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Cheltenham Literature Festival 2018

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. keyworthdavid@gmail.com https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83
Event: -
East by South West
This October alone will see book festivals in Manchester, Birmingham, Althorpe, Durham, Liverpool, Bridlington, Beverley, Rochdale, Wells, Cornwall, Carlisle, Wantage, and no doubt many other locations.

Cheltenham lays claim to being: 'The world's oldest literature festival'. East meets West is the theme for the 69th festival of interviews with authors and related events.

The lit-fest takes place between 5-14 October 2018 in the Cotswolds town famous for its racecourse and Gold Cup National Hunt horse race, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Regency buildings and Pittville Pump Room.

Cheltenham Literature Festival
Cheltenham Literature Festival


Distinguished names from both fiction and non-fiction include Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks, Lionel Shriver, Elif Shafak, Ian Rankin, David Attenborough and Philip Pullman.

The showbiz side of the festival includes Roger Daltrey, Eric Idle, Sally Field, Gary Barlow, Michael Parkinson and Jennifer Saunders,

Bowling in from the sports pavilion will be Shane Warne, Kevin Keegan and Chris Hoy, amongst others.

Here is a personal pick of a handful of events, amongst more than over 450 on offer:

1) Saturday 6th October.

As part of the East Meets West series of events, the novelist Clare Clark will host a conversation between two Korean-American writers.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is an 'epic tale of family identity, love, death and survival set between Korea and Japan across eight decades. The New-York based author describes herself as a 'late bloomer'.

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee, Cheltenham Literature Festival
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee


White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bacht tells the brutal story of women prostituted by Japanese soldiers during World War Two. The story moves from Korea in 1943 to South Korea in 2011.

Cheltenham Literature Festival , Mary Lynn Bacht
Mary Lynn Bracht


2) Sunday 7 October.

In Writing Japan a New Era, East will literally encounter West, as Japanese writers will be joined by their translators. Journalist Rosie Goldsmith will chair this Sunday morning global meeting of literary minds.

Author of Convenience Store Woman and Konbini Ningen, Sayaka Murata, will sit alongside her Japan-based translator Ginny Tapley Takemori. Sayaka is herself a former convenience store worker in Tokyo.

They will be joined by Bristol-based translator Polly Barton, who has brought works by Tomoka Shibasaki, Misumi Kubo and Aoko Matsuda to UK readers.

3) Sunday 7 October.

It is ten years since U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed and governments had to bail out the banking system.

The then Chancellor of the Exchequer - Alistair Darling - warned in a Guardian newspaper interview (August 2008) that the resulting crisis would be "arguably the worst" economic downturn in 60 years.

Later, he said that his prescient remark resulted in the "the forces of hell" being unleashed on him by 10 Downing Street and the team around then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

On Sunday 7th August, Alistair Darling will be joined by BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed; former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England Rachel Lomax and Chatham House director Robin Niblett.

If they are asked whether a similar financial crisis is likely to happen again, it will, to say the least, be worth taking note.

4) Monday 8th October.

The Haiku is arguably the quintessential form of (short) poetry. It was perfected by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694).

Adam Kern, Japanese scholar and editor of the Penguin Book of Haiku, will be joined Paul Conneally, the Sheffield-born poet, artist and musician based, who now lives in Loughborough. Paul has written, taught and evangelised for this exacting form of poetry.

He may or may not agree with John Cooper Clarke's assessment of Haiku that:

To-con-vey one's mood
In sev-en-teen syll-able-s
Is ve-ry dif-fic

johncooperclarke.com/poems/haiku

5) Saturday 13th October.

Amongst the 'Family Events' programme, Jacqueline Wilson is sure to be a main attraction for children and no doubt a good number of adults - even if she doesn't bring Hetty Feather along with her.

Jacqueline Wilson, Cheltenham Literature Festival
Jacqueline Wilson


The former children's laureate will be interviewed by Radio 1 and CBBC presenter Katie Thistleton. Katie, who studied creative writing at the University of Salford and journalism at News Associates, Manchester, will also be in Cheltenham to talk about her own book. Dear Katie focuses, like her Radio 1 feature Life Hacks, on the mental wellbeing of young people.

Free events for the family include a 'bear hunt' organised by the Woodland Trust and the outside chance of meeting Dennis the Menace, Gnasher and the Bash Street Kids on The Beano Challenge Trail

Dancing through the Rain is an exhibition of poetry and photos by students participating in Beyond Words. This outreach programme is designed to nurture the creative talents of young people who are unable to attend school as a consequence of physical and/or mental illness.

Cheltenham Literature Festival , Katie Thistleton, CBBC, BBC Radio 1, News Associates
Katie Thistleton


The first festival was launched by Cheltenham-born actor Ralph Richardson, in 1949, the same year he co-starred with Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift in the film The Heiress. Cecil Day-Lewis - poet and father of Daniel - who taught at Cheltenham College, read a selection of contemporary verse.

In July, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Festival by Sarah Woolley. The radio drama told the story of novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard's (1923 2014) frustrations and triumphs as director of Cheltenham Festival in 1962. In the play, Elizabeth Jane Howard, overcomes resistance to her ideas from the festival grandees and her own resistance to the author Kingsley Amis.

She meets Martin's father and her future husband after he participates in a symposium on literature and sex, which also included Joseph Heller and an allegedly well refreshed Carson McCullers (1917 1967).

Frank Tuohy, writing in The Spectator (12th October 1962) referred to the: "strange and suffering presence of Carson McCullers, to remind us that the creation of art can still be a tragic and desperate endeavour."

Sylvia Plath (1932 - 63) won first prize in Cheltenham Festival Poetry Competition, 1961, with her poem Insomniac. The British Library holds, in one of its glass cases, the poem's manuscript and a letter from Sylvia Plath of 3 Chalcot Square NW1, to Eric White of 45 James Square SW1.

In the letter, Sylvia Plath says "I am happy to enclose the worksheets of Insomniac and happy to hear from the Cheltenham Festival organiser that sleeplessness has its own very pleasant reward."

Sylvia Plath, Cheltenham Literature Festival
Sylvia Plath photographed in July 1961 at her Chalcot Square flat in London, By Giovanni Giovannetti/Grazia Neri -https://www.flickr.com/photos/synaes/5110600085, Public Domainhttps://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42716377
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Why? Mingle with authors and book-lovers in a Regency town
When: 5 -14 October 2018
Phone: 01242 850270
Where: Cheltenham GL50 1QA
Cost: See website
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