As far as I know – correct me if I’m wrong – the IRON Festivals are the only ones run by, and in celebration of a small press.
This all started in 1973 when we decided to celebrate IRON Press’ forty years of existence with a one-off festival in various non-traditional venues clustered round Cullercoats harbour front. The IRON Age Festival ran events in the local fish and chip, RNLI, Fishermen’s Mission, working men’s club and various other places. Famous writers who have been associated with the press – Ian McMillan, David Almond – rubbed shoulders with the many more obscuranti whose work we have lovingly supported. Audiences for Andy Croft’s reading from his book Great North were invited to run with Andy to the event three miles from St Mary’s Lighthouse. We sent poets out to sea in small fishing oats to write haiku. And we had loads of music.
It was an intriguing mix and the festival won the Best Event Tyneside category in The Journal Culture Awards. People seemed to like it so much we decided we would do a second one. Once a year however was too much for a small outfit such as IRON Press. We called the second one Eclectic IRON, and it took place in 2015. The venues remained more or less the same; oddball events included sticking writers on a rock for the duration of a tide. We decided on an al fresco musical fringe at which about half a dozen musicians played, and we hosted famous authors including Tony Harrison.
By 2017 the festival was called IRON in the Soul, with the likes of a literary cricket match, an Existential Breakfast, more Ian McMillan and midnight ghost stories in St Georges Church from our new anthology, Cold Iron. Now here’s festival four, the enigmatic titled IRON OR (June 20-23rd). There are 22 separate acts in the fringe, a late night festival club, renowned NE poets Katrina Porteous and Tom Pickard, two new literary books about Cullercoats, a brand new play set in Cullercoats, a literary quiz, a chance for new writers to get free feedback on their work, Clare in the Community creator Harry Venning, a second breakfast lecture and many talented literary obscuranti; fifteen separate events over four days and the events are still all clustered round the seafront at Cullercoats!
A few events are already sold out, but tickets left for most. Plus a lot of stuff that is free.
For those four days it’s a unique atmosphere round Cullercoats sea front. There’s even a special festival beer on sale from the wonderful Cullercoats Brewery. IRON is a small press and we run a small – though perfectly formed – festival.
Find more information at our website, and buy your tickets here. You can also buy tickets in various Cullercoats venues. See you there!