If you’re coming to the festival may I be so bold as to offer a couple of literature picks for your consideration through the weekend, obviously everything on the literature programme will be interesting and inspirational but these are a pick for each day of the festival that you might want to make an effort to seek out. They’re the kinds of talks that if I weren’t literature coordinator I’d seek out and make a point of being close to the front to hear and I’d work out a corking question to ask during the Q&A:
1) Friday: Richard Beard– Lazarus is dead 20:30 The Hub. Richard is a wonderful experimental novelist. In his latest novel he retells the story of Lazarus (I got a chance to read an advance copy of it and it blew me away. Richard will be talking about how fiction and Christianity both require faith, but can make uncomfortable partners – can the Christian story be retold in an effective way in modern fictional forms? Or does this reshaping raise too uncomfortably the question of made-up stories?
2) Saturday: Padraig O Tuama Poetry as a dream of peace. 13:00. The Hub. Padraig is a firm festival favourite. The Corrymeela Community in the north of Ireland tells a story of a woman who came to its house for refuge. In her luggage she brought a small hatchet. She was ready to believe they were people of peace, but just in case, she brought a weapon. Using poetry to tell stories of people’s experiences of conflict, this talk will touch on themes of narrative, healing, lying, and peace. (He’s also swoon inducingly handsome, if you like that sort of thing)
Stella Duffy reads and talks about her work, in particular Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore. Theodora rose from abject poverty to become the comedy star of the Constantinople hippodrome at the age of 15 and, defying convention, was crowned empress alongside Justinian in 527. At a time when the nature of the Christ was debated in pub brawls and palaces, she herself underwent a faith conversion in the deserts outside Alexandria.
4) Monday: Katherine Venn: As you set out for Ithaka / hope the voyage is a long one… 19:00 The Hub. (Katherine is a formidable poetic talent, I admire her writing and value her friendship. This will be a perfect way to round of the festival before heading to the beer tent to say cheerio to people for another year. Trust me on this one, you’ll want to hear this live.)
Like Odysseus, we’re all trying to find our way home. In some ways it’s a paradoxical search, driving us to leave the familiar behind and journey into the unknown. But what kind of home should we be looking for? The promised land, a new heaven and earth, or simply a place to lay our head? And in what ways can we be home to other people – both in our faith and in the words we use? This talk is an extended poetic meditation on what it feels like to be looking for a place to call home.