Bradford Literary Festival – a celebration of voices from diverse cultures

Hailed as one of the most inspirational festivals in the UK, Bradford Literature Festival is the place to be from 29thJune – 8th July. With more than 400 speakers and 300 events packed into iconic venues across 10 days, the festival celebrates the written and spoken word in all its wonderful forms, from poetry to politics, comics to comedy. Every year BLF invite world-renowned authors, poets, musicians and artists to visit Bradford and share their expertise and passions with inclusive, diverse audiences. 

Among the many writers launching their newly published books are Why I am A Hindu by Shashi Tharoor, who also guest edited Litro’s Translating India issue, a part of our World Series instalments, The Business Plan for Peace by Dr Scilla Elworthy; Don’t Let My Past be Your Future by Harry Leslie Smith; My Mother is Not Your Mother by Margaret Hockney, and City of Sinners by Bradford’s own A. A. Dhand.

Being the “young” festival that the Bradford Literature Festival is amidst a foliage of established ones, it has the luxury to break free from the shackles of “traditional” festival programming and celebrate literature in all forms including but not limited to films, theatre and music.

Nadeem Abbas
Sufiana Kalaam Concert

While some events at the festival will explore some of the key influences of Bradford-born artist David Hockney and launch of Margaret Hockney’s compelling memoir My Mother is Not Your Mother, others like “Songbook” -now an annual event at BLF that celebrates the lyrics and influences of a major songwriter-will discuss the female base player, Suzi Quatro’s influences as a ground breaking musician. In her own words, she “played the boys at their own game” and emerged as an icon in a highly competitive industry.

The festival will also host discussions on world affairs and politics revolving around the media’s role in fuelling Islamophobia, Europe’s love affair with the far-right and a satirical exploration of Jeremy Corbyn’s superhero persona in The Corbyn Comic Book. Major political anniversaries will also be remembered as the festival marks the centenary of the start of women’s suffrage in Britain, and of the First World War’s Armistice; 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King and much more.


In an age where borders are merging, the literary event will also include scientific explorations of gene therapy in the context of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as conversations between leading crime fiction writers.

Bradford being a long standing hub of diversity and culture aspires to encourage people from across the world to engage with the heritage and landscape of Bradford. Further, to champion youth’s engagement within the literary scene the festival, this year, has joined forces with the Hay Festival to launch a new pupil exchange programme where 10 students from Bradford will attend 2 days of the Hay Festival and 10 students from rom Powys and Herefordshire will attend Bradford Literature Festival in June. Additionally their new Festival Takeover initiative will offer a group of students aged 16-17 the chance to curate and manage their own session to feature on the official festival programme.

Syima Aslam, director of Bradford Literature Festival, said, 

“The festival seeks to break down these artificial barriers, by creating a space where ideas and stories can lead to mutual understanding, reminding us that it is our shared humanity that is the common denominator.”

True to its spirit, The Bradford Literary Festival is not afraid to throw in  a mix of dynamic artists together who arise from a plethora of vibrantly diverse cultures. It will witness the likes of Kashmiri Nobel Peace Prize nominee Parveena Ahanger, David Starkey, Jeanette Winterson, Robin Ince, Elif Shafak, Ben Okri, Suzi Quatro, Akala, Frank Bruno, Nimco Ali, Dennis Skinner, David Starkey, Terry Deary, Kei Miller and Joanna Hoffman.

The festival offers a delightful list of events ranging from an evening of comedy, workshops on Manga drawing, writing gothic fiction, comic strip lanterns to Out-spoken, an event that will kickstart the festival with poetry and music.

Other highlights of the 2018 festival include former heavy weight champion Frank Bruno, 70’s rock icon Suzi Quatro and Mobo award-winning hip-hop artist Akala alongside a host of literary names like Jeanette Winterson, Ben Okri, Jackie Kay and Don Paterson and politicians such as Shashi Tharoor, Dennis Skinner and Nimco Ali. The festival’s Free Family Fun Days will also return to Bradford’s City Park, with themes now confirmed as Superheroes, Outer Space, Under the Sea and Harry Potter.

Syima Aslam commented,

“This year’s programme exemplifies the festival ethos of reflecting society as a whole, giving a platform to artists from an extraordinary range of backgrounds, nations, cultures, and perspectives. The Festival is especially proud to bring to the fore marginalised voices who offer audiences the opportunity to understand our world in new, and unexpected, ways.”


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