2015 Festival Highlights

Audience (49)Ilkley Literature Festival confirms first authors for this year’s international programme including a New York Times best seller, Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year and a gluten-free connoisseur from Britain’s favourite baking tent. Thousands of book lovers will once again descend on the spa town for the annual event, the biggest festival of its kind in the North of England. Ilkley Literature Festival, the second oldest literary festival in the UK, will run from Friday 2 October until Sunday 18 October 2015.

Vince Cable, Karen Joy Fowler, Sophie Hannah and Caryl Phillips are just four of the best-selling authors appearing at the Festival this October.

• Formerly MP and Business Secretary, Vince Cable, presents his new book, published later this year, After the Storm, following his the critically acclaimed The Storm. The timely book will offer audiences a previously unreported inside view of the coalition.
Karen Joy Fowler penned The Jane Austen Book Club which spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and more recently, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014.
• Crime writer and poet Sophie Hannah will be in conversation with James Nash discussing her latest volume of poetry, Marrying the Ugly Millionaire, her new standalone psychological thriller, A Game For All the Family, and her experiences of writing The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot novel to be published since Agatha Christie’s death.
• New York based critically acclaimed Caryl Phillips presenting his 11th novel, The Lost Child, inspired by Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and set against the Leeds cityscape of his childhood.

Ilkley Literature Festival continues to be a prominent bookmark in the festival calendar with a number of authors making their Ilkley Festival debut.
• One such author is high-profile campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, presenting her recently published book Do It Like a Woman… and Change the World, a collection of true stories that introduces the reader to courageous women from all walks of life.
Frances Quinn, winner of the 5th Great British Bake Off television series, presents her brand new book, Quinntessential Baking, to be published in October. The designer was known in the tent for her decorated to perfection bakes and winning the grand final with a three-tier Midsummer Night’s Dream wedding cake.
• Fellow baker Howard Middleton will also make his Festival debut discussing his brand new book, to be released later this year, Delicious Gluten-Free Baking: Sweet and savoury recipes for everyone to enjoy.

The full programme will be announced on 10 August with tickets to the general public available from 1 September.

Priority booking is available from 17-26 August for Festival Friends with the scheme currently open for new members.

To receive a copy of the programme guide delivered by mail, audiences should join the mailing list before 1 August.

2015 Writing Competitions Are Now Open

IMG_4723We are delighted that announce that the 2015 Ilkley Literature Festival writing competitions are now open for entries.

Poet and author of And When Did You Last See Your Father? Blake Morrison will be judging the Adult Poetry Competition, while novelist and Professor of Contemporary Literature at Manchester University Patricia Duncker will pick the winner in the Adult Short Story Competition.

Blake Morrison is a poet, author and journalist. His non-fiction books include And When Did You Last See Your Father? (1993), which won the J. R. Ackerley Prize and the Esquire/Volvo/Waterstone’s Non-Fiction Book Award, As If (1997), about the murder of the toddler James Bulger in Liverpool in 1993, and a memoir of his mother, Things My Mother Never Told Me (2002). His poetry includes the collections Dark Glasses (1984), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award.


Patricia Duncker is the author of Hallucinating Foucault (Dillons First Fiction Award and the McKitterick Prize), The Deadly Space Between, James Miranda Barry and Miss Webster and Chérif (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize). Two books of short fiction, Monsieur Shoushana’s Lemon Trees (shortlisted for the Macmillan Silver Pen Award) and Seven Tales of Sex and Death. And most recently, The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge (shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award and Green Carnation Prize).

Winners will receive £200 and be invited, alongside runners up and commended writers, to read at the Festival in October 2015.

Closing Date for receipt of entries: Friday 31 July 2015                                                    Prize winners will be notified by Thursday 1 October 2015

Download the full information and entry form.

Sponsored by Leeds Trinity University. Leeds Trinity University Logo 2012




IMG_9020Don’t forget we also have the Children’s Poetry Competition and Young People’s Writing Competition which offer budding young writers the opportunity to read their work at the 2015 Ilkley Literature Festival.

Good luck to everyone entering!

Words in the City Programme Changes

WITCbannerWe were sad to hear that the World Curry Festival have postponed their event until later in the year.

Words in the City will continue on 6 – 7 June in Bradford with a few minor programme changes.
All ticketed events, masterclasses, FREE family events in the Poetry Yurt, the Emergency Poet and Caravan Gallery are taking place as advertised.

The Poetry Slam will take place 5.15 – 6.15pm on Saturday 6 June at Watersones, Hustlergate, Bradford. The winners will receive Waterstones vouchers and a slot at the Ilkley Literature Festival in October as prizes. The Sunday performances by the winners have been cancelled.

The Fringe will open at 10.15am on Saturday 6 June with a reading by Ian Oldfield

The following events have been cancelled:
Roundhouse Poetry Collective, Hip Hop and Blake with Testament (we hope to reschedule both performances for the October Festival), Live Wires and Ready Steady Poem.

Tickets for Tony Harrison are selling fast but there are plenty more fantastic poetry events taking place, including John Hegley, Jo Shapcott, Don Paterson, Imtiaz Dharker and Zaffar Kunial.
Click here to book.

Words in the City 2015 Poetry Slam Competition

The Bradford Poetry Slam is one of my favourite gigs. There’s nothing quite like performing to an audience, behind which is the whole of Centenary Square where, if it’s a sunny day, the entirety of Bradford seem congregate. It makes for that organic kind of gig where passers-by feel their ears prick and find themselves casually joining the audience. No-one is there because they’re trapped; they’re there because they want to see what’s going on. And as a poet, part of your job is to let them know: not just what’s going on around them, but what’s going on inside them.

IMG_4220In that way, a poetry tent in a public place makes it a very private place, too. It’s becomes a place where people have to walk over and lean in. It makes me think of people raving on soap boxes in London and around the world; places where people’s voices are democratised and insistent and earnest. That’s definitely the kind of poetry I want.

– Andy Cook, 2014 Slam Winner

Saturday 6 June, 5.15-6.15pm, Waterstones, Bradford
Hosted by Michelle Scally Clarke
Slam Judges:  Joshua Seigal

  • Do you want to be part of the 2015 Words in the City Slam?
  • Do you have 2 poems no longer than 3 minutes each?
  • Are you free to perform on the outdoor stage on Sat 6 June?
  • Are you used to reading/performing your work to an audience?*
  • Are you 18 or over?

If the answer is YES to these questions, then read on…

With only 3 minutes to enthral the audience and judges, the Poetry Slam gives poets the chance to read their new poems at Words in the City.

There will be 8 places for poets at the Slam. All poets will read in Round 1; the judges then shortlist 4 poets who read in Round 2. The highest score over the two rounds is the winner; the second highest score is the runner-up. Judges will rate both the quality of the poem and performance, marking each out of 10.


  • 15 minute slot at Ilkley Literature Festival in October
  • Waterstones book tokens worth £20
  • The two poems you read published on the Ilkley Literature Festival website


  • 15 minute slot at Ilkley Literature Festival in October
  • Waterstones book tokens worth £10
  • The two poems you read published on the Ilkley Literature Festival website

If you want to be one of this year’s slammers, email info@ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk with a brief cv (max 100 words) including your links to Bradford and one poem (you don’t have to read this poem at the Slam). We’ll be selecting 8 performers based on the CV and the poem you submit – and we’d love a wide range of ages and genres.

Extended Deadline for submissions: Tuesday 26 May 2015
We’ll let you know by Friday 29 May at the latest if you have been selected to compete.

Please note, the Poetry Slam takes place in a public area so you will need to be mindful of the diverse family audience when you select the poems you are to perform.

*We’re sorry, this slam isn’t suitable for complete beginners, but if you’re used to reading and performing your work to an audience then please apply.

Words in the City 2015

WITCbannerI was on tour with another project when the first Words in the City weekend took place last June in Bradford’s City Park, but I hear from those that were there that the sun shone, the mirror pool glistened, visiting poets were wowed by the sights and smells of the Curry Festival and you could have been in Barcelona and not a city in the north of England!

We have it on good authority* that the weather is nearly always good on the first weekend in June so we’re confident of more of that sunshine for the 2015 festival which sees a feast of poetry readings, masterclasses, pop up spoken word, free family activity and street theatre, alongside delicious food from around the world.

Bradford’s magnificent Edwardian City Hall plays host to our two headline poets: John Hegley on Saturday 6 June, and one of Britain’s greatest living artists, Leeds-born Tony Harrison, on Sunday 7 June. We’re also delighted to welcome Don Paterson and Jo Shapcott as well as former Wordsworth Trust poet in residence, Shipley-based Zaffar Kunial.

Renaissance woman Imtiaz Dharker, who has recently been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes prize, is on my Not-To-Be-Missed list. Born in Lahore, brought up in Glasgow, she’s a poet, artist and documentary film-maker, of whom Carol Ann Duffy says “Whether she writes of exile, childhood, politics or grief, her clear-eyed attention brings each subject dazzlingly into focus.”


The Poetry Yurt at Words in the City 2014

If you’re interested in crafting your own poetry then we have workshops for writers of all abilities across the weekend. Ahead of a new Bradford Young Writers group we’re also running a free workshop for 12-18 year olds who love writing. No experience needed, just turn up!

Meanwhile, mingling with the World Curry Festival stalls and stages in City Park will be a host of free pop up performances including local poet Javaad Alipoor and Testament, whose forthcoming project at the West Yorkshire Playhouse sees him marry British hip hop and William Blake’s iconic poetry. Look out for our Emergency Poet who’ll be offering free poetic first aid from her vintage ambulance. The iconic mustard-yellow Caravan Gallery with its photography exhibition of everyday life will also be making its first appearance in Bradford, at the start of a residency with Impressions Gallery.

Families can head over to our Poetry Yurt for free drop in activities, from edible to magnetic poems. Joshua Seigal performs his one-man poetry show for families in Bradford City Library and Reading Matters are running a free workshop for parents/carers on reading together.

Rounding things off on Sunday evening Words in the City moves up to Bradford’s resurgent Northern Quarter on North Street and The Record Café, (one of the city’s new craft beer bars), for The Sunday Practise, where you can hear some of the West Yorkshire’s best spoken word performers and musicians.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Festival Fringe, the Mushaira or the Poetry Slam! (I’ll save that for another post).

(*If your child’s birthday is on this weekend, you always host an outdoor party. Apparently.)

– Jenny Harris, Words in the City Coordinator


Tickets for Words in the City are availble online now at www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk



From Outside the Frame: Unexpected Outcomes

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As this stage of our Creative Case project draws to a close I’ve realised that one of the unexpected effects has been to change my relationship with a number of the paintings in the exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery which has been our springboard, ‘One day, Something Happens; Paintings of People’. It’s not necessarily that I know more about how or why they were painted or have learnt more about how to look at them in a visual arts sense, although that has been fascinating too. No, the work we have done has been much more of a creative tangent and the result has been to make certain of the images into old friends. Encouraged by Rommi to set a writing exercise, I suggested we each pick a character in one of the paintings and create what they might say if they spoke directly to us out of the frame.

I choose the older man in Barbara Walker’s picture Boundary, which it turns out, was painted in a barber’s shop in Handsworth, Birmingham. It seems an oasis of calm and everyday activity, in which there is something very tender in the way the barber is cutting his customer’s hair. I found myself writing – from his perspective – about the wedding ring which gleams gold on his hand. I wanted to know about his wife and I found as I was writing he told us that she had died and of how important she still is to him. It’s fiction of course- although it could well be true of someone of his age. Later Rommi and I talked about the media portrayal of Handsworth and how unlikely it was to be this calm, almost domestic interior. I realised I would love to be able to commission a companion piece from Barbara Walker. In my head I wanted to see a painting of two or three teenage boys, perhaps the sons of the man in the Barber’s shop, just hanging out together at home or somewhere familiar and comfortable- in the way that my son and his friends used to do when they were still at school. It’s an image of young Black people I realised I had never seen in a gallery, and it felt as if it could form a diptych with Walker’s original piece.

When it was Nigel’s turn he asked us to write about how the colour red spoke to us in the paintings. Both Rommi and I, without any conferring, chose to write about Milly Childers’ self portrait. For me her confident, uncompromising stare was underlined by her red artist’s smock. A colour I suspected no respectable Victorian woman would readily wear. The red gives her a confidence and makes her stand out. When I looked at her dates (1866-1922) I realised that she had lived through a time of immense change for women- from Victoria’s reign in the mid nineteenth century- post the Brontës but at the time of George Elliot, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sojourner Truth and Louise May Alcott- and on into the twentieth century through the First World War, the Pankhursts and Emily Wilding Davison. She was still alive when Virginia Woolf published her early work and died in the world Vera Britain knew, when the first women were finally able to vote. At one of our meetings I used an old theatre exercise and sculpted Rommi into a reflection of Milly’s stance bang in front of the picture. Later I discovered that Rommi had used this experience as the starting point for a poem – another unexpected outcome.

– Rachel FelLitfest-7691dberg, Festival Director.

You can read Rachel’s previous two blogs about Outside the Frame and Creative Case here.

Leeds art galleryOne Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People opens at Leeds Art Gallery on 6 March and runs until 24 May.






From Outside the Frame is a Creative Case NORTH Exploration. Creative Case NORTH is a programme of sector led activity exploring the Creative Case for Diversity, developed by a consortium of arts and cultural organisations convened by Arts Council England from across the North area, including:

Creative Case NORTH Partners: Alchemy, ARC Stockton, Artlink, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Contact Theatre, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, Freedom Festival, GemArts, STAY, ZENDEH.

Creative Case NORTH Critical Friends: Open Clasp, Prism Arts, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

Save the Date: David Starkey – Thursday 14 May

starkeyandbookThursday 14 May sees historian David Starkey make a welcome return to the Kings Hall following his sell out appearance at the 2014 Festival.

Starkey will be discussing his latest book, Magna Carta, the Charter that Changed the World which explores the history, impact and global influence of the Magna Carta, 800 years on.

Festival Director, Rachel Feldberg said, ‘To mark 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta, we are welcoming David Starkey, one of the most popular speakers at the 2014 Festival, back to Ilkley to talk about the impact of this centuries old ‘charter of liberty’ and why it is still so relevant today.’

Tickets for David Starkey and the Words in the City Festival, featuring Tony Harrison and John Hegley will be on sale from 20 April at www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk



From Outside the Frame: Finding Ourselves in the Frame

Although I have been around the visual arts for a long time, including curating the Festival’s 40th anniversary exhibition and once as a wide-eyed student, being asked to ‘clear up’ a floor sculpture people were treading on at a private view- I remember crouching on the floor, shovelling it into a bin bag, feeling sacrilegious –  it’s still exciting to go ‘backstage’ when an exhibition’s being hung. A bit like staying the night at the Natural History Museum.

Rommi, Nigel, Kenny, the musician working on the project, and I, had been sitting round the table, grappling with complicated and important ideas: should the ‘creative case’ still need making? And even if it does, whose responsibility should that really be? Surely by now people understand that diversity ensures a variety of perspectives, makes the arts exciting, nuanced, artistically challenging – whatever the artists involved choose to work on – and ensures we don’t arbitrarily exclude half the people whose work we could be enjoying. We touched briefly on how who you are never goes away but how you don’t necessarily want to make work that constantly foregrounds it. Sometimes being a woman and having a rich mixed heritage is centre stage of what I write, sometimes it just lurks in the wings

Rommi talked about the need for us all to ‘be awake’- to be aware of that there are parameters and a political context for our playful explorations and how important it was for all of us to see our own ‘othernesses’ (whatever they are) as of equal importance within a diversity context.

And she raised important concerns about the problematic nature of short-term diversity policy projects which, specifically and particularly engage artists of colour and then are found lacking in terms of longer-term implementation and impact.

And when we found ourselves getting hemmed by how other people saw us, Nigel suggested we should try taking ourselves back to the work, go and explore it, in the gallery next door.

Which is how we found ourselves, squatting on the floor, surrounded by flip charts, heady with Kenny’s music, while the exhibition’s curator and her colleagues in white gloves hung the exhibition around us. It was like being in the middle of a piece of contemporary dance: they would stand considering one of the pictures propped up against the wall, and then point across the room. And at that signal, someone in white gloves would carefully pick up the picture, holding it upright between two hands and cross the gallery floor. Gradually I could see there was a conversation going on between the pictures, which one balanced with which, how the colours related or perhaps overshadowed one another. At the same time, we were having a written conversation with one another, scribbling our thoughts and replies on the flip charts as we looked at the images, and with Kenny as we responded to his improvisations. And now and again passing members of the public peered through the glass doors into the gallery to watch this unusual spectacle, so that we in our turn found ourselves ‘in the frame’.

– Rachel FelLitfest-7691dberg, Festival Director.

You can read Rachel’s introductory blog about Outside the Frame and Creative Case here

Leeds art galleryOne Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People opens at Leeds Art Gallery on 6 March and runs until 24 May.






From Outside the Frame is a Creative Case NORTH ExplorationCreative Case NORTH is a programme of sector led activity exploring the Creative Case for Diversity, developed by a consortium of arts and cultural organisations convened by Arts Council England from across the North area, including:

Creative Case NORTH Partners: Alchemy, ARC Stockton, Artlink, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Contact Theatre, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, Freedom Festival, GemArts, STAY, ZENDEH.

Creative Case NORTH Critical Friends: Open Clasp, Prism Arts, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

Top Children’s Books for World Book Day

To celebrate World Book Day Sainsbury’s commissioned a survey to find the ‘Top 50 Books Every Child Should Read By 16’. The survey aimed to find the ultimate children’s reading list and encourage bedtime reading. And while there are plenty of great books listed we noticed some of our favourites were missing.

As you can never have too many book recommendations, we asked around the office and on social media and put together our own list of 25 books we think are brilliant and that everyone should read before they are 16 (but you’ll still enjoy at any age):


David Almond- Skellig

Malorie Blackman- Noughts and Crosses

John Boyne- The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Antony Brown- Voices in the Park

Melvin Burgess- Junk

Julia Donaldson- The Gruffalo

Neil Gaiman- The Graveyard Book

Alan Garner- The Owl Service

John Green- The Fault in Our Stars

Shirley Hughes- Dogger

Eva Ibbotson- Journey to the River

Oliver Jeffers- The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Jon Klassen- I Want my Hat Back

Harper Lee- To Kill a Mockingbird

Michelle Magorian- Goodnight Mr Tom

Michael Morpurgo- Private Peaceful

George Orwell- Animal Farm

Louise Rennison- Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging

Meg Rosoff- How I Live Now

Louis Sacher- Holes

Dodie Smith- I Capture the Castle

Lemony Snicket- A Series of Unfortunate Events

Mildred D. Taylor- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Dianna Wynn-Jones- Howl’s Moving Castle

Markus Zusak- The Book Thief

If you think we’ve missed anything out let us know!

Thanks to your support Bradford MDC have changed their mind!

We are very relieved to bring you the good news that Bradford Metropolitan District Council has decided to reverse its proposed cut to the Festival’s grant.

We have had fantastic support from people right across the board and we’d like to thank everyone who took the time to come forward and make their views known. Your support made all the difference and it has been heartening to be reminded how important literature is to people and how much the Festival means to Bradford District.

We are very grateful to Bradford Council for listening and having the courage to reverse this proposal and to MP Kris Hopkins and Labour’s parliamentary candidate John Grogan for all the support they have given us and the hard work they have put into this behind the scenes.

As well as continuing their support for Ilkley Literature Festival, the Council has also allocated £115,000 over three years to help other local festivals, including our partners the World Curry Festival, expand and develop, which is great news for Bradford.

Bradford has shown us a fine example of democracy in action and now we’ll be carrying on with our preparations for Words in the City, our June poetry weekend, and the Festival in October so we can give the district the exciting Festivals it deserves.

Rachel Feldberg,
Festival Director