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Juan Gabriel Vásquez – International Fiction Lecture


12 October 2021

‘Fiction as the News’

Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Photo: Daniel Mordzinski


On Tuesday 13th October, we were thrilled to be joined by eminent Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez, for our first-ever Lancaster International Fiction lecture (a joint venture with the Department of Languages & Cultures and the Department of English Literature & Creative Writing at Lancaster University.)

If you missed the event and would like to read the text of Juan’s lecture, please click here. A video recording of the lecture is available to view on Crowdcast or on our Youtube channel.

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Poems about Here and Now

Enjoy today while it shall last
For soon its joys will all be past.
Don’t reach a future time and say
If only I had lived that day.

Today’s time for new beginnings
Time to forget much older sinning.
So use each hour as if no more
Were waiting in the future store.

We should not strain towards tomorrow
Nor seek from it new things to borrow.
For now save energy and time
And into life’s fulfilment climb.

So write a letter, contact a friend
A broken fence attempt to mend.
Today’s the time for doing good
For putting right the things we should.

Today is yours to celebrate
Each golden hour evaluate.
So live it, love it to its limit
Let no mean thing its joys inhibit.

When day is done let it be said
(as sleepy you fall into bed).
You’ve lived your life in one good day
For more like these you now must pray.

So as day ends just let it go
Content that you have lived it so.
And so to live is to ensure
Life’s richest blessings will endure.

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Poems about Illusion

Do I have a choice in the matter?
I ask myself as I scurry about
As mad as a hatter.
Oh here’s missus so and so
Coming out for a natter.
Her name escapes me,
As I don’t seem to have,
Any choice in the matter
But to stop my work
And listen.

Just the same as,
I’ve no choice in the matter,
But to pay the council tax.
Or the Electric bill.
Or gas bill, for that matter.

The list of things go on and on.
Such as dying.
Who surrounds you,
Neighbours good or bad.
People say there is plenty
Of choice in the matter,
But that is just an illusion.

 I see them lurking in the streets,
Hiding their smile in surgical sheets,
They feel so puzzled, around their muscles,
Which back in the day would make them chuckle.

When will they show it?
When are they free?
Where is their vision?
What will they be?

I see down under, not in their face,
Progress has changed us; the aim is a maze.
Paper now rotten, typeface now button,
Faster the world, but passion’s forgotten.

When will we turn back?
When are we free?
Where is our vision?
What will we be?

I see my output, turn back to the green,
Moving just forward, run till I lean,
Back next to trunk, sheet off – see – I breathe!
Calm, roots and peace, no global disease.

When will I see it?
When am I free?
Where is my vision?
What will I be?

I see a sparrow, guiding my view,
Up to the limits, until I see you!
Taking my paper, type down what I feel:
No burden, no limits, yet purity’s chamber, reaching surreal!

Now I can see it!
Now I am free!
Look, here’s my vision!
Reinforced in thee!

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The Litfest Autumn Weekend is here!

Litfest are delighted to announce our 2021 Autumn Weekend – 7th-12th October! Join us for 6 days of fantastic events featuring both local and international award-winning writers.

After taking Litfest 2021 online in March, we found that a number of our local writers who had contributed to our previous festivals – Sarah Hall, Polly Atkin, Kim Moore and Karen Lloyd – all had books coming out in September and October. So we were delighted when they accepted our invitation to launch them at our ‘Autumn Weekend’.

We are particularly pleased to announce the creation of The Lancaster International Fiction Lecture, a new joint venture with Lancaster University’s Departments of European Languages & Cultures and English Literature & Creative Writing. And we are thrilled that the first lecture will be given by acclaimed Colombian author, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, winner of Spain’s Alfaguara Prize, Italy’s Gregor von Rezzori Prize, France’s Prix Roger Cailloix and Ireland’s Dublin Literary Award.

Having heard from many of you, we are conscious there is still a hesitancy about returning to live in-person events. So, as in the spring, all our events will be online and there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved, whether in the National Poetry Day ‘Litfest Poetry Mosaic’, or by putting your questions to our authors, or by interacting in the ‘chat’ at each online event.

You can browse the programme and book tickets via our website.
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We’re hiring!

*UPDATE – applications for this role have now closed*

Litfest are seeking an Office Manager for 7 hours per week (flexible working preferably across 2 days).  This maternity cover role is varied, flexible and an excellent chance to become involved in Lancaster’s arts community. If you are looking for an opportunity to work with a small arts organisation this could be just the job for you!  For more information and to apply, click here.

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Upcoming Events – May 20th and 21st

Image of Jackie Morris courtesy of Elly Lucas.


On May 20th and 21st, Litfest and Graffeg are delighted to welcome Nicola Davies, Cathy Fisher and Jackie Morris for two very special events.  Picture Perfect will take place on Thursday 20th May at 12.30pm, while Marking the Page will stream live on Friday 21st May at 7.30pm.

These events are both free to attend and will be streamed live via Crowdcast.  You can find out more about the events, and reserve a ticket, on the event page here.

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Nominate Your ‘Litfest Favourites’ — Fiction and Place

At the ‘Landscape and Fiction’ conversation with James Clarke and Sarah Moss on 20 March 2021 we invited the two writers to name their favourite novels of place.

James Clarke nominated Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, and Sarah Moss recommended the following books:

  • Roger Deakin — Waterlogged (non-fiction)
  • Kathleen Jamie — Surfacing (non-fiction)
  • Elaine Feeney — As You Were
  • Sara Baume — Spill Simmer Falter Wither

We then invited our online audience to name their own favourites in the chat. The instant brainstorming session included the novels listed below.

We now invite all our readers to add to that list using this ‘submit form’ here, naming the author and a specific novel. In the summer we will publish a list of the ten novels of place most admired by our audience of readers.

P.S. for thirty days after the event, you can view James and Sarah’s event on our Youtube channel here!

Gary Budden, Hollow Shores – very interesting collection of short stories focused on landscape in the South East, London, Wales, Finland…
Roger Deakin, Waterlogged (non-fiction)
Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd – in fact, anything of Thomas Hardy, with landscape such a powerful, fated force
Constance Holme, The Lonely Plough (1914) – Milnthorpe-born author whose novels are often set in the Northwest
Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs
Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water (non-fiction) – imagine your own otter emoji!
H.V. Morton, In Search of England (1927)
Neil Campbell, Sky Hooks; Zero Hours; Lanyards – Manchester-set trilogy brilliantly depicts the changing face of Manchester over the last 10 years or so and takes in the social and political change we’ve seen in that same period.
J. B. Priestley, English Journey (1934)
Phil Rickman, The Merrily Watkins Mystery series (e.g. Midwinter of the Spirit) – set in and around Hereford, with a strong sense of place (each book has a different ‘main’ setting).
Elizabeth Wetmore, Valentine – set in Texas the 1960s. Very evocative landscape.
Tim Winton, The Turning – interconnected story collection set in Western Australia

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Nominate Your ‘Litfest Favourites’ — Short Stories

At Sarah Hall’s ‘In Conversation’ event on 17 March 2021 we asked her to name her three favourite short stories, but like all of us she had difficulty sticking to three, so four it had to be. And four brilliant choices they are:

Angela Carter — ‘The Bloody Chamber’
Tobias Wolff — ‘Hunters in the Snow’
Jon McGregor — ‘The Remains’
Edna O’Brien — ‘Paradise’

We then invited our online audience to name their own favourites in the chat. The instant brainstorming session included the following stories, of which the three most often named were:

Sarah Hall — ‘Mrs Fox
Kevin Barry — ‘Fjord of Kilarry’
Guy de Maupassant — ‘Boule de Suif’

The whole fascinating selection is below and we now invite all our readers to add to that list using the ‘submit form’ here, naming the author, a specific story and ideally the collection in which it can be found. In the summer we will publish a list of the ten stories most admired by our audience of readers.

P.S. for thirty days after the event, you can view Sarah Hall’s event on our Youtube channel here!

Julia Armfield — Stop Your Women’s Ears with Wax
Kevin Barry — Fjord of Killary in Dark Is the Island
John Berger — Lilac and Flag (short novel)
A.S. Byatt — The July Ghost
Raymond Carver – A Small, Good Thing
Ted Chiang
Claire Dean
Carys Davies — The Redemption of Galen Pike
Lydia Davis
Guy de Maupassant — Boule de Suif
Karen Joy Fowler
Leigh Kennedy
Howard Waldrop
Jonathan Gibbs (ed.) —
Sarah Hall — Mrs Fox
Herman Hesse — Wandering
Victoria Hislop — Love Anything
Barabara Kingsolver
D.H.Lawrence — St Mawr (short novel)
Ken Liu — The Paper Menagerie
Alison Macleod — We are Methodists
Charlotte Perkins Gilman — The Yellow Wallpaper
Annie Proulx — Brokeback Mountain
Patrick Rothfuss — The Lightning Tree
Alan Sillitoe — The Fishing Boat Picture
Charles Wilkinson (published by Egeus Press)

The London publishing house Head of Zeus has recently published a number of huge anthologies that are full of interesting suggestions. Here are three of them:
Victoria Hislop (ed.) — The Story: Love, Loss and the Lives of Women: 100 Great Short Stories (2013)
David Miller (ed.) — That Glimpse of Truth: 100 of the Finest Short Stories ever Written (2014)
Frank Wynne (ed.) — Queer: A Collection of LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday (2021)

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Talking About Birds – Competition Winner!

At Litfest 2021 we were thrilled to be joined by two writers who both have had a lifelong fascination with birds – Sheffield University professor Tim Birkhead and prize-winning poet Paul Farley at the Talking About Birds event, which began with a short RSPB film from local nature reserve Leighton Moss, introduced by visitor experience manager Jon Carter.  As part of this event, we held a competition to identify the nine birds in the film, and we are delighted to announce that the winner is…

Judith Young!

Congratulations, Judith!

If you missed the event, you can catch up on our Youtube channel for thirty days after the event was first broadcast.

We also held another competition alongside this event, which is still running until Thursday 22nd April.  If you’re a young birdwatcher (aged 11-16) then see below for more details!

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Still time to join the Litfest Big Read!

The 2021 festival may be over, but there’s still plenty to keep us occupied here at Litfest HQ!  And there are still lots of ways you can get involved.

One of our most exciting projects is The Litfest Big Read, our flagship project for Litfest 2021.  In our opening weekend we were thrilled to be joined by A.M. Dassu and Matt Haig, whose books Boy, Everywhere and The Midnight Library were the chosen books for the Big Read.  You can watch their Litfest events (and the rest of the 2021 festival) on our Youtube channel — all events will be online for 30 days after their initial broadcast.

As part of the Litfest Big Read, we are encouraging people of all ages to sign up to read one of the two books, so that we can all share the experience of reading as a community whilst physically distanced.  Although the festival has passed, you’re still welcome to sign up, and be in with a chance of winning a free pass to three Litfest events in the next 12 months and your choice of three paperback books.

As part of the Litfest Big Read, we’d also love to see you over at the #LitfestBigBookShare and #LitfestBigPostcardShare tags on social media:

  • Join The Litfest Big Book Share (for 11-15 year-olds) and send us a creative interpretation of your favourite book on any social media platform  #TheLitfestBigBookShare
  • Join The Litfest Big Postcard Share (for 15+ year-olds) and send us a postcard telling us about your favourite book.  You can send your postcard to the Litfest office, or take a photo and post it on social media  #TheLitfestBigPostcardShare

So don’t hang about — sign up, get involved and help us share the Litfest love across Lancashire and beyond!

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A.C. Grayling: Five Key Questions about Democracy

Litfest are delighted to announce some very special bonus material for Litfest 2021!

Democracy has never been more at issue – what it is, how it should function what it should aim to do, why it seems to be struggling…  In a brand new series of five short videos. A. C. Grayling, Principal of the New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, London, asks key questions about democracy in the world today, its current shortcomings, why it seems to be struggling and suggests a set of possible solutions.

The video series, ‘Five Key Questions about Democracy’, is based on his book The Good State (available from the Litfest Online Bookshop). One video will be uploaded to our YouTube channel each day this week (22nd-26th March 2021)!

View the Videos

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Litfest 2021 — Closing Comments

I would just like to thank everyone who has joined us as we have sailed in and out of different literary worlds over the past 10 days.

At Litfest our ambition is to provide access to and the opportunity to engage with the best in contemporary literature, illustration and ideas. And even though this year has been so very different in the way we have delivered the festival to you, I believe we have achieved just that. However, you the audience will be the judge of that and we would very much welcome your feedback.

We have experienced superb illustrators, authors and poets from all over the world and we have enjoyed welcoming an audience who have travelled digitally to be with us from all over the world. We have celebrated local stories with our film project ‘How We Live Now’ and explored ‘How We Live Next’ with an expert cohort of writers and specialists. Next year, we hopefully will be inviting you physically to our beautiful city of Lancaster.

Throughout the festival we have been delighted that so many people have been able to donate towards our charity. We have been fortunate to have received funding this year from Arts Council England, Lancaster City Council and a range of sponsors including Achates Philanthropy. However, to develop more opportunities for events we do need your support, so please spread the word for us and donate or buy from our bookshop.

We still have more to look forward to over the next month. You can watch events you have may missed or revisit one you really enjoyed on our YouTube channel. We also have new projects,  including the release of A.C. Grayling’s “Five Key Questions about Democracy “ — five 8-10 minute videos based on his book ‘The Good State’.

There is still time to sign up for The Litfest Big Read and enjoy one of our chosen books: ‘Boy Everywhere’ by A.M. Dassu and ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig.

There is the competition for 11-16 year olds to win the chance of a VIP tour of Leighton Moss.

Our New Writing North West writers have been creating some amazing work and we will be sharing this towards the end of April.

The online International Book Club continues in April with ‘Tram 83’ by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated from the French by Roland Glasser.

You can also visit our Poetry Map to see all the fantastic poems chosen and penned by people from all around the North West. The map remains open until 22nd April.

So there are still plenty of activities for you still to enjoy! We are hoping to bring you more events during 2021, so do keep watching our website and social media channels, and of course we will be back next March for our 43rd festival.

Thank you for support.

Julie Bell

The Chair, Lancaster Litfest.

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Litfest Poetry Day Double Bill — Change of Programming

Litfest regret to announce a late change to our line-up for Litfest’s Poetry Day on Saturday 20th March. Unfortunately, Sean O’Brien has had to withdraw from the our ‘Poetry Day Double Bill 1’ event at 2pm with Tara Bergin due to ill health. We wish Sean a speedy recovery and hope to welcome him back to Litfest again soon. In the meantime, you can hear him read extracts from his long poem ‘Hammersmith’ (part of his most recent collection It Says Here (2020) and marvel at Kate Sweeney’s wonderful images:

Hammersmith from K A Sweeney on Vimeo.  A response to extracts from Sean O’ Brien’s same-titled poem, ‘Hammersmith’ is an elegiac, hand-drawn animation produced on a single piece of paper, through a process of mark-making and erasure. The starting point for the visual aesthetic was Sweeney and O’Brien’s shared love of film noir, and the imagery, sweeping through 1950’s London, references the iconic cinematography from Jules Dessin’s 1950 noir film, ‘Night and the City’.

However, Litfest are delighted to announce that Dr Kim Moore has stepped into the breach. Kim is currently leading the poetry strand of our New Writing Northwest workshop series.

Dr Kim Moore is one of the founders of Kendal Poetry Festival. Her first full-length collection, The Art of Falling (2015), won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. She was one of the judges for the 2018 National Poetry Competition and the 2020 Forward Prizes for Poetry. She recently completed her doctorate on poetry and everyday sexism at Manchester Metropolitan University and her second collection, All the Men I Never Married, is due in October 2021.

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Litfest 2021 Programme

Alternatively, you can download a PDF of the programme here.

We are very excited to welcome to you to Litfest 2021, our fully digital and free festival! Packed full of exciting new initiatives alongside festival favourites.  Featuring Matt Haig, A.M. Dassu, Jackie Morris, Shaun Tan, Michal Marmot, Fatima Ibrahim, Johny Pitts, James Suzman, A.C. Grayling, Andrey Kurkov, Yvonne Battle-Felton, Karen Lloyd, Kim Moore, Daniel Hahn, Sarah Hall, Tim Birkhead, Paul Farley, James Clarke, Sarah Moss, Tara Bergin, Sean O’Brien, Raymond Antrobus, Colette Bryce, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Emma Rucastle and so much more!

Continue reading Litfest 2021 Programme