Melvyn Bragg revisits and reflects on his life from childhood to adulthood in the Cumbrian market town of Wigton, from the early years alone with his mother while his father fought in the war to the moment he left the town. It’s the tale of a working-class boy who grew up in a pub and expected to leave school at 15; who happily roamed the streets and raided orchards with his friends yet had a chronic breakdown when he was 13, forcing him to find new survival strategies; who was deeply embedded in a close-knit community, and experiencing the joys of first love, yet also found himself drawn to a mentor keen to steer him towards the challenge of an Oxford scholarship.
It’s equally the tale of the place that formed him and a compelling and poignant recreation of a vanished era: an elegy for a community-spirited northern town with its factories and churches and chapels steeped in the old ways, but on the cusp of rapid post-war change; and a celebration of the glorious Lakeland landscapes which inspired Bragg from an early age. This love letter to his home town and the people who shaped him is imbued with all the luminous wonder of those indelible early memories which nurtured his future life as a writer, broadcaster, and champion of the arts.
There are categories of intimate writing which modern technology has rendered obsolete. Keats sealed his letters to his beloved with a kiss. Whoever did that to an email in the age of electronic Valentines? Who, nowadays, keeps a private written journal? It’s all up there in the cloudy Diary in the Sky. Until well into the 20th century young men and women carried ‘autograph books’ for sketches, verbal and pictorial, by friends. They now only exist as relics on eBay. Is intimate writing a dead letter – as obsolete as the quill pen? Not entirely. John Crace has revived the political sketch, diary and (highly personalised) critical ‘digest’.
John Sutherland has written intimate memoirs (one of which, his struggle with alcoholism, he regrets publishing). He recently met himself – sixty years younger – in his university tutor’s voluminous letters about him to Philip Larkin. It inspired his latest book, Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me.
The Two Johns discuss intimacy in public and personal writing – the difference between writing with one eye on publication and for oneself alone – and where, in an era of grams, selfies and tweeting it can go. And have fun while doing so.
Three prize-winning writers – Damon Galgut, Margo Jefferson and Jennifer Egan – discuss family drama, memory and redemption with Helen Lewis. Damon Galgut’s Booker-winning The Promise tells the story of a family and a country, and the failed promises that destroy them both. The promise of a super-connected world with memories as currency is set against the quest for privacy in Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House. And Margo Jefferson examines every passion and influence in her new memoir, Constructing a Nervous System.
In an information age where disinformation and silo-thinking are ever-present, the role of libraries as hubs for knowledge, reflection and community are more essential than ever. In this conversation Britain’s best-loved children’s book writer Michael Morpurgo, renowned author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay and Polly Russell, Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, reflect on the value of libraries and the continuing role these transformational spaces play within our societies.
Ian McMillan and guests explore language and memory and ask what we choose to write down -or forget. Joining Ian are Jennifer Egan, whose new novel The Candy House imagines wild technological possibilities for human memory; Allie Esiri brings us the words of long forgotten women poets in the anthology A Poet For Every Day of the Year, and Gurnaik Johal examines how we hand down cultural memories in his debut short story collection We Move.
In their newly published handbook for fiction writers, The Book You Need to Read to Write the Book You Want to Write, novelists Sarah Burton and Jem Poster draw on their extensive experience of teaching creative writing in contexts ranging from community education to PhD supervision. Chaired by Gwen Davies, editor of New Welsh Review, this event addresses key issues in fiction writing, allowing ample time for you to ask questions. Whether you’ve already begun to find your way as a writer or are about to take your first steps, the conversation will help you on your journey.
The International Booker Prize is awarded annually for a single book and celebrates the vital work of translators, with the £50,000 prize money divided equally between author and translator. This year’s judging panel is chaired by translator Frank Wynne – the first time a translator has chaired the panel, which comprises author and academic Merve Emre, lawyer and writer Petina Gappah, TV presenter, writer, comedian and TV, radio and podcast presenter Viv Groskop and translator and author Jeremy Tiang. The prize will be announced on 26 May and this event presents the winners in conversation with Viv Groskop.
At this year’s Book Aid International platform, Booker Prize-winning poet and novelist Ben Okri and Book Aid International Trustee and youth leader from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Zainab Umar explore how readers and writers can help to influence the future and how creating a generation of readers is central to regenerating communities in Nigeria and around the world. They consider how storytellers shape narratives on a personal and national level, examining the role of reading in helping people to reimagine their future, and how books play a part in modulating the past and opening up new destinies.
How has humanity sought to harness the power of the sun, and what roles have literature, art, and culture played in imagining the possibilities of solar energy? Gregory Lynall explores the stories that have been told about solar power, from the Renaissance to the present day, how they have shaped developments in science and technology, and how they can help us think about solutions to the climate crisis. Lynall is Professor of English at Liverpool University and author of Imagining Solar Energy: The Power of the Sun in Literature, Science and Culture.
After the lecture, Gregory is joined by Jane Davidson, former director of the award-winning INSPIRE at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Brycchan Carey, Professor of English Literature at Northumbria University, for discussion and Q&A.
“Ulysses is going to make my place famous,” Sylvia Beach wrote to James Joyce when she made the decision to publish his novel, written over seven years and describing the events of a single day in Dublin. To celebrate a hundred years of this literary masterpiece, five devoted readers share their thoughts on reading a novel that has a reputation for being challenging, while maintaining a cult-like following as one of the defining books of modernism. Xiaolu Guo is a writer, Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company in Paris and John Mitchinson is publisher at Unbound. They talk to writer and journalist Sinéad Gleeson.
Hay Writers’ Circle is a dynamic group, active in Hay for more than 40 years. It offers three competitions annually for poetry, fiction and non-fiction, each of which is open to both members and non-members. There is an active work in progress group for those working on longer projects. Hay Writers’ Circle has an ongoing, productive relationship with a local primary school. The writers share some recent work.
TV adaptations such as The Crown, A Very English Scandal and Impeachment: American Crime Story have demonstrated the public appetite for stories from our past. History writing is vital in helping us understand the past and its impact on our lives today. As the Wolfson History Prize, the UK’s most valuable history writing prize, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022, join historians Alex von Tunzelmann (shortlisted for the 2022 Wolfson History Prize), Miranda Kaufmann (shortlisted for the 2018 Wolfson History Prize), Hannah Greig and Anita Anand to explore why TV adaptations of history books are growing in popularity, and how they expand public perception of historical events.
Wales has terrific writers, a proud literary history and a small but vibrant bilingual publishing industry with big ambitions. With a new trade body, Cyhoeddi Cymru Publishing Wales, behind us, how do our words and culture reach bookshelves around the world? And why is Wales’ thriving publishing industry so important? Join our panel debate with award-winning author Manon Steffan Ros, University of Wales Press Director Natalie Williams, BBC presenter and children’s author Lucy Owen, Managing Director at Crown House Publishing David Bowman, and Strategic Director of Wales Literature Exchange Professor Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones.
Shakespeare’s world is never too far from our own – permeated with the same tragedies, existential questions and domestic worries. Acclaimed biographer Jonathan Bate queries with TLS Editor Michael Caines whether, if you persevere with Shakespeare, he can offer a word of wisdom or a human insight for any time or any crisis.
TikTok users are sharing their passion for books with millions and reshaping the publishing world in the process, all in under a minute. Join some of the community’s leading creators for a dynamic introduction to what’s trending.
Join Adam Biles, literary director of the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, for a special edition of their top-charting weekly books podcast with special guests.
“It’s my theory that only the unhappy, the uncomfortable, the gauche, the badly put together, aspire to make art. Why would you seek to reshape the world unless you were ill-at-ease in it? And I came out of the womb in every sense the wrong way round.” In the year of his 80th birthday the writer explores belonging and not-belonging, being an insider and an outsider, both English and Jewish, with Toby Lichtig, Fiction and Politics Editor at the Times Literary Supplement.
Howard Jacobson has written 16 novels and five works of non-fiction. In 2010 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question.
Raymond Antrobus introduces All The Names Given, a stunning new collection of poems that mines themes such as history, ancestry, place and memory with passion and urgency. It has been shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and the TS Eliot Prize.
In 2019 the Jamaican-British writer was the first poet ever to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre, for The Perseverance, which also won the Ted Hughes award, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and Forward Prize. His poem Sound Machine was added to the GCSE syllabus in 2019.
The world continues to manifest racism in many forms. To discuss the issue with journalist Julia Wheeler and give their different perspectives on writing about race are: Musa Okwonga, broadcaster, musician and author of One of Them: An Eton College Memoir; Georgina Lawton, journalist and author of Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong; and scientist Adam Rutherford, author of How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality.
Join American novelist, poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood, the winner of the £20,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2022 with her debut novel, No One Is Talking About This. A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence revolving around the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal'. Who are we serving, the portal asks itself. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother appear: "Something has gone wrong" and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and the portal collide, she confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of goodness, empathy and justice, and evidence that proves the opposite. This is a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection.
Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity – one of the most influential, internationally renowned writers of the mid-20th century. Join us to celebrate the 2022 winner – announced on 12 May. Alan Bilton is an author and member of the 2022 judging panel.
Patricia Lockwood will be appearing via video-link from her home in the USA.