All good things must come to an end – or at least take a break until next year. The Durham Book Festival has packed up its books, waved farewell to its authors and turned its attention to making 2014 even bigger and better. It was marvellous to see so many people at our events and we are heartened by the overwhelmingly positive feedback about this year’s programme.

The 2013 festival reached over 8,000 people – more than ever before. Our specially commissioned touring production of My Granny is a Pirate, adapted from Val McDermid’s swashbuckling picturebook, was seen by hundreds of families at 35 performances across the county.

Our very first Durham Book Festival day for schools was also a great success, with over 1,000 people attending our events with Debi Gliori, Nick Sharratt, Dan Smith and Simon Armitage over the course of a fun-packed day at Durham Johnston School.

Young people aged between 14-25 were also catered for at our Cuckoo Shop, a pop-up creative writing venue for young people, which became part of the festival for the first time this year.

Over 200 people attended our Big Book Swap at Durham Town Hall and nearly 700 books were exchanged, providing a fantastic finale to the festival.

 

Highlights

Using buildings steeped in their own illustrious history, such as Durham Town Hall and Durham Castle, we explored the political pasts and fascinating insights of Lord Adonis, Chris Mullin and Alan Johnson. Jeremy Vine dazzled with a witty and revealing peek into his multi-faceted career at the BBC, not to mention his inner-student’s recommendation for the best pub in Durham.

Linwood Barclay, Ann Cleeves and Lynda La Plante were a treat for crime lovers of a literary nature. As one attendee commented on her way in, ‘I love, love, love Linwood Barclay!’ That’s nearly as much as ever-entertaining pop culture commentator Stuart Maconie loves the music of modern Britain. From a forgotten Beatles concert as a child to the end of his event, he kept the audience chuckling reminiscently along.

Our partnership with Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project saw a host of events led by some of the UK’s leading thinkers, writers and psychologists, and renowned writer Iain Sinclair premiered a brand new commission inspired by a visit to Durham.

The announcement of the Gordon Burn Prize brought together an eclectic mix of new writing, both fiction and factual, to celebrate the literary legacy of the Newcastle-born author who gave his name to the awards. To a soundtrack of music composed for the event by Field Music’s Dave Brewis, Durham’s own Benjamin Myers was named as the first recipient of the prize. If you missed it, listen to it on New Writing North’s SoundCloud stream.

 

Festival commissions

Every year Durham Book Festival commissions new work from artists and writers to premiere at the festival. This year we were thrilled to present eight new projects that engaged, informed and entertained festival audiences.

We have already mentioned My Granny is a Pirate, which delighted tots and adults across County Durham, and Iain Sinclair’s Durham-inspired short story. Other commissions this year covered everything from sports to e-publications.

Daniel Hardisty and John Challis created a special edition of iN for Durham Book Festival, filled with new poetry by the best contemporary poets. You can sign up for future issues at www.inmagazine.org.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been much use to Stevie Ronnie, whose festival-commissioned trip to the Arctic took him outside the range of smartphones and emails. Continuing the festival’s dedication to exploring environmental concerns through art, Stevie wrote a series of poems inspired by the brittle, empty snowscapes – as well as by his eccentric, passionate fellow travellers. Click here to see a selection of them.

Benjamin Markovits’ commission set him down in a landscape nearly as alien to him. An American writer and former professional baseball player, Markovits was immersed in that most British of sports – cricket – as writer in residence at the Durham Investec Ashes test. His essay about the experience was premiered at the festival and can be read in the London Review of Books.

Writers aren’t the only artists the festival supports, however. Mercury Prize-nominated musician and songwriter Kathryn Williams was commissioned to create a musical response to Sylvia Plath’s iconic The Bell Jar. The final sequence of songs, all inspired by scenes in the novel, premiered at the festival to a rapturous response from the audience.

Film is another medium the festival supports. Another England saw writer and presenter Michael Smith and filmmaker Neil Bianco explore the rarely seen geography, events and people of the North East coastline in a sequence of four short films. The films can be seen at www.newwritingnorth.com/news_details-another-chance-to-see-another-england-details-2634.html.

It was internationally acclaimed poet and festival laureate Paul Muldoon who took the festival’s final bow with a career-spanning reading in Durham Cathedral’s Chapter House, culminating in the worldwide premiere of his new, festival commissioned poem, St Cuthbert and the Otters.

 

Thank you

We’d like to thank everyone who came to see readings, talks and events at the Durham Book Festival in 2013, and our hard working team of Durham Book Festival volunteers.

Thanks also go to the festival’s partners and supporters who helped support the 2013 Durham Book Festival. Our core partners: Durham County Council, Arts Council England and Durham University; our event sponsors: The Banks Group, PwC, Sunderland University and Swinburne Maddison; and our wonderful venues, including: Empty Shop, The Gala Theatre, Durham Town Hall, St Chad’s Chapel, The Bowes Museum, Durham Castle, Durham Johnston School, and libraries and community venues all over the county.

If you would like to send us some feedback on your experience at this year’s festival, please drop us a line on office@newwritingnorth.com.

We hope you enjoyed attending this year’s festival as much as we did programming it, and we’ll see you next year.