23 April to 9 June. “Each [play will be performed] in a different language [and] each by a different company from around the world”, says the website. The official opening will take place on the 21-22 April. In September, the theatre will also feature Stephen Fry’s first performance on stage in 17 years, as Malvolio in Twelfth Night.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, from 10 August to 2 September, the Edinburgh International Festival will stage a Polish production with English subtitles entitled 2008: Macbeth, while Wales’s National Theatre will present Coriolanius in August.

The Dickens 2012 Festival will celebrate the two hundredth birthday of renowned Victorian author Charles Dickens (February 7) with myriad events over the course of the year. The main attraction is the Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street, “the author’s only surviving London house”, but ensure you visit before 9 April when the museum will close for a refurbishment. It is also holding a special Flash Fiction Workshop for 16-24-year-olds on 11 March. Young Writer-in-Residence Femi Martin will run this workshop as well as a number of others. The event is free but places are limited. The Museum will also play host to If These Walls Could Speak… on 3 April, honouring the new work of upcoming English writers over wine and sherry (drinks that Dickens himself was apparently partial to). You can also follow in Dickens’s footsteps on the Museum’s ‘Dickensian London Walk’ until 4 April for £10, prior booking essential (Call 0207 405 2127 or email).

The V&A Museum of Childhood is collaborating with the English Association and the Dickens Fellowship to present the Dickens and Childhood Conference on 18 June. Held at the V&A, student attenders can look forward to a £25 concession rate, lectures from Dickens specialists and talks from children’s authors. The Museum of London is also getting involved: it is running  an exhibition called Dickens and London until 10 June, including “manuscripts of some of his most famous novels, his writing desk and chair, artefacts, paintings and audiovisual effects to create an immersive and exciting journey through Dickens’s imagination”.

Known as the ‘Literary Capital of Ireland’ and the home of celebrated writers John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Brendan Kennelly, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh, Robert Leslie Boland, George Fitzmaurice and Seámus Wilmot, the town of Listowel, Co. Kerry, will host the forty-first Listowel Writers’ Week. The event will take place from 30 May to 3 June. There are 14 three-day Literary Workshops on offer, covering genres from creative writing to poetry to screenwriting to journalism to memoir. There are only 15 places per workshop, each costing €175. The festival will also have readings from several internationally acclaimed authors, including Belinda McKeon. A weekly ticket costs €100, or €180 for two, and concession tickets are available for students. You can make bookings by calling +353 682 1074.

Galway City in Ireland is well known for its arts, especially literature. The twenty-seventh Cúirt International Festival of Literature, on 24-29 April, will showcase some of the best writing talent to come from the island. The annual Cúirt/Over the Edge Showcase on 25 April is highly regarded and will feature the fiction and poetry winners of the Cúirt New Writing Prize 2012. More events will be announced on the website shortly so make sure to have a glance at its Twitter or like its Facebook page.

Cambridge Wordfest (Spring 2012) is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in style. Held from 13-15 April at various venues throughout the city, Festival Director Cathy Moore says to “expect a three-day party bursting with everything from big-name authors to debut writers, [to] personal inspirations [and] global themes”. They will be welcoming top-notch writers from all over the UK, including Julian Clary, Michael Portillo, Grace Dent, Charley Boorman, Ian Rankin, Michael Rosen, Cressida Cowell and Andy Stanton. The festival will also have a wide range of literary events during the weekend: Writing Creative Non-Fiction, Ghost Writing Masterclass, A Room of One’s Own Workshop and Walking Tour, Poetry Workshops, Getting Published Today Masterclass and Crime Writing Workshops are just some of the delights to choose from. The box office is now open for bookings: have a look at thewebsite or call 01223 300 085.

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival at Christ Church, Oxford, has one of the most spectacular backdrops of any festival. From 24 March to 1 April, the festival will display a wealth of creative knowledge and entertainment, and more than 80 events that will take place. The guest speakers include Peter Carey, Vikram Seth, William Boyd, Robert Harris, Anthony Horowitz, P.D. James and Ian Rankin. Check out the website for more information, as well as its Facebook page and Twitter. Call the box office on 0870 343 1001.

The Bath Literature Festival will be held from 2-11 March. This year’s festival has a smashing line-up of authors and events, from Writers’ Surgery workshops for anyone suffering from writer’s block, to Britain’s only poetry pub crawl, to a talk with The Times columnist David Aaronovitch. A fun few days in one of the most beautiful English cities, this festival is certainly not one to be missed. You can follow it on Twitter for the latest updates.

This is only a selection of the fantastic festivals and events that are going on throughout the country this year. If you’re a prospective or established author, or just a lover of words, soaking up the rich literary atmosphere will do your writing the world of good!

Image credit: Dickens 2012 Festival.

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