Another wonderful year of Durham Book Festival has drawn to a close, and we’re looking back over the highlights and successes of the past ten days.
Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Durham Book Festival this year – we hope you enjoyed yourselves!
It was a great year for the festival, and we were so excited to welcome a host of articulate, inspiring writers and thinkers to Durham. We’re incredibly proud of the new work we’ve commissioned from local writers, including Lucie Brownlee’s piece on the female ‘World Above’ the pits and David Olusoga’s reflection on his experience growing up in the North East. Many of our original commissions have afterlives that extend beyond the festival – Festival Laureate Jacob Polley is touring his evocative film-poem Lamanby, while Julia Darling’s short story collection Pearl is now available in all good bookshops.
Jesse Ball’s remarkable novel Census won the night at the Gordon Burn Prize award ceremony, which was also attended by shortlisted authors Nicola Barker and Guy Gunaratne, judges Alex Clark and Andrew Weatherall, and chair Mark Lawson. Andrew performed his entrancing musical commission, inspired by Gordon’s novel Alma Cogan, to a packed crowd at Durham Town Hall, and refreshments were kindly provided by Durham Distillery, one of our Festival sponsors.
At sell-out events throughout the week award-winning authors such as Sarah Perry and Pat Barker gave us an insight into their work and writing process; there was a fantastic turn-out for all things poetic as we hosted Owen Sheers, Owen Lowery, and the Faber Poets Sophie Collins, Rachael Allen and Zaffar Kunial, all of whom delivered some profoundly moving readings; and Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News galvanised attendees at her Gala Theatre event, where she discussed the Bloody Brilliant (and at times, necessarily difficult) Women who have shaped modern history. Sarah Waters celebrated over a quarter of a decade of literary success at our flagship Big Read event, where she talked about The Little Stranger and the tensions between hatred and covetousness that lie at its heart – particularly timely considering the current socio-political climate.
As part of the Big Read project, which saw us distribute 3,000 free copies of The Little Stranger to schools, prisons, libraries and reading groups throughout Co. Durham, we delivered creative writing and reading workshops based on the book with a number of community groups, including a men’s CREE group, residents at St. Cuthbert’s Hospice, and several disability groups. For younger readers, our Little Read took creative workshops based on Sara Ogilvie and Pip Jones’ Izzy Gizmo into community centres across the County, where children and families created songs, music and crafts that were incorporated into our Izzy Gizmo Story-Gig extravaganza.
In total, over 10,000 people engaged with this year’s Durham Book Festival. It was a year which saw us celebrate intersectional feminism and the rise of the #MeToo movement. We forged links with Amman (The Jordan-Durham Cultural Exchange) and Riga (The Art of Translation), we addressed local histories and narratives entrenched in the North. We have laughed alongside our authors, and at times we’ve wept; but throughout we have been struck by the power of language and stories to speak simultaneously to the universal and the particular, and to connect people across borders – both real and imagined. We hope you’ll join us next year, as we embark on a new Durham Book Festival adventure in 2019.