Festival Director’s Picks

_MG_7694One of the exciting things about being Festival Director is being able to share authors, poets and events I think  people will find inspiring.

We’ve managed to put together what I hope you’ll feel is a really exciting mix of big name headliners in the Kings Hall, including Ken Clarke, Nick Clegg, Jacqueline Wilson and Alan Titchmarsh; leading novelists like Tracy Chevalier, Louis de Bernières, Joanne Harris, Gillian Slovo and Leila Aboulela; poets Carol Ann Duffy, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Simon Armitage, and Imtiaz Dharker and new and emerging talent, such as our apprentice poet in residence Mark Pajak.

It’s almost impossible to choose my favourites – there are far too many – but after much to-ing and fro-ing I’ve come up with my top five, not-to-be-missed, Festival events.


We want you to see as much of the Festival as possible and to help with that this year we have a series of special offers and packages available, including an offer on my top picks:

You can buy tickets to all five events for £20!

Click here to book this offer.

James Kelman book15. Dirt Road: James Kelman in Conversation

James Kelman, who won the Booker Prize in 1994 with How Late It Was, How Late, is one of our most important living novelists and this is a must-see for anyone with an interest in contemporary fiction. Kelman doesn’t do many events and I’ve been wanting to have him at the Festival for years, so don’t miss this rare chance to hear more about his work, including his often controversial use of regional dialects and language and his latest novel, Dirt Road – a brilliant exploration of a troubled relationship between a father and son.
Saturday 1 October, 1.45pm, Ilkley Playhouse, £6/4

SharonMillar_AuthorPhoto135. The Whale House Travellers and Shapeshifters – Sharon Millar and Hannah Lowe

This event promises to be a fascinating exploration of Caribbean identity and I’m eager to hear Hannah Lowe’s poetry exploring the life of her father, a Black-Chinese Jamaican card sharp, who sounds like a fascinating character, as well as work inspired by famed saxophonist Joe Harriot. Sharon Millar’s short stories create a portrait of contemporary life in the Caribbean and I was captivated by their vivid landscapes.
Sunday 9 October, 4.45pm, St Margaret’s Hall, £5/3

Testament for WITC stage82. The Ten Past to the Tempest

Using beatboxing and clever layering techniques, Testament creates astonishing soundscapes that transport his audience to another place. Last year I was blown away by his hiphop inspired Blake Remixed, and ever since I was in a production of Charles Marowitz’s version of Macbeth as a teenager I’ve loved unusual version of Shakespeare’s work, so I’m very keen to see what Testament does with The Tempest. Set against the back drop of the floods in Leeds last December, this will be a version of the play as you’ve never seen or heard it before.
Thursday 6 October, 7.30pm, Ilkley Playhouse £6/4

Iraq100173. Iraq+100: Stories from Another Iraq

Iraq+100 is a new collection from Comma Press featuring contemporary Iraqi writers exploring what the country might be like in 2103, 100 years on from the disastrous invasion of 2003. It’s an intriguing premise, uniting speculative fiction with the politics of the present. I am looking forward to hearing more about this project, the different visions the writers have of their country for the future and how they’ve created these ideas on the page.
Friday 14  October, 7.30pm, St Margaret’s, £5/3

Bronte Commission 2 c. Simon Dewhirst196. New Responses to the Brontës

As part of the Brontë 200 celebrations we teamed up with our sister festivals, Off the Shelf in Sheffield and Beverley Literature Festival, to commission new work in response to the Brontës from three compelling young writers. On a surprisingly sunny day back in May we took Festival Poet in Residence Andrew McMillan, singer/songwriter Nat Johnson and playwright Zodwa Nyoni, who we’re proud to say is a former ILF Apprentice Poet in Residence, up to The Parsonage in Haworth to soak up the atmosphere. They’re incredibly talented and, as I suspected, they’ve each taken a unique approach to the commission. I’ve had a peak at some of the pieces they’ll be premiering and I know this event is not to be missed.
Saturday 15 October, 7.15pm, Ilkley Playhouse, £6/4