THE 2017 Bradford Literature Festival will be the biggest yet, with a line-up of top writers, politicians and TV personalities announced for the eclectic ten-day event.
The packed line-up will feature 150 more events than last year’s festival, evidence of the organisers’ goal to increase the size of the event year-on-year.
The festival, sponsored by the Provident Financial Group, returns for its third year from Friday, June 30, to Sunday, July 9, celebrating the written and spoken word.
There will be more than 350 events taking place in venues across the city, including the University of Bradford, City Park and City Hall. That is up from the previous year, where there were 200 events.
This year’s programme will range from celebrations of literary heroes such as the Brontes, to a dedicated weekend of comics, with discussions on everything from the science of immortality to British Islam, gender politics and the rise of northern crime fiction.
It features a guest list including authors Germaine Greer, Joanna Trollope, Vivian French, John Boyne, Juno Dawson, Shems Freidlander and Bradford-based crime author A.A Dhand.
Also appearing are poets Jackie Kay, the third modern Makar (Scottish poet laureate), Linton Kwesi Johnson, Ben Okri, Lemn Sissay and Anthony Anaxogorou.
And politicians such as Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Harriet Harman and Rachel Reeves will speak about their experiences in the halls of power.
Several international journalists will also attend, including Women’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray, Mona Eltahawy, Christina Lamb, Boyd Tonkin and Guardian columnist Gary Younge.
There will also be numerous public events, similar to last year’s family days, which attracted thousands of people to City Park to watch live performances.
This year’s events will feature themes including superheroes, fairy tales, myths and legends, bears and Harry Potter.
With a line-up of performances, workshops and film screenings, the festival will take over the city centre, creating a “literary themed wonderland” for all the family.
And for the first time, the festival will feature a dedicated Comic Con weekend, dedicated to comics and Manga, to be held at the University of Bradford.
Bradford itself will be one of the festival’s biggest attractions, with unique heritage tours of the city to highlight its impressive literary, artistic and architectural history.
Events will place Bradford writers and artists alongside others from around the world, showcasing both the best-selling and up-and-coming.
Bradford authors A.A. Dhand and Liz Mistry will discuss the growing phenomenon of Northern Noir, while Leeds MP Rachel Reeves will be joined by friend and colleague Harriet Harman, for a “frank and enlightening” discussion of political life and their own experiences as female MPs.
Yorkshire’s literary landscape will continue to play a key role in events, including the festival’s flagship Bronte Heritage Weekend.
This year it will focus on the black-sheep brother, Branwell Bronte, on the bicentenary of his birth.
The festival will also celebrate Yorkshire sport, with events on the history of Yorkshire cricket in partnership with The Cricketer magazine, and a special event with the authors of Four Mums in a Boat, the Yorkshire women who broke a world record and rowed 3,000 miles to cross the Atlantic in The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
And children’s author Vivian French will be among the guests discussing the Cottingley Faeries, 100 years after the photographs taken in the village fooled the world.
There will even be an event looking at the “science of immortality” and another comparing modern society to Dante’s Inferno.
Festival director Syima Aslam said: “Bradford Literature Festival is an intellectually distinctive festival that contributes to the city’s growing reputation as a cultural destination and a place where creativity is celebrated.
“The festival programme reflects Bradford’s rich literary and cultural heritage and our inspiration is rooted in the landscape and communities around us. This allows for the creation of a festival that addresses the UK as a whole and reflects the changing face of contemporary Britain.”
Co-director Irna Qureshi added: “The festival continues to champion the positive impact of literature on culture and society, creating a neutral space for discourse and dialogue and promoting intercultural fluency and stronger local, national and global communities.”
Peter Crook, chief executive at Provident Financial, said: “We are delighted to continue supporting the festival and to extend our commitment to a further five-year partnership. It has been a privilege to watch a major event develop so successfully in the city. The upcoming programme provides a multitude of different cultural activities that reflects Provident Financial’s long-standing work with communities in the region.”
The University of Bradford has also just announced it is extending its partnership with the festival.
As part of its push to reach as many of Bradford’s diverse communities as possible, the festival presents authors and speakers from culturally diverse backgrounds, and it attracts an audience that is 48 per cent BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic).
Some of the main themes being discussed at this year’s festival include:
British Islam: Challenging and pertinent discussions on the nature of religion and the issues surrounding Islamophobia, using Bradford’s unique cultural landscape to host debates that would be impossible in other parts of the UK.
Jenni Murray will use Queen Elizabeth I for an exploration of the historic relationship between Britain and Islam.
Branwell Bronte: The forgotten Bronte sibling will be celebrated on the bicentenary of his birth, through a series of events featuring speakers such as Germaine Greer, Juliet Barker, Carol Dyhouse, Samantha Ellis, Christa Ackroyd, and John Sutherland.
The Bronte Heritage Tour takes guests on visits to the Bronte birthplace in Thornton, Branwell’s local pub and the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
In ‘Gender Expectations in the Lives of the Brontes’ Germaine Greer and Boyd Tonkin will offer an insight into the gender pressures placed upon the Bronte siblings and ask how their experiences can inform a debate around gender expectations today.
Empire and Partition: A 2016 poll, that found that nearly half of British people were proud of Britain’s imperial history. This summer will mark 70 years since the partition of the Indian subcontinent, and 100 years since the Balfour declaration, which announced Britain’s intention to create a Jewish homeland within the state of Palestine. This strand looks in detail at the legacies of empire and the ongoing implications of such momentous decisions from the past.
Other subjects will include LGBT issues, comic books, mysticism, King Arthur, erotic literature and sports.
The audience for the event grew threefold between 2015 and 2016, when more than 31,000 people attended events.
The festival started in 2015, when 9,446 people attended.
Highlights of last year’s festival included a sold-out talk by Great British Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain, sessions looking at the work of the Bronte sisters, a talk by RAF veteran Harry Leslie Smith, and literary-themed theatre performances for children.
Tickets for the festival’s events are now on sale. For more information, visit bradfordlitfest.co.uk