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Wymondham celebrates words with literary festival

PUBLISHED: 08:52 14 September 2012

George Szirtes, chairman of the Wymondham Word Festival. Photo: Simon Parker

George Szirtes, chairman of the Wymondham Word Festival. Photo: Simon Parker

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The third annual Wymondham Words festival is approaching. Festival chairman George Szirtes talks KEIRON PIM through some of the highlights of an eye-catching line-up.

Within three years, Wymondham Words has expanded from a weekend to a week-long celebration of East Anglian writing, and this year its impressive line-up is crowned by two authors who would grace any literary festival in the country.

Rose Tremain discuss her forthcoming novel, Merivel: a Man of his Time, which continues the story begun in her 1989 novel, Restoration.

“Rose must be one of the highlights for several reasons,” says George Szirtes, the TS Eliot Prize-winning poet who is the festival’s chairman, and who will appear in conversation with Tremain on September 23. “We are one of the first venues where this book is going to be the topic of conversation, and it’s not just any book – it is the sequel to a highly praised book – and Rose is, in my opinion, one of the finest novelists in the country, who writes beautifully, so it is a privilege for us to have her.”

Ronald Blythe, who, as he approaches his 90th birthday, will look back on his life in writing while also focusing on his most recent work, At the Yeoman’s House. The author of Akenfield, which has been in print since its publication in 1969, will appear on September 20 at the festival’s Literary Lunch, which last year starred the nature writer Richard Mabey.

“Ronald Blythe is an absolute monument, and it’s great that he’s willing to come,” says Szirtes. “As it was with Richard Mabey, there’s a body of work to discuss, and I’m sure that John Clare will also come into it as Ronald is a great authority on John Clare.”

The festival begins on September 15 with free poetry busking in the town’s Market Place, followed in the afternoon by Dave Tonge telling Tudor tales at the library.

That evening Wymondham High School’s Studio Theatre will host Norwich-based poet Martin Figura’s performance of Whistle, a nationally acclaimed multimedia show that explores his mother’s murder at the hands of his father. On the same bill Helen Ivory collaborates with the Slow Theatre Company, who will enact her poems about the legend of the pirate Bluebeard.

The Sunday brings Branch Lines: the Poetry and Music of Place with George Szirtes and guitarist Andy Kirkham (Wymondham Arts Centre, 7.30pm), and at 8pm on Tuesday at the town’s Baptist Church Jeff Taylor dicusses Norfolk’s “imagined history”, looking into how novelists have set their books in the county over the years.

On Wednesday at 7.30pm Dave Tonge reappears at the library with Liam Carroll in a story-telling session for grown-ups, and on Thursday evening, after the Literary Lunch at the Number 24 restaurant, Front Porch will perform blues and poems at Poetry on the Porch. That event begins at 8pm at the Green Dragon pub.

September 22 is the festival’s busiest day, beginning at 9.30am at the Baptist Church with a children’s creative writing workshop with Jax Burgoyne, followed at 10.30am by an event at the library for seven to 12-year olds, entitled Catching Dreams with Pocahontas. Then at 3pm in the Baptist Church, East Anglian crime writers Jim Kelly and Ruth Dugdall are in conversation.

“What we try to do each year is look along genres,” says Szirtes. “I think there’s always going to be some poetry and some literary writing, which we have with Rose Tremain this year, and we’d like to maintain something which is regional to East Anglia or Norfolk. Then we’ve had a focus on various genres of writing. So we’ve had biography in the first year, and nature writing last year, and this year it’s crime.

“On the Saturday night at the Ex-Servicemen’s Club we’ve got Luke Wright, whose reputation is now very wide, and he’s putting together a poetry and music cabaret,” he adds.

“It’s an art deco cinema and we have had events there before, and each year I’ve thought that this would be perfect for a poetry and magic and music cabaret, and that’s exactly what we’ve got. We’ve got Luke headlining, John Osborne, and Yanny Mac compering. Nathan Penlington is interesting because he’s a poet, magician and conjurer.”

The festival concludes at the Studio Theatre at 8pm on Sunday with Oh Whistle..., in which R M Lloyd Parry will read two ghost stories by M R James.

“As we turn into autumn we begin to turn into the realm of fadings and fallings and vanishings, the idea of ghost stories seems appropriate,” says Szirtes.

■ For full details of festival events and to download a programme visit: www.wymondhamarts.com

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