Plymouth Literature Festival 2016

This October, lovers of literature will have the perfect opportunity to indulge their passion for words at the Plymouth Literature Festival 2016

By Owen Ryles

Plymouth Literature Festival Online

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PlymLit16, which will run from Saturday 22 October to Wednesday 2 November, promises to be a 12-day literary feast for writers and readers.

Festival organisers are putting together a programme that will offer something for avid readers of novels, historical and sports books through to writers of flash fiction, poetry and comedy. PlymLit16 will be taken to venues and writers’ groups across the city.

Chairman of the Organising Committee, Owen Ryles, said:

“Although some venues such as The Athenaeum will be more heavily involved, we don’t want it to be an event that people associate with just one place or organisation. This festival is for everyone. We hope it will be seen as Plymouth’s literature festival. PlymLit16 can help writers to develop and showcase their talent and allow readers to discover new authors, venues and organisations.”

Providing the organisers with the opportunity to put on a wide-ranging programme is the support of award-winning house builder Redrow, who will be the main sponsor of the Festival. “It is wonderful that a company with the size and profile of Redrow is supporting PlymLit16,” said Owen. “We are very thankful for their backing and it means we can put on a very diverse programme.”

Andrew Addison, Sales Director at Redrow (West Country) said:

“The Plymouth Literature Festival will be an important event in the city and we are delighted to support this year’s event which looks to celebrate words, reading and writing in a fun and unique way across the city. This is the first year we’ve had the opportunity to sponsor the Festival, although Redrow has been involved in Plymouth for a number of years. We are very proud to be able to help support the Festival and the focus on local talent, creativity and promote the work of young writers. Already this year’s Festival is looking set to be one of the foremost arts events in the region this autumn and we’re looking forward to a jam-packed week of exciting discussions, workshops and activities that take place across the city to celebrate reading, writing and artistic expression.”

Festival organisers, who are also grateful for the support of The Herald newspaper, were inspired by a similar desire to showcase the local literary scene. Owen said: “Literature festivals are such a wonderful catalyst for bringing writers, readers and groups together. We believe that PlymLit16 will not only be an enjoyable experience for audiences and the writers taking part, but that it will also contribute significantly to the city’s cultural life, hopefully for years to come. So much has been done by individual writers and groups to help grow and develop the literary scene in Plymouth over the course of the last few years. We really want to help put those emerging writers in the spotlight and provide events to inspire further the development of local authors.”

The original Plymouth Athenaeum where John Keats’ biography was read in 1836

Plymouth Athenaeum

Paul Sturrock ‘Luggy’ will talk about his 40-year football career

Professor Nicholas Roe will mark the 180th anniversary of a reading of John Keats at the Plymouth Athenaeum

Top city poet Kenny Knight will read from his new collection ‘A Long Weekend on the Sofa’

Establishing a lasting platform for the enjoyment of literature in all its forms is a key objective for Festival organisers. “We don’t want PlymLit16 to be a one-off,” said Owen. “We want it to be so successful it keeps growing and growing year after year. We are looking ahead to the Mayflower 2020 celebrations when the eyes of the world will focus on Plymouth. Part of that success will hopefully come from the diversity of the programme.”

Ben Serpell, Charmain of the Athenaeum Writers’ Group and a member of the Festival Organising Committee, said:

“We aim to have events suitable for all tastes, ranging from children’s literature, to sports writing, through to talks on poetry and the process of publication. Athenaeum Writers will be hosting our annual Flash Fiction Slam which gives all who participate a chance at winning a prize on the evening.”

Also on the schedule is ‘An Evening with Paul Sturrock’. The former Plymouth Argyle manager, who inspired the Home Park club to two promotions, will talk about his forty-year career in football through his autobiography ‘Luggy’. ‘An Evening with Paul Sturrock’ will follow Argyle’s home fixture with Colchester United on Saturday 29 October. ‘Luggy’ has lifted the lid on Sturrock’s two incredibly eventful spells in charge of the Pilgrims in addition to his legendary playing career with Dundee United and Scotland, and his equally successful managerial career north and south of the border.

Sturrock, who is arguably Argyle’s most successful manager, loves his adopted city and the Green Army. His views on the beautiful game in the South West and further afield are always of interest. “I am absolutely delighted to be part of the Plymouth Literature Festival,” says ‘Luggy’ co-writer and former Plymouth Herald chief sports writer Bill Richards. “Both Paul Sturrock and myself are excited and honoured in equal measure to have been asked to take part in this event at The Athenaeum.”

Another exciting event on the schedule will mark the 180th anniversary of the occasion when Charles Armitage Brown first read his biography of close friend John Keats (The Life of John Keats) at The Plymouth Athenaeum. “We have invited Professor Nicholas Roe, Chairman of The Keats Foundation, to give a lecture on Charles Brown and his friendship with John Keats,” said Ben Serpell. Roe is Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of critically acclaimed biographies and studies including John Keats: A New Life, Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years, and John Keats and the Culture of Dissent.

Hailing from the West Country, and a former resident of Yelverton and Clearbrook, Prof Roe is an Honorary Fellow of the English Association, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is also a trustee of The Wordsworth Trust, The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, and The Wordsworth Conference Foundation. “Plymouth and its Athenaeum had vital roles in the development of John Keats’s posthumous fame, transforming him from a luckless Cockney rhymester to the great Romantic poet we admire today,” said Prof Roe.

“It was at Plymouth Athenaeum in December 1836 that Keats’ friend Charles Armitage Brown presented a lecture based on his biography of the poet. Brown, with whom Keats lodged at Hampstead from 1818 until 1820, had been living in Plymouth since 1835. He had recently resolved to complete his ‘life of the poet’, and this extraordinary Keatsian ‘first’ at the Plymouth Athenaeum was followed by the first ever publication of Keats’ famous ‘Bright Star’ sonnet in the Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal. Plymouth, we could say, helped to ‘make’ John Keats.”

Another highlight of the poetry programme will feature top city poet, Kenny Knight, reading from his new collection, A Long Weekend on the Sofa. Kenny will be joined at PlymLit16 by his publisher Tony Frazer and two fellow Shearsman Books authors. That event on Wednesday, November 2 marks the start of what Kenny has dubbed a yearlong ‘Old Age Pensioners Tour’. He said: “Tony Frazer and I were both born on the November 2 1951, so it’s a chance to commemorate our 65th birthdays and two people connected with poetry and publishing in Plymouth.”

More events will be added to the programme in the coming weeks, while local writers and organisations who would like to become involved in PlymLit16 can contact the Festival team to express an interest in taking part.

To get involved or find out further details about PlymLit16 please use the contact details below:

Twitter: @PlymLit16