The Box Office is now open for Cambridge Literary Festival which runs from 5 – 7 April, bringing together novelists, scientists, politicians, broadcasters, campaigners and thinkers in lively conversation and engaged debate.
You’ll find a wealth of new fiction, world literature, memoir and more as well as a fabulous children’s programme which includes “Happy Birthday, Elmer!”, an interactive story time to celebrate everybody’s favourite multicoloured elephant.
From the New Statesman Debate, “This house believes identity politics is an impediment to progress”, to afternoon tea at the University Arms Hotel with broadcaster and author Jenni Murray, the Spring Festival has something for everyone.
One of the things I love most about writing for my blog and this column is the people I meet. People who are getting on with their daily lives, have that light bulb moment and just go for it to create something wonderful in the city. People like Cathy Moore, founder of the Cambridge Literary Festival.
Cathy first came to the city to read History at Newnham College and was only the second person from her Liverpool comprehensive school to make it to the University of Cambridge. She also loved English and books so after graduation, Cathy built a career in publishing before taking some time out to be with her young family. A spell in teaching followed but Cathy returned to Cambridge and books, working part time in Waterstones and running their programme of events. That’s where she met writer Ali Smith and as the two of them chatted about the Hay Literary Festival, they wondered why there wasn’t a similar event in Cambridge.
Within months, Cathy had created Wordfest, doing everything herself and setting up twenty four events in three venues. That was back in March 2003. “There were about sixty literary festivals then”, Cathy tells me, “and now there are around four hundred in the UK, so we’re all in competition for the authors.” Wordfest grew, events regularly sold out and initiatives like the debut writers panel made it truly a festival for writers as well as readers. After gaining charitable status, Wordfest rebranded as Cambridge Literary Festival in 2014. It now brings Spring and Winter festivals to the city as well as one-off events through the year and since 2017 has delivered the Wimpole History Festival in partnership with the National Trust.
These days, Cathy isn’t doing everything herself! She and her small team have an office in Downing Place and they have strong support from patrons, media partnerships and sponsors. A band of volunteer stewards welcomes the many thousands of festival goers and enables events to run smoothly for both authors and audiences. More volunteers are always welcome so if you’re interested in giving your time (and enjoying some volunteer perks!), contact the team through the website.
Festival venues this year include several beautiful university spaces which are normally hidden from public view. Refreshments will be available at most of these so you can grab a quick drink and a snack between events. Heffers run a bookstall and there are author signings too.
I’m really excited for this winter’s Festival; it’s always a fun, buzzy weekend and the packed programme truly offers something for everyone, including a brand new Murder Mystery Musical from Sophie Hannah which sounds intriguing! You’ll find details of what’s on and a booking facility through the Festival website at www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com
I’ve been following Literature Cambridge on social media for some time now so I was really pleased to meet Trudi Tate last week to find out more about this independent educational organisation which offers a range of study days and summer courses, open to all lovers of literature.
Trudi is a Fellow and Praelector at Clare Hall, a graduate college of the University of Cambridge, and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of English where she also supervises graduate students. Trudi’s passion for literature shines through as she tells me how she came to set up Literature Cambridge late in 2015, running the first week long summer school on Virginia Woolf in 2016 at Homerton College. It was hugely successful and the programme has since gone from strength to strength.
Trudi’s aim with the residential summer courses is to offer a Cambridge style educational experience, with lectures and supervisions from senior academics and post-docs. Every morning, there’s an hour long lecture and a small group supervision or a seminar but there’s also plenty of time to socialise and chat with fellow students, lecturers and supervisors in tea breaks and at lunchtime.
Afternoons offer free time to read and reflect plus there’s a programme of visits to places like King’s College, The Wren Library at Trinity College and the Fitzwilliam Museum. All visits are led by Cambridge academics and give privileged access to places and original manuscripts not normally available to public view.
Students on the summer courses range in age from 17 – 70 years, are from every walk of life and from all over the world. They come together to share their common love of literature and to immerse themselves in it, with many students returning year on year.
Summer courses for 2019 are based at Wolfson College and include “Virginia Woolf’s Gardens” and “Fictions of Home: Jane Austen to the Present Day”, a course which explores the idea of home in literature and loss of home through the work of contemporary refugee writers, including Vietnamese-American Viet Nguyen.
Literature Cambridge also runs a programme of study days at Stapleford Granary, a study centre for the arts and music in south Cambridge. Taught by leading academics, upcoming days this autumn include “Reading A Room of One’s Own”, Virginia Woolf’s 1929 book about women and fiction, “Understanding King Lear” and “Remembering the First World War”, a new look at the literature of war including the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Ivor Gurney. Trudi is currently planning a series of events with contemporary writers for 2019.
For full details of all Literature Cambridge’s study days, summer courses and lecturers plus testimonials, which speak for themselves, from previous course participants, take a look at the website.