Two weekends ago we had the enormous pleasure of co-hosting the inaugural Halifax Festival of Words with The Grayston Unity , a local, independent, award winning bar and live music venue. We are immensely proud to have been part of bringing this fantastic event to Halifax.
Taking place across 3 venues in Halifax it included punk poetry, a suffragette choir, a T.S.Eliot prize shortlisted poet, a dragon egg trail, a guest appearance by a sheep dog, live music and a whole list of fantastic authors.
On the Friday night we had a really interesting event on how to get into publishing with Kevin and Hetha Duffy of Bluemoose Books .
On Saturday morning we had a great event for Bookworms with Harry Heape and his Shiny Pippin series.
We were delighted to be hosting the launch of local author Liz Flanagan’s brilliant new book Dragon Daughter. We had a trail around the Piece Hall to find the last four dragon eggs and then Liz read from her book whilst we made dragon masks and ate dragon buns.
Our next event was a discussion between Sarah Dunnakey and Linda Green on A Sense of Place: How the Calder Valley Shaped Our Writing. The conversation was fascinating and the audience was really engaged.
Our big Saturday night event was Turn The Page 8, a regular poetry/spoken word/open mic night hosted by Katie Atkinson. It was a celebratory event as it was the first birthday of Turn The Page. There was a wide variety of wonderful speakers and musicians.
Sunday morning started with a reading for Bookworms from local author Cathy Calvert and star of her book Ned.
Marilyn Gwizdak Greenwood gave a talk about her novel The Whistler in which she discusses her Polish family’s experiences in the second world war. The choir Marilyn is part of sang which ended the event beautifully.
Suffrage historian Jill Liddington gave a fascinating talk on how local suffragettes helped win women the vote in Halifax, and what they did with it afterwards.
Our event for closing the festival was Poetry Night featuring wonderful readings from a number of poets: Vicky Gatehouse, Mark Pajak, Gaia Holmes, Keith Hutson, Sarah Corbett, Zaffar Kunial and the host Ross Kightly.
We also had a lot of support from Halifax council, who helped bring live music, programmed by The Grayston Unity, to the local market for the first time in 30 years.
The Grayson Unity held a range of events including: We Are Willow project, The Story of Barmcake Magazine, Embrace and Merlin Kalanovic, Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay, Amit Dattani and Anne-Marie Sanderson.
On Saturday 20th we held our final festival event for this year, Burning Brightly – Northern Voices in YA with Liz Flanagan, Mark Illis, Danielle Jawando and Melvin Burgess who talked about Northerness and diversity in Young Adult fiction.
One of the best things about the weekend was how many local people got involved, it had a genuine grassroots (or should that be urbanroots) feel and celebrated the amazing heritage of the town against the stunning back drop of the Victorian market hall and the architectural gem of the Piece Hall.
We had an unbelievable amount of support from local writers, publishers and musicians, who got on board with the vision with a huge amount of enthusiasm. It has been wonderful promoting their work and raising the profile of some of the amazing talent in the Calder Valley.
We are proud to have carried this through from the germ of an idea to a vibrant and exciting celebration of homegrown northern talent.