The North Recommends: Hexham Book Festival
Hexham Book Festival returns to its traditional April slot with a packed programme of events for all ages. The 10-day festival will take place at Queen’s Hall and Hexham Abbey between 21 and 30 April, with a special family day, StoryLand, on the final Sunday 30 April.
Laura Fraine from New Writing North picks some of her personal highlights:
I’m really excited to watch new northern talent at the Local Authors event on 22 April, featuring Northern Writers’ Awards winners Pip Fallow (interviewed for our Northern Bookshelf newsletter) here and Phoebe Walker with Durham writer Natasha Calder, where all three will be sharing their debut works.
Linda France won the Laurel Prize in 2022 for best collection of nature or environmental poetry and the Michael Marks Awards Environmental Poet of the Year 2022-23. In her Hexham Book Festival event on 23 April she will be reading from a selection of her poetry, including Startling, which was written during her residency at New Writing North. In the face of climate emergency, Startling calls for a rewilding of the self as well as the landscape.
Alice Loxton’s Uproar! promises to take us on a witty journey through Georgian London at the height of a golden age of scandal – think royal madness, political intrigue, revolution and the birth of modern celebrity – all seen through the eyes of the great satirists of the time. Alice will be chaired by NWN’s Anna Disley.
In You’ve Been Played, Adrian Hon (23 April) explores how computer gaming technology has been adopted and adapted by governments, schools and global corporations to monitor, coerce or strip us of cash. From Uber drivers being set “challenges” to keep them at the wheel, to warehouses that make shelf-stacking into a competition in which the fastest are rewarded and the slowest sacked, so many sectors are increasingly gamified. It sounds both chillingly dystopian and like the future is already here – and exactly the kind of event I want to attend.
Chairing Question Time for 25 years, David Dimbleby had an obligation to appear a neutral observer. Now finally ‘off the leash’, in his 25 April event at Hexham Book Festival, David will be free to speal without inhibition, but with his characteristic wit, clarity and insight, about monarchy, politics, and the state of Britain.
Luke Harding (29 April) is always an incredibly perceptive explorer of contemporary Russian politics and I’ve never turned to him more than this year. Invasion is the first book of reportage from the front line of the war in Ukraine, in which he combines analysis and on-the-ground reporting on the biggest war in Europe since 1945. He also tries to answer the question everyone is asking: what happens next?
If you missed Kit de Waal at Durham Book Festival last autumn, then make sure you bookmark her Hexham event on 29 April. Without Warning and Only Sometimes is Kit’s memoir of an extraordinary childhood and how it made her the person she’s become. There is joy as well as sadness in Kit’s tale – and a lot of warmth in her telling of it.
In Tessa Hadley’s eighth novel, Free Love (30 April) a woman is lured by swinging 60s London and turns her conventional, suburban life upside down. Chaired by NWN’s Claire Malcolm, this event explores the compromises people make to survive in a deeply compromised world.
You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart is such a brilliant picture book, which we spent many hours poring over in our house. We’re also big fans of Usborne Books’ Poppy and Sam (and the little yellow duck) so I’m telling all my friends with young children about these fun, interactive events coming to Hexham Book Festival on Saturday 30 April. While older children (7+) I’m sure will be fascinated by Adventures with a Yorkshire Vet with Julian Norton.