The first ever Festival of Words hit Nottingham this month and on Saturday 16th February I was lucky enough to get a ticket…
I chose to start the afternoon at a keynote speech by AL Kennedy. As the author of six novels, five collections of short stories, two books of non-fiction and a blogger for The Guardian, AL Kennedy is a big name. She delivered her writing tips and experiences to quite a busy lecture theatre, including her opinion on the social responsibility of an author.
As a stand-up comedian as well as a writer, she injected her speech with humorous anecdotes offering her audience an amusing, engaging and fascinating talk. She delivered a particularly memorable message that ‘language belongs to everybody’, a message that seems to be the focus for the Festival of Words itself, making Kennedy’s lecture the perfect start to my Festival experience.
I then attended an event called ‘Writing the City’ which focused on the relationship between people and place. A panel of Shoestring poets which included Sue Dymoke, Julie Lumsden and Derek Buttress spoke to a small but friendly audience about the influence of Nottingham on their writing. The poets read some of their work to highlight how Nottingham had inspired them in different ways, from Julie’s writings about addiction and Derek’s poetic anecdotes of his childhood to Sue’s poems about specific areas of Nottingham – including the lively city centre on a Saturday night! Whether they distanced themselves from their geographical rooting or embraced their hometown, the panel showed that people and place appear to be inseparable.
I finished the afternoon with another panel which was rather topical amidst the current debates about gay marriage. A panel of LGBT writers from the Rainbow group opened a discussion with the audience about gay and lesbian literature. The writers Russell Christie, Greg Woods, Victoria Oldham, Nicki Hastie and Jonathan Kemp covered topics which identified the role of gay and lesbian literature as they proffered their opinions on the label of gay/lesbian writers and whether sex was always necessary in such a genre.
Coming to the conclusion that literature should reflect changing societal attitudes, the talk was indeed eye-opening for someone like myself; a heterosexual reader with a fairly limited knowledge of LGBT. However, my position as such a reader did occasionally leave me feeling a little out of place when discussions opened up with questions seemingly based on personal gay or lesbian experience…
Still, the Festival of Words impressed me. It was insightful, enjoyable and above all, inspiring. There was an infectious literary buzz in the air and it was encouraging to see such a variety of ages milling around. I only hope that the festival has been a success and will become the annual event organisers would like.
For more info on the Festival of Words go to: www.nottwords.org.uk