In just over a week, the first Northampton booQfest gets underway. So while I try to get my own act together for the Sunday, I asked chief organiser Daniel Burrows to come and explain what it’s all about.
Steve: Since I became involved with the booQfest the one question I get asked is ‘what’s that all about?’ So would you tell my readers- in a nutshell?
Daniel: There isn’t a nut big enough! For me, booQfest works on so many different levels. First and foremost it is a celebration of literature that takes place right in the heart of Northampton town centre, so can be enjoyed by all. Secondly, it is a book festival with a difference. We’re looking at literature from a decidedly queer perspective, hence placing gay and lesbian authors at it’s core. Thirdly, because we’ve had such a positive response from writers who do not immediately identify as gay or lesbian, we’ve been able to widen the scope so that others can use the festival as a platform too. It’s the gay and lesbian literary festival for everyone!
Steve: What made you decide to take the huge step of organising a festival?
Daniel: Huge step? You’re scaring me!
Steve: Well, that’s a relief, since that’s what I do 🙂
Daniel: In my capacity of chairman of Northampton Gay Book Group, I was approached by Matthew Toresen of FAN Northants – an LGBT community events group – to help organise some sort of literary event in the town that would celebrate gay and lesbian writing. The original plan was to help lend identity to the gay and lesbian community of Northampton, by having one afternoon of readings by one or two gay or lesbian authors. However, once we started working on bringing the idea to fruition, we soon realised that there was scope for something a lot bigger! We didn’t plan on creating an entire weekend festival – it took on a life of its own, becoming an event that the town can be proud of hosting.
Steve: Well, it doesn’t sound like you have anything to be scared about. Have you come up against any particular obstacles?
Daniel: We had such a fantastic response from all of the writers that we approached to take part. It has been surprisingly easy! Perhaps I’m being naive. Ask me the same question when it’s over!
Steve: I’d be glad to have you back for a debriefing, for sure. Now, you have a long list of distinguished authors over the three days of the festival. Tell us who you’ve got and what they are doing.
Daniel: So many people to mention. We have been very lucky. The weekend kicks off with not one but two well established gay authors guest speaking at the launch party on the evening of Friday 14th – Will Davis and Jeremy Seabrook. The superb crime writer Adrian Magson and recently published Rory Freckleton both start the Saturday proceedings by telling us about their journeys to publication. We later examine the fascination with science fiction with Doctor Who and Torchwood novel writers Paul Magrs, Joseph Lidster, Mark Michalowski and Gary Russell. More readings and signings from another local author – Councillor Dennis Meredith and then Clare Summerskill, who was once described by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as ‘a lesbian Victoria Wood’, takes to the stage. Jane Lovering pops in to give us a reading and signing and also Gregory Woods, poet and pioneering gay literary critic, joins us with some of his excellent poetry. Then more poetry in the form of the fantastic Fay Roberts, fresh from her trip to Edinburgh, before the evening ends with the great graphic novelist and local boy, Alan Moore. Alan will be talking about his involvement withAARGH! Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia and reading from the ‘Mirror of Love’ a work written at that time. We will also get a peek at his current project.
Sunday will be busy! We start with the smart and witty VG Lee talking about her latest novel ‘Always You, Edina’ and talking about writing comedy in lesbian fiction. She then joins a lesbian and bisexual panel discussion which includes Jane Reynolds, exploring issues facing lesbian authors. The vampish performance poet Sophia Blackwell will also be in this panel, and then an hour later will seamlessly reappear a mile or two down the road, at Abington Park, for a unique Poetry in the Park event. Meanwhile we have the likes of local girl Kaye Vincent, horror writer Steve Emmett (your good self!), Adrian Magson and Marion Grace Woolley all imparting their talent on to the town of Northampton on that Sunday.
Throw in some workshops with poet Fay Roberts, some creative writing and e-book workshops/seminars by local author Morgen Bailey and local storytelling by the fabulous Alex Ultradish. All this and more!
Steve: Sounds great! I wish I could be there all weekend. Now, you’ve arranged overlapping events – what’s the reason behind this?
Daniel: We’re fitting so much in to one weekend that its impossible not to! We want this to be a festival for everyone to enjoy. And there is stuff for everyone. So it’s OK to overlap some events because we’ve got the mix right. We’ve tried not to overlap genres so people can make easy decisions about what they want to see.
Steve: My own reading and talk on horror is on the Sunday and you’ve found me a wonderful venue. Could you tell people who are planning to come what to expect?
Daniel: They can expect to find out how a nice man like you can write such good horror! What is it that lies beneath that cool exterior?
Steve: You’re making me blush! Cool exterior? *sighs* I just hope I’m not so overawed that I get speaker’s block.
Daniel: I am sure moderator Julia Kavan will prize it out of you! Since Julia is a fan of yours, its an excellent pairing. This could be one of the most fun events in the festival – because of the genre, rather than despite it! So the audience can expect all this in the beautiful surroundings of art deco designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in a little house numbered 78 Derngate, Northampton. Very exciting!
Steve: Well, I know I’m excited and honoured to have been asked to take part. I hope it all goes well. Do you have plans to make it an annual event?
Daniel: Watch this space!
Steve: You bet! Thanks for dropping by, Daniel. I know your plate is full right now as the big day approaches. And I hope I’ll get to meet you at some point on Sunday – though that may well be something to be fearful of.
Don’t miss the Northampton booQfest, 14th to 16th September. Details here: http://booqfest.webs.com/ and all over t’internet!
Steve Emmett is 5′ 10″ in his sock feet, 55 years of age, and may weigh more than 120Kg depending on the time of day. What little hair he has left is brown going grey, but in years gone by he had a rich unruly mop which was tamed according to fashion – poodle perm; New Romantic side parting; bleached both in whole and part. His challenge to the barber these days is rather more workaday.
Steve studied architecture at the AA in London where he once witnessed Dame Zaha Hadid fall through a canvas chair (admittedly she was just plain Ms Hadid then). He spent most of his working life selling Italian country homes to northern Europeans and Americans, and spent many years living in London and Italy. He will always be grateful to Lehman Bros for wrecking his comfortable existence and providing him with the opportunity to fulfil his writerly ambitions. Steve grew up on Hammer Horror films, Dennis Wheatley and M R James stories, so not surprising that his main aim is to put the frighteners up his readers. When not scaring people he likes to make them smile.
He is a member of the Society of Authors, the British Humanist Association, and reviews for the New York Journal of Books. You may have come across him at the occasional book festival, book signing, or making merry on the Paranormal Radio Network. He is always open to offers, the more bizarre the better.
He likes to read, watch films, go to the theatre, go to concerts and the opera (he loves the opera), and travel. He has been known to frequent good restaurants and drink fine wine. There isn’t much going on in the world that doesn’t interest him and on which he hasn’t an opinion.
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