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The Stoke Newington Literary Festival, which has been running since 2010, is distinguished from other literary festivals by its eclectic programme. It carries the expectations of its place on its shoulders, and Stoke Newington is nothing if not culturally diverse.
Join a walking tour (Sat & Sun) of radical and literary Stoke Newington and learn about the famous writers and philosophers who made it a hotbed of activism, abolitionism and anti-authoritarian sentiment. Sit in on “A Hackney Anthology“: Acquired for Development by…, where 25 writers will offer up 25 different perspectives on Hackney, from gentrification to supermarket sandwiches, Turkish Alevism to inner-city river living, middle-class civil war to pylon romance. Watch the screening of Tony Grisoni’s short film Kingsland about the predominantly Kurdish community that lives and works in Dalston and Stoke Newington, shot with real people in real locations. Look at London from a bottoms-up perspective with the authors of A People’s History of London, John Rees and Lindsey German, as they discuss how London’s poor and its immigrant population have shaped its history and identity over the ages.
In the spirit of the Olympics and the world focus on London, authors including China Miéville, Iain Sinclair, Ken Worpole and Craig Taylor, will take a more macro view, and talk about the history and cultural currents of the larger city (see “London Novels“, “A London Obsession“).
The Festival will also feature true life stories from London’s black community: Dennis Morris and Colin Grant talk about growing up in Hackney and Luton in the 1960s and 70s; Andrea Stuart traces her family’s involvement with the sugar industry in a story of insatiable greed and forbidden love, abuse and liberation; Noo Saro-Wiwa on her travels in her home country Nigeria after she had decided she didn’t want anything to do with it when her father, environmental campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed by Nigeria’s military dictatorship; and Pauline Black, a legend of the 2-Tone scene who went on to cut a unique path through music, theatre, TV presenting, radio broadcasting and writing, simultaneously pursuing a personal journey to discover the truth about her birth parents.
Then there are the more unique line-ups, such as Pete Brown’s “Beer and Music Matching“, because apparently music can affect the taste of the beer you’re drinking (and if beer isn’t your thing, you can match literature to gin). Music, it seems, inspires us to many things, and in “Juke Box Fury“, four renowned writers play the track that made them want to write about music and discuss where serious writing about music is going, or has gone, and whether music and its writing matters in the way it once did. This follows an emerging trend in longform and literary writing about music, manifested in such magazines as Radio Silence and Loops . What is most intriguing though, is a talk by Nick Coleman, a music journalist whose world changed overnight when he lost his hearing, on how his forced rediscovery of sound and the music-scapes that had shaped his identity brought him astonishing insight.
Live storytelling and spoken word events are also on the radar: the Literary Death Match, the Special Relationship, Literary Cabaret, The New Libertines, which also run regularly around London throughout the year.
And there are the usual events you’d expect at a literary festival: former Granta editor Alex Clark talks to some hotly tipped debut authors about getting published, a debate about whether the book as we know it is coming to an end, and writing workshops by Storytails (Sat & Sun). Joe Dunthorne, author of Submarine (also the indie movie hit), will discuss his new novel, Wild Abandon, and read an interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure”, where you get to decide what happens next.
Many award-winning comedians and writers, male and female, will also be in attendance, dominating the line-up on Friday: Josie Long, Robin Ince, Miriam Elia, Bruno Vincent. Then on the weekend, former stand-up Jenny Colgan (Meet Me at the Cupcake Café) will talk about chick-lit, and funny man Danny Wallace (Yes Man) will discuss his new novel Charlotte Street, which has already been optioned for a film adaptation.
With so much diversity on offer, there’s something for everyone at the Stoke Newington Lit Fest, including children. Browse the whole programme here and book your tickets today – online, or at the box office. See you there this weekend!