The best of Yorkshire’s literature festivals in 2016

Author 'Lauren Child appeared at Ryedale Book Festival.
Author 'Lauren Child appeared at Ryedale Book Festival.
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For literature lovers there is plenty on offer around the region in the coming year. Yvette Huddleston takes a look at some of the highlights.

We are very lucky in Yorkshire to have the choice of so many great literature festivals throughout the year – and in 2015 two new festivals, in Bradford and Nidderdale, joined the already wide range on offer to the region’s book lovers.

Thinks get off to a good start for 2016 in March with Huddersfield Literature Festival (March 3-13) and York Literature Festival (March 1-23) both back with interesting programmes. Huddersfield this year celebrates its tenth anniversary and takes as its theme ‘10’. Events include novelists Rupert Thomson and Ian McGuire in conversation about their latest books – Thomson’s tenth novel Katherine Carlyle and McGuire’s second The North Water. Before the main festival there will be an evening with explorer, TV presenter and author Levison Wood who will be talking about his adventures on February 9 at Huddersfield Town Hall.

York Literature Festival’s headliners include politician Vince Cable, crime novelist Val McDermid, literary heavyweight Margaret Drabble and poets Carol Ann Duffy and Wendy Cope. There is a special poetry event on March 11 to celebrate International Women’s Week and a whole host of workshops as well as literary walks and children’s events.

In April Scarborough’s Books by the Beach returns, running from April 13-17. Last year’s line-up included veteran film critic Barry Norman, novelist Louise Doughty, comedian Omid Djalili, zoologist Jules Howard and politician Alan Johnson. We can expect a similarly diverse programme for this year.

May 2015 saw the launch of a new annual literature festival in Bradford. Running across ten days the festival, curated by co-directors Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam, featured 150 events with world-renowned speakers, authors and academics in a variety of talks, interviews and stimulating panel discussions celebrating books and ideas and reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the city. The festival returns this year with what is certain to be a similarly exciting programme running from May 20-29.

Over in Leeds the Big Bookend continues to programme events, workshops and writing competitions throughout the year with the main weekend festival taking place over the weekend of June 4 and 5 this year. At the end of this month they will be holding a fundrasing book sale at the Hyde Park Book Club on January 30 from 12noon to 4pm.

In July Harrogate’s hugely popular Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – ranked as one of the top three literary festivals in the UK by The Guardian – returns for its 14th year. In its time it has welcomed a long list of of international names including Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell, Jo Nesbo, George Pelecanos and J K Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith. Last year the festival featured over 90 authors in more than thirty events. It will be back July 21-24 this year and names confirmed so far are Linwood Barclay, Neil Cross, Tess Gerritsen, Peter James and Gerald Seymour.

Last July saw the launch of a brand new festival, Niddfest, celebrating nature in writing and set, appropriately, in the beautiful surroundings of Upper Nidderdale. Founded by husband and wife children’s authors Kit Peel and Megan Thompson, the festival packed into the weekend of July 24-26 talks by some of the UK’s leading writers, for adults and children, who have a passion for the natural world. There were around twenty events which included contributions from poets Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy, who is also the festival’s patron, and authors Evie Wyld, Katharine Norbury, Piers Torday, Michelle Harrison, Rob Cowen and Jackie Bennett. The talks were linked to a variety of outdoor events, such as river walks, den building and a moor safari, encouraging people to go out into the countryside and explore. The festival returns this year for another weekend of talks, walks, workshops and family events August 5-7.

One of the most prestigious literary festivals in the country, Ilkley Literature festival had a wobbly start to 2015 when it faced a 100 percent cut to its annual funding from Bradford Council. However, after a campaign against the withdrawl of funding, the council, to its credit, listened to the festival’s many supporters and did not go ahead with the cut, allowing the festival to continue to deliever not only the annual two-week October main festival but also its year-round work with children and young people in schools in inner city Bradford and Leeds. Now into its fourth decade and the largest and most well-established in the North of England, Ilkley returns this year with another impressive line-up of internationally acclaimed authors, workshops, children’s and young people’s events as well as a free fringe programme from September 30 to October 16.

Another October regular is Ryedale Book Festival, based in and around Malton with the aim of bringing literary events to rural communities. One of their key commitments each year is a schools event which in 2015 featured Lauren Child speaking to children from over 25 local primary schools, lived-streamed to all of the participating schools.

The previous year’s event with Michael Morpurgo reached over 3,000 youngsters in the rural district. This year’s festival runs October 8-10. Also taking place annually in October is Beverley Literature Festival, established in 2002 and organised by Wordquake, East Riding Library Services’ project to promote reading and live literature in the East Riding. Their 2016 programme kicks off this month with a new production Ruby and the Vinyl, written by John Godber and Elizabeth Godber, that will be visiting libraries across the East Riding during January.