Yorkshire book festivals – a lot to write home about

Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult
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MICHELLE Hodgson had to hit the ground running when she was approached to be director of the Huddersfield Literature Festival a few months ago.

Having proved very popular each year between 2006 and 2011, the festival’s Arts Council funding ran out, and last year there was no money to run the event. However, sponsorship and other kinds of funding have been found to re-establish the festival, which will take place over the weekend of March 14-17, with a couple of events on either side of that weekend.

Hodgson may have had to get her skates on to confirm venues and programming, but she has come up with a high-calibre offering that will please most literary palates.

While headliners are sessions with Jodi Picoult, our own best sellers Kate Atkinson and Joanne Harris, other events sure to tickle the appetite include an In Conversation with Jeremy Dyson, an examination of the Yorkshire roots of Ted Hughes, Elegy and Celebration of Lord Byron and creative writing workshops.

For Hodgson, the timing of the new project was great. “I have a copywriting and events company, but my background is in publishing and book PR, and I was missing working with books.

“My contacts in publishing were extremely useful in getting the festival back up and running in time,” says Michelle. “I was dealing with people who knew I could organise good author events.

“My main aim is to make the festival varied. Obviously you can’t do everything in a long weekend, but I think we’ve come up with some unusual events, with the help of local literature groups.

“We’ve also had fantastic support from Huddersfield University, Waterstones and the council.”

She says she has longer-term aims for the festival – once this one is out of the way and she is able to plan ahead for future years.

“I already have a theme in mind for next year, which I will map out in more detail once this year’s is out of the way. I will still be looking at bringing big name authors but also to making the festival longer.

“I’m very keen to see the popular Manga Con event grow, and it has potential for nationwide appeal.”

Hodgson does not seem at all worried that Yorkshire now has so many other literary events.

“I think the area can stand a few festivals. Yorkshire people like a good book and are very supportive when you bring interesting people their way.”

Headingley Lit Fest takes the theme Lives and Loves this year, and kicks off on March 8 with Dwellers on the Threshold: Second-Generation Irish Musicians in England. The festival, which runs until April 1, has a vastly varied programme, including sessions with Blake Morrison, Hilary Spurling and Roger McGough.

March 19-24 sees the seventh York Literature Festival, whose schedule highlights include poet Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and the acclaimed author and Booker nominee Will Self.

Among the festival’s more unusual events is Crimes and Ballads, in which folk singing legend Martin Carthy and crime writer Peter Robinson blend their talents to fuse storytelling and music.

Huddersfield Literature Festival: www.litfest.org.uk or call 01484 223200