Over the past few days Leeds has been hosting a literary festival called the Big Bookend. The Big Bookend describes itself as a Rock Festival for Words. This was the third year for the Festival. This year there has been a wide range of authors hosting a diverse range of activities and events for all ages held in a variety of locations throughout the city. Some of the events were free. Some charged a modest admission price. All events have been very well attended. The wonderful thing about the Big Bookend is that it celebrates the enormous wealth of local and very successful writing talent that we have in Leeds.
I went to four events this year, which is not as many as I would have liked!
The first event I attended was a book launch, which is always exciting! Elizabeth is Missing is the debut novel from 26 year old Emma Healey. It has as its lead character Maud, who is in her 80s and suffers from dementia. Although Maud forgets many things she is convinced that her friend Elizabeth is Missing but who will believe her? It was interesting to hear how Emma wrote this book. She comes across as being very engaging if slightly unsure of her talent. This is despite the fact that publishers were fighting over the rights to publish Elizabeth is Missing and the TV rights have been sold already!
On Saturday I went to two events. They were very different from each other but both very enjoyable. Author John Lake talked about (and read excerpts from) his trilogy set in Leeds 6. I then heard a fascinating talk, “Where is Chapeltown and What Does it Do?” given by Max Farrar, Emeritus Professor at Leeds Metropolitan University.
However, the highlight for me was an Audience with Alan Bennett on Sunday afternoon at West Yorkshire Playhouse. We had been to see his play Enjoy at the Playhouse on the Friday evening but to actually hear the great man talk had me tingling with excitement. As you might have guessed, I am a big Alan Bennett fan. He is one of those authors whose voice you can hear in your head when you read his books. He was immensely amusing and very sharp with his observations on life. He was born and brought up in Leeds and retains his love of the city. Apparently, he comes up to visit on a very regular basis. He clearly enjoys the fact that people feel they can approach him and talk to him about his works. His way with words is wonderful. One quote I remember from yesterday is “I like it when I arrive at the station and everybody talks like me”. Clearly a man who has not forgotten his roots …
Alan Bennett is such a brilliant raconteur and it was truly a privilege to hear him live.