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Birmingham Literature Festival

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Birmingham book lovers are spoilt for choice as the city's Literature Festival brings together a host of top authors and poets for ten days of reading, writing, talks and discussions. Most of the events are in the new Library of Birmingham, with a handful taking place at the Ikon Gallery and Birmingham Cathedral.

Birmingham Literature Festival Carol Ann Duffy
Festival opener: Carol Ann Duffy

The festival launches at 6pm on October 3 at the Library of Birmingham with an hour of free poetry and the naming of the city's new Poet Laureate. Then it's straight onto the first event, a celebration of National Poetry Day with UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Pakistan-born Imtiaz Dharker who uses many of her childhood experiences as inspiration for her writing.

On October 4 there will be talks by Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti (5.30pm) and American writer Lionel Shriver (7.30pm) whose latest novel is Big Brother.

Birmingham Literature Festival Germaine Greer
Controversial: Germaine Greer

Saturday, October 5, is a busy day for festival-goers. It starts at 1pm with a Readers' Afternoon featuring authors Robert Edric, Jenn Ashworth, William Palmer and Amanda Smyth. At 5pm it's the turn of West Midland poets Emma Purshouse, Nick Pearson, Joel Lane and Charles Wilkinson. At 7pm, controversial writer Germaine Greer, best known for her book The Female Eunuch, will share her views on women in today's society. Meanwhile, at the Ikon Gallery, Rosie Garland will present her new book, The Palace of Curiosities, by transforming the venue into a Victorian sideshow attraction.

BBC Radio 4 visits the festival on Sunday October 6 to record three literature programmes. Two editions of Poetry Please with Roger McGough will be taped from 2pm, followed by With Great Pleasure and The Echo Chamber with Paul Farley at 4pm. Later in the day, at 6pm, storytelling is on the agenda at the Ikon Gallery with Cat Weatherill hosting an evening of new tales called Tell Me On A Sunday.

There is more poetry at 6pm on Monday, October 7, as Michael Hulse, Ludwig Steinherr and Sri Lanka-born Cheran share their work. Will Self is the star turn at 7.30pm. He will talk about his recent novel, Umbrella, and his digital essay on Franz Kafka.
Playwrights David Edgar, Theresa Heskins and Michael Fry will discuss their theatre experiences at 4.30pm on Tuesday, October 8, followed, at 7.30pm, by journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot talking about his book, Feral, which tells of his efforts to re-engage with nature. At the Ikon Gallery, at 7pm, a new book of poems and images, Art in the Heart, will be launched.

Birmingham Literature Festival Benjamin Zephaniah
Preacher Man: Benjamin Zephaniah

Wednesday, October 9, could be dubbed Benjamin Zephaniah day. The celebrated Birmingham poet will deliver the annual 'Urban Sermon' on multiculturalism at Birmingham Cathedral at 7.30pm. Earlier in the day, at 4pm, Pamela Robertson-Pearce's documentary film about Benjamin, To Do Wid Me, is being screened at the Library of Birmingham. The same day sees the launch of poetry postcards at 7pm and authors on the 2013 Man Booker Prize shortlist reading extracts of their work from 7pm.

New writers are in the spotlight on Thursday, October 10, with Birmingham's Helen Cadbury, British Palestinian Selma Dabbagh and novelist Emma Newman speaking at 6pm. At the Ikon Gallery, at 7pm, Writers Without Borders, a group originally formed to give refugees a voice, will talk on the subect of 'moving'. Star novelist Jonathan Coe, author of The Rotters' Club, will talk about his new book, Expo 58, a comic novel of the Cold War, at 7.30pm.

Birmingham Literature Festival Catherine O'Flynn
Mr Lynch's Holiday: Catherine O'Flynn (pic: John McQueen)

As the festival nears its conclusion the programme moves into top gear. On Friday, October 11, at 5.30pm, there is a rehearsed reading of the Alan Bennett play, Denmark Hill, followed at 7.30pm by poet Daljit Nagra's version of the Indian epic The Ramayana. Also at 5.30pm, three Asian writers, Sathnam Sanghera, Qaisra Shahraz and Rosie Dastgir, will discuss their experiences of living in British cities. At 7.30pm the Ikon Gallery hosts Birmingham author Catherine O'Flynn and her new book Mr Lynch's Holiday.

The final festival day is Saturday, October 12. At 2pm Jo Bell, Poet Laureate of the canals, will join fellow wordsmiths to read their new compositions. At 6pm editors Gaynor Arnold and Julia Bell will launch The Sea In Birmingham, an anthology of stories celebrating 30 years of the Tindal Street Fiction Group. The concluding event, at 7.45pm, features broadcaster and writer Stuart Maconie in conversation with Jo Bell, Bernardine Evaristo and songwriter Paul Heaton from The Housemartins and The Beautiful South.

In addition to the festival talks and discussions a number of workshops are being held, ranging from writing for radio and creating science fiction to editing fiction and becoming a published author.

Birmingham Literature Festival Library of Birmingham
Main Literature Festival venue: Library of Birmingham

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Why? Something for every book lover
When: Oct 3 - 12
Phone: 0121 245 4455
Where: Mainly the Library of Birmingham but also the Ikon Gallery and Birmingham Cathedral
Cost: Free - £10 for talks. £28 and £23 for workshops.
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