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 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



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



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

John Simpson backs Ilkley Literature Festival

john-simpson-1000788We have received heavyweight support from legendary journalist John Simpson in our campaign against funding cuts from Bradford MDC.

The BBC World Affairs Editor opened the prestigious event in 2010 and signed copies of his critically acclaimed book, Unreliable Sources: How the Twentieth Century Was Reported, his fourteenth publication in a list of works which includes two novels.

While on a private visit to the town last week Mr Simpson met with local MP Kris Hopkins, who took the opportunity to brief the journalist on the Council’s plans to withdraw support for the Ilkley Literature Festival.

Mr Simpson – who famously entered Afghanistan in 2001 by disguising himself in a burqa – has since written to the Keighley and Ilkley MP to say how “sad” he was to hear of the funding threat now hanging over the event.

He continued: “I have very pleasant memories of it, and I remember a couple I met there telling me how important the Festival was for the entire region, and how it kept them in touch with the arts and cultural life of the UK and the wider world.  Festivals like this play a big part in the life of a community, and I very much hope the decision to cut the funding will be reversed.”

Kris Hopkins commented:

“Since its creation in 1973, the Ilkley Literature Festival has grown into the oldest and largest event of its type in the North of England.

“This is down in no small part to the unrivalled quality of literary figures and headlines names in attendance down the years, including John Simpson himself who has made two appearances.

“The support funding provided by the Council returns financial and cultural rewards multiplied many times over to the district, through increased numbers of visitors and extra tourism spend. These benefits are in addition to the significantly increased profile the town enjoys throughout the duration of the event, and beyond.

“I would urge local residents and, indeed, everyone who cares about the future of the Ilkley Literature Festival to make their views known by contributing to the Council’s budget consultation exercise which closes later this month.  This can be done by logging onto the Bradford Council website.

“The Festival must be protected and it is crucial that all of us who care about the event’s future play our part.”

Festival Director, Rachel Feldberg said:

“We are incredibly grateful for all the support we have received in response to our campaign against the cuts. Hundreds people have expressed their support for the Festival, which is invaluable in helping to change the Council’s mind.

“Having the backing of a celebrated name like John Simpson shows how important the Festival is, not just at a regional but also national level.”

If you have not yet contacted Bradford Council about the proposed budget cuts, please do so by clicking here.

The numbers speak for themselves:
290 live literature events
26,000 people
33 weekly workshops for teenage writers
60 weekly creative writing and reading workshops for 8-11 year olds
An economic value of over £1million for the Bradford district


Ilkley Literature Festival: A Great Record on Sponsorship and Philanthropy

What a shame that Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid isn’t aware of Ilkley Literature Festival’s great record on sponsorship and philanthropy over the last decade. Earned (ticket sales) and contributed income (donations, sponsorship from a raft of supportive local, regional and national companies and our fantastic Friends organisation) makes up 62% of our total income and has done for years.

Amazing to think that over the last 5 years alone sponsorship from local, regional and national companies has contributed £189,575 to the Festival. Raising this kind of money in the North of England, and particularly this side of the Pennines, is not easy – even industry experts acknowledge how hard it is so it’s no surprise we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved.

These days we have a portfolio of over 50 highly valued business partners from small one person bands to big national companies – 23 different companies joined in sponsoring last year’s Festival. And our partners don’t just sponsor events – they do all sorts of imaginative things, from giving Festival tickets to carers at local hospices to encouraging secondary schools to bring groups of pupils to an event about economics or arranging transport for local primary schools to see a well known children’s author.

Alongside that we have lots of initiatives around individual giving, reminding people that, like most literature festivals, we’re a charity and encouraging people to make a donation whenever they can. We even used crowd funding to help support our commission from Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

How the Culture Secretary missed that big donate button on our website we’ll never know!

Rachel Feldberg, Festival Director