Tag Archives: Manchester Literature Festival 2011

Emma Jane Unsworth and John Niven: Manchester Literature Festival 2011

Event Room, Waterstone’s Deansgate, Saturday 15th October 2011

There’s a saying in Manchester that on the sixth day God created MANchester. While some may doubt the truth of this statement, what can’t be disputed is that on the sixth day of the Manchester Literature Festival, novelists John Niven and Emma Jane Unsworth held a hilarious reading of their new books The Second Coming and Hungry the Stars and Everything.

Both novels are an irreverent take on conventional religion; The Second Coming is awash with blasphemous characters (including God himself) while Hungry the Stars and Everything features a charismatic yo-yo playing devil.

Niven and Unsworth are both writers of fiction that defy standard classification, on a bookshelf they’d be more at home next to writers such as Chuck Palahniuk, Jonathon Swift or John Kennedy Tool. When introducing the novelists to the sold-out audience, Cathy Bolton, the MLF’s Festival Director summed up the pair as “two of the wittiest and freshest writers writing in the UK”.

Emma studied English Literature at Liverpool university and is an accomplished writer of short fiction and a locally acclaimed journalist, her debut novel Hungry the Stars and Everything follows Helen Burns, a 29 year old food critic who is assigned to review a mysterious restaurant called Bethel. The novel, which is set in Manchester, interweaves tales of greed, addiction and alcoholism with ‘magic realism’, hence the devil’s appearances throughout the book. Emma explained where the idea for featuring the devil came from,

“I was really interested in fantasies, especially teenage fantasies and sexual awakening. The devil fitted into this as the ultimate rebel and master of temptation.” Continue reading


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Commonword Poetry Factor: Contact Theatre

14th October 2011, Contact Theatre 7.30pm

The Contact Theatre is arguably one of the most striking buildings in the city and when you step inside this dynamic  building it’s easy to see why so many young people are drawn to it. Inside the decor is like a box of smarties, with walls painted in vibrant purples, oranges and reds, and there’s also smatterings of stainless steel silver everywhere which give the theatre an edgy, urban feel.

The setting was perfect for an evening of diverse poetry featuring seven young performance poets from across the North West. The Poetry Factor made its debut for the Manchester Literature Festival in ‘Space Two,’ an intimate theatre space that seats around fifty people. Commonword’s Martin Duella described the concept behind Poetry Factor as “the idea to give young people coming into spoken word a bit of experience and ongoing mentoring.” The night was hosted by Chanje Kunda, an established performance poet from Manchester who had a friendly rapport with judges Helen Clare, Baba Israel, Gerry Potter and Segun Lee-French.

Pooja Sitpura was the first performer to shake off nerves with her recitals of ‘Disarm Britain,’ ‘Wonderbra’ and ‘Hate’. Poojah’s poetry is inspired by personal observations of social injustice and negative portrayals of women and young people in the media. Her poetry was instilled with evocative imagery and delivered with a fiery passion. Similarly Paris Kaur’s first poem of the night entitled ‘Barbie Girl’ deconstructed the issues surrounding portrayals of women in the cosmetics industry. The poem included snippets of words from cosmetic adverts which contrasted to the lines of narration in which a girl “starves herself thin and makes herself sick”.

Kayleigh Kavanagh and Michael Benet’s performances both depicted love and relationships in all their stark realities. Kayleigh showed a vulnerability that was reflected in the content of her poetry as she explored love using conceits, this came across most poignantly in ‘Barriers’. Michael demonstrated an aptitude in his poetry to turn moments of ugly brutality into tender desire, in ‘I Kissed Her Twice’ the image of the poet tracing his lover’s palm with his thumb was particularly striking.  While in contrast, ‘The War’ was a torrid and intimate poem about a soured relationship which Michael recited with a confident delivery: “I’m scared of her just as much as me / We are too young to know how to clean this mess.” Continue reading

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Commonword Poetry Factor: Manchester Literature Festival 2011

The Poplar Tree is looking forward to reviewing the Commonword Poetry Factor for the Manchester Literature Festival’s 2011 website. The event is described as “a Dragons’ Den” of young performance poets. Each poet has to pitch their entries in a bid to convince judges Helen Clare, Baba Israel, Segun Lee-Frnch and Gerry Potter that they have the tightest verse and beats to find fame on the live poetry circuit. There’s a cash prize for the winner and an opportunity to take part in next year’s Lit Fest (oooo!)

The event is being held at Contact on Oxford Road, this Friday (14th Oct) at 7.30pm

Tickets: £5/£3 concessions book @ www.contactmcr.com/commonword

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MLF 2011…

13 days +68 events  = the Manchester Literature Festival 2011:

1 lit quiz x 1 literary pub walk = a celebration of the best writing talents

4 competitions + 3 awards   = acclaimed in the city, the UK and beyond

The new Manchester Literature Festival brochure has been unveiled and The Poplar Tree is getting a bit hot under its leaves in anticipation…

The festival is now in its 6th year and continues to blend home-grown talent with acclaimed authors, poets and journalists from across the world. The MLF’s ability to cross cultures, genres and social groups is what makes the festival so unique, and with 22 locations, Manchester becomes both muse and stage for poetry, novels, competitions, awards, tours and theatre.

The MLF began 18 years ago as a small poetry festival organised by Cathy Bolton (Festival Director) and Jon Atkin (Festival Coordinator), who both manage the city-wide event, and the festival is quickly gaining a national reputation for its quality and originality with its eclectic nature separating itself from other literary festivals such as the Bath or Hay.

Every year the MLF is undoubtedly different, but the one question that remains pursed on The Poplar Tree’s lips is; how can it top last year’s Seamus Heaney recital at the Whitworth Hall? Well, where to start… a third of the events showcase international talent so maybe Europe is a good place to start with Nordic crime writers K O Dahl, Thomas Enger and Yrsa Sigurdardottir, or you could be transported across the Atlantic with Cuba’s leading contemporary writer Victor Rodriguez Nunez or Daniel Mordzinski with ‘A Look into the Soul of Spanish American Literature’. You could then take a flight in the imagination with Canada’s award-winning writer Allan Stratton, or if you fancy warmer climes there’s the celebrated South-Asian writers Tahmima Anam and Dipika Rai. Continue reading

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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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