It’s wonderful to welcome a wealth of writers, thinkers and artists to the beautiful city of Durham and its surrounding towns and villages for the 2014 Durham Book Festival. This year we shall be back at Durham Town Hall for a packed weekend of events with novelists, historians, journalists and politicians, and at the Gala Theatre, where we will be welcoming poet-of-the moment Kate Tempest and acclaimed best-selling historian Jung Chang.
This year we are particularly pleased to be making use of the newly refurbished Palace Green Library at Durham University, which builds on the fruitful partnership we have with the university. Join us at Palace Green Library for an evening with this year’s Festival Laureate, poet Paul Farley; a debate on the future of social housing; and the opportunity to meet award-winning graphic novelists Bryan and Mary Talbot; as well as events on science and religion, classical history and poetry. We will also be celebrating Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, this year’s Durham Book Festival Big Read, which will see copies of the classic novel distributed to schools and libraries throughout the county.
Our unique series of special commissions this year focuses on the North East, its landscape, economy and future, including events with broadcaster and walker Stuart Maconie on the Durham Dales, and Michael Chaplin, who will consider what makes the North East distinctive. We will explore the impact of the Miners’ Strike 30 years on by asking Durham-born journalist and broadcaster Anne McElvoy to go to Easington Colliery to talk to local people and to reflect on contemporary Easington and the legacy of the strike. Another Durham-born writer, Benjamin Myers, will present a sequence of poems called Heathcliff Adrift alongside photographs from Nick Small at a special exhibition at Durham Cathedral. We will also use the cathedral to present the world premiere tour of War Correspondents, a song-theatre performance which we have co-commissioned to coincide with the centenary of the First World War.
Our final commission will build on the phenomenal success of last year’s show for under-7s and their families, which reached audiences of over 3,000 in County Durham and beyond. We will be working with Sage Gateshead to premiere The Worst Princess, adapted from the picture book by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, which will be playing in community centres and libraries throughout the county. We will also be running workshops, and four residencies by Sage Gateshead musicians in County Durham communities.
The Durham Book Festival for Schools returns to Durham Johnston School for two days this year with events for children of all ages.
Please join us to open the festival with the announcement of this year’s prestigious Gordon Burn Prize, which brings to the North East an impressive shortlist of adventurous and internationally acclaimed writers. We’re delighted to host the awards in Durham for the second year.
We’d like to thank our festival partners — Durham County Council, Durham University and Arts Council England — whose ongoing support allows us to bring such a packed and diverse programme to Durham. We’re delighted to welcome back our sponsors Swinburne Maddison, Banks Group and Sunderland University and to introduce Isos and Northumbria University as project partners.
Acting Chief Executive, New Writing North