Durham Book Festival 2014 draws to a close

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This year’s Durham Book Festival has now drawn to a close and we’d like to thank all those who attended our events. We loved every minute of it and hope you did too.

This year’s festival saw more sold-out sessions than ever before, from Laura Bates’ thought-provoking Everyday Sexism event, to the Beast of Bolsover himself, Dennis Skinner, who regaled the audience with tales of his life in politics, and even burst into song at one point! Other festival highlights included acclaimed actor Sheila Hancock presenting her first novel, Miss Carter’s War, to a spell-bound audience at Durham Cathedral and author Jung Chang providing a fascinating account of her early life in China, as well as introducing her biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi, all while wearing a beautiful 100-year-old Chinese robe dating from the time of the empress.

Poet Kate Tempest electrified a packed Gala theatre with her powerful performance of her latest collection, Hold Your Own, while some of the most exciting rising stars on the poetry scene – the Faber New Poets – read from their new pamphlets.

The festival opened with the announcement of the second Gordon Burn Prize at Durham Town Hall, leading into a packed weekend of events there. We were delighted to use Palace Green Library as a venue for the first time this year as well as returning to Durham Town Hall, the Gala, and of course the cathedral. The festival’s Big Read, The Wind in the Willows, which saw over 1,000 copies of the book distributed around County Durham schools, libraries and shops, attracted a lot of attention, not least because the brilliant actor Mark Benton appeared at our Palace Green event to read extracts from the book, alongside Durham University’s Professor Simon James.

Our two days at Durham Johnston School saw us welcoming poet Daljit Nagra, and authors Meg Rosoff, Helen Stephens, and Mick Manning and Brita Granström, to speak to hundreds of children from all over the county.

Our festival commissions, from authors including Michael Chaplin, Benjamin Myers and Stuart Maconie, as well as the Helen Chadwick Song Theatre performance of War Correspondents, were well received during the festival. Journalist Anne McElvoy’s piece on Easington 30 years after the miners’ strike, was published in The Independent, which you can read here. And if you enjoyed our event about the future of social housing, you can read an article by panelist Richard Kelly in the Guardian here.

Our specially commissioned touring show for children, The Worst Princess, built on the success of last year’s My Granny is a Pirate and toured libraries, community centres and schools all over County Durham, reaching several thousand people.

If you attended an event at this year’s festival, please let us know what you thought here. Your feedback helps us improve the festival and also helps us demonstrate its worth.

Finally, we at New Writing North would like to thank Durham County Council for commissioning the festival, as well as our other funders Durham University and Arts Council England and event sponsors Swinburne Maddison, Sunderland University, Banks Group, Muckle LLP, Simon Berry Optometrist, Ward Hadaway, Prince Bishops Shopping Centre, Durham Distillery and Fentimans. As ever, our team of festival volunteers did a fantastic job helping us deliver the festival – we hope to see some of you back again next year.

Rebecca Wilkie

Durham Book Festival Programme Manager