“This is your festival,” says Everybody’s Reading chair Peter Flack in his festival programme statement. Now in its eighth year, the festival continues to live up to its original vision – a sprawling, dynamic, accessible event with as much diversity in its venues as in its content. From cafés to theatres, bar-venues to libraries, Everybody’s Reading 2017 will take in readings and performances, in-depth academic discussions, and specialist events for children, and will even dabble in music a little bit. Also on the cards are appearances from big local names like Bali Rai, Amanda Owen and Joseph Merrick. Okay, not actually that last one. But there’s more than one event about him!
The festival’s stated aim has always been to bring literature to more people – “whatever it takes” – and as well as a wealth of existing writing to take in and discuss, there’s also ample opportunity to create your own. Workshops abound throughout the nine days, with guidance from homegrown talents like Jess Green and Lydia Towsey on offer. The popular Everybody’s Reviewing blog is back too, open to submissions from anyone of any age who wants to review events at the festival or just their favourite book.
The whopping 44-page festival programme has details of every single event between the 30th September and the 8th October, but to help get you started, the GC team have picked out some of the bits we’re looking forward to most:
Word! With Vanessa Kisuule
The East Midlands’ longest-running spoken word night – shortlisted for the best in the country in this year’s Saboteur Awards – returns for its October edition as part of both Everybody’s Reading and Black History Month. It’s headlined by writer, performer, burlesque artist and Bristolian “empress of blag” Vanessa Kisuule, ahead of the publication of her upcoming second poetry collection.
“We’re really excited to continue our long association with Everybody’s Reading as a festival steering partner,” organiser Lydia Towsey tells GC, passionate as ever about taking up the twin causes of arts and social justice. “We’ve connected with Black History Month since our inception as an organisation and are really proud to be linked with it. Our October Word! is exciting for us in lots of ways – hot on the heels of National Poetry Day, and just approaching World Mental Health Day.”
Support comes from Maxine Skervin, who Towsey describes as “an immensely talented local artist”. Open mic slots are available on the night (we recommend getting to the Y bar for 7pm sharp – they go quickly!), and the regular pre-show poetry masterclass with Kisuule is free this month thanks to funding from Everybody’s Reading.
Expect a significant announcement on the night, too: Towsey tells us Word! Will be “further marking the occasion by announcing some particularly big and exciting news”!
Word! With Vanessa Kisuule takes place at the Y Theatre on East Street on Tuesday 3rd October at 8pm, with open mic sign-ups from 7pm and the workshop with Vanessa Kisuule at 4pm.
The Imperial Typewriter’s Strike of 1974
Writer and activist Divya Ghelani returns to the Exchange, the scene of her wildly successful Grenfell Tower fundraiser in June, this time looking into the past for social justice with a reading of her short story An Imperial Typewriter, followed by a discussion with former Leicester Anti-Racist Committee Secretary and current Everybody’s Reading chair Peter Flack.
Ghelani tells GC that the University of Leicester-commissioned story “concerns the black worker strike of May 1974” which she describes as “historic”, and was inspired by digital archives about “the de-industrialised Cultural Quarter in Leicester and disused factories in Glossop”, which writers were able to access early thanks to the University’s Affective Digital Histories project. Her discussion with Everybody’s Reading organiser and longtime trade unionist Flack will touch on the strike and the context around it, including the circumstances of Asian workers and wider race relations in 1970s Leicester.
Taking place in the heart of the Cultural Quarter from which it drew its inspiration, The Imperial Typewriter’s Strike of 1974 hits the Exchange on Thursday 5th October at 7:30pm. Entry is free, and the event is sponsored by the National Union of Teachers.