Monthly Archives: March 2011

Manchester Literature Festival 2011: Call for Volunteers

Last week the Manchester International Festival announced its lineup for the summer, but they’re not the only ones to get the festival bug this spring.

The Manchester Literature Festival has begun its search for volunteers to help out at events across the city in October. The Poplar Tree had a brilliant time as a volunteer at last year’s festival, and you can read about all the things it got up to by clicking on the image below. If it inspires you, visit the Manchester Lit Festival website where you can list your details and volunteer for this year’s events:

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Filed under Manchester Literature Festival 2011, Manchester Writing News

Manchester Writing Competitions 2011

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Filed under Manchester Writing News, Writing Competitions

The Immortalization Commission – Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death – a review

Last month, Matt Damon starred in Hereafter, a film about a psychic who could see into the afterlife. The film was about as thrilling as a long drawn out sigh and revealed that the hereafter is a blurry black and white ‘place’ inhabited by ghostly figures.

In the Immortalization Commission John Gray, a leading political author and philosopher tries to answer whether there really is life after death and comes up with some thought-provoking arguments, which are more believable than Damon’s Hereafter. The book takes its title from a project dreamt up by Bolshevik intelligentsia during the Communist era who believed they could preserve Lenin’s remains after his death, and it’s the reason why his cadaver remains on display in Moscow’s Red Square.

Aside from embalming, science has been used to ‘cheat’ death in many ways before, from cryogenics to space travel, séances to automatic writing, artificial intelligence to virtual evolution – death has been a subject which has always fascinated humankind. Gray examines how scientists, politicians, world leaders, poets and writers have obsessed over death and tried to find reason amid the chaos of the universe. Continue reading

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The Children’s Book by AS Byatt – Review

AS Byatt has been writing critically acclaimed fiction for over forty years, and in 1990 she was awarded the Booker prize for her novel, Possession. Her latest novel, The Children’s Book demonstrates what a formidable figure in English Literature Byatt has become, as she seamlessly entwines her lifelong passions for folklore and fairytale with a narrative of social realist fiction.

The novel is a fin de siècle tale of family relationships set in the years 1895-1919. Centred upon the Wellwood family, whose matriarch Olive is a famous and celebrated children’s author, the central action takes place at Todefright, an old Kentish manor house with extensive grounds that prove fertile ground for Olive’s overactive imagination.

Decadence and philanthropy abound amidst the fading years of the Victorian era, with Oscar Wilde and Rodin making brief cameos in the novel; and Olive Wellwood, despite her dalliances with fame and fairytale, proves to be a far from perfect role model for her numerous children. Continue reading

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Tim Key’s Slutcracker Tour Manchester’s Dancehouse – Live Review

Tim Key’s Slutcracker tour came to Manchester’s Dancehouse this week, where he performed to his biggest live audience yet. After winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award at last year’s Fringe Festival he has since made appearances on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe reciting ‘good-bad’ poems about any topic imaginable, from swimming widths at his local pool, to stewing ham in dew.

Some might say his poetry is puerile and deeply offensive nonsense, but others with a sense of humour would say it’s witty, keenly observational and stands alongside Spike Milligan as a master of both comedy and poetry.

Key sort of pretends to be bad at what he does and watching Slutcracker doesn’t get you any closer to working him out. He made his ramshackle entrance at the Dancehouse wearing a trackie top whilst holding a Tesco’s bag full of Fosters, but his beer swilling alter ego didn’t last long, as he soon exited the stage to reappear wearing a tatty pinstripe suit.

His props onstage included a child’s ride-on pony toy, a typewriter, fridge, wrench and a pile of porn – all as disparate and wacky as his own comedic style. Explaining the mess he said, “I’ve brought an array up to Manchester – you can’t come to Manchester without an array.” Continue reading

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