Durham Book Festival 2019: open call for commissions

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Durham Book Festival invites proposals from writers for creative commissions to be premiered at the 2019 Durham Book Festival (5- 13 October).

We are offering three commissions of £1000 each and are interested in approaches that are inspired by one of this year’s festival themes:

  • Space – to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landings (an event with this theme might have particular interest for families)
  • Happiness and Good News
  • A Room of One’s Own – to tie in with the 90th anniversary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s classic of the same name.

We expect these suggested themes to be taken as inspiration rather than interpreted literally.

We are open to written pieces in any form and across literary genres from poetry to journalism, and which can be shared digitally, as well as live at the festival. The festival uses a range of venues in Durham, from 30-seat spaces to a 500-seat theatre.

We would particularly like to encourage projects that could use our commission fee to lever broader resources for the project. We will work with recipients to maximise resources for the work.

Alongside more traditional author events, Durham Book Festival is known for commissioning exciting new writing each year. Previous festival commissions have ranged from, a dance-theatre retelling of Rapunzel from Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy and Notes from Underground, a major musical collaboration by the poet Sean O’Brien and composer Agustín Fernández; to journalism grounded in the region, from writers including Ross Raisin, Anne McElvoy and Richard Benson.

Durham Book Festival ran an open-call for commissions for the first time in 2018 and commissioned pieces from northern writers Tamsin Daisy Rees, Bob Beagrie, and Lucie Brownlee. You can read Lucie Brownlee’s commissioned piece, The World Above, here.


What to send us:

  1. An explanation of your project in up to 500 words
  2. An CV with examples of previous projects
  3. A budget
  4. A draft timescale demonstrating the feasibility of your proposal, which must be delivered in time for the festival

Proposals should be made by completing our Submittable form.

To be eligible to apply, writers must live and work in the North of England. We particularly welcome applications from County Durham residents.

Durham Book Festival and New Writing North support Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity and welcome applications from under-represented groups.


The proposal must be for an original piece of work, though it may be based on an existing piece of writing.

The commission must be able to be presented on the Durham Book Festival website but also be suitable to be featured as a festival event.

Deadline for proposals is 11.59pm Tuesday 23rd April 2019.

A selection panel will commission three proposals, to be selected by Friday 3rd May. Projects should aim for completion by Monday 2nd September 2019.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Wilkie at New Writing North: [email protected] Tel: 0191 204 8850