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Lancaster International Fiction Lecture 2022 – Read Online

11 October 2022
‘Writing in Troubled Times’
Geetanjali Shree

As part of Litfest’s Autumn Weekend 2022, we were delighted to welcome Booker International Prize winner Geetanjali Shree, who gave the second annual Lancaster International Fiction Lecture on Tuesday, 11 October 2022.

You can download the text here.

The Lancaster International Fiction Lecture is a joint venture between Litfest (Lancaster and District Festival Ltd) and the Departments of Languages & Cultures and English Literature & Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

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Save the Date – and Join Us!

Thank you so much to all who made Litfest’s Autumn Weekend 2022 a reality! Our writers, presenters, volunteers, partners & audiences. We say every time that we couldn’t do this without the time & effort the writing community contributes to Litfest — we mean it.

If you missed us this time, you can catch up on the Autumn Weekend for thirty days on Crowdcast.

As ever, we hope to be back before long for our flagship spring festival — this will run from 17th to 16th March 2023, so please save the date and join us once more!

So that we can do it all again, bigger & better every time, we want to grow our team of 6 before Litfest 2023 launches in March. If you would be interested in joining the Litfest board, we would be delighted to hear from you!

We’re particularly interested in hearing from those with a background in the health sector, environmentalists & practising writers. But we want to hear from anyone and everyone who might be interested in joining Litfest. We also actively encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds. If you love words, books, communities and the arts we want to hear from you, no matter your level of experience. If you don’t think you have enough time to join the board, we are also always looking for new members of our volunteer corps who help us spread the word and deliver Litfest events throughout the year. If either opportunity appeals to you please email


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Litfest Atlantic Slave Trade Reading List – Lancaster Black History Group

After partnering with us on two excellent events during Litfest 2022, Lancaster Black History group have very kindly provided a reading list of titles concerning the Atlantic Slave Trade and its effects.

You can find the list here.  Most books are available in paperback and many can be borrowed from Lancaster University Library’s Glocal Collection, as part of its new free community lending service.

During the events we also heard about the Lancaster Slave Trade Trail, a walking trail around Lancaster based on its history with the Atlantic Slave Trade. You can find a digital version of the trail on the Visit Lancaster website.

We hope you find these resources useful and informative – thank you again to LBHG for providing them for our audiences!


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Event Update: Hannah Hodgson and Martina Evans

We apologise for having to do this so close to the event but we regret to announce that we have to postpone our Poetry Day event: Poetry Day Double Bill 1 – Hannah Hodgson & Martina Evans due to unforeseen circumstances.

All other poetry day events will go ahead as planned, and any ticket you have bought for our other poetry day events remains valid.  We will automatically refund your tickets for this event and hope to see you again soon when we invite these two fantastic poets back to Litfest!

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Litfest Wildlife Photography Competition — Winners!

Huge congratulations to our Litfest Wildlife Photography Competition winners!  The images submitted showed how lucky we are to live in such an amazing place with such natural diversity. Our judges had the very difficult job of picking out their winners, but in the end our winners were chosen — you can read more and see the photos here.
You can also see the winning entries displayed in The Storey from tomorrow (Wednesday) alongside Darren Andrews’ stunning ‘Murmur’ exhibition.  Darren and Jon Carter will speak as part of Litfest 2022: you can book your ticket (online or in-person) here.
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Nature Writing Book List — Your Suggestions

On Saturday 12 March we were joined by Anita Sethi, author of the natural memoir I Belong Here, for a brilliant event reflecting on nature, place and identity.

As part of the event we asked our online attendees to recommend their own favourite nature books in the chat, and Anita kindly added her own suggestions to the list too.

Here are the books we suggested…

Anita recommended:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

The recommendations from the Crowdcast chat were:
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald
Palestinian Walks by Raja Shehadeh
In Search of England by HV Morton
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Michael the Giant: An African in Greenland by Michel Kpomassie
Wanderers – A History of Women Walking by Kerri Andrews
Thin Places by Kerri Dochartaigh

We hope some of you will read and enjoy these excellent recommendations – let us know via social media if you enjoyed them!

And if your interest in nature writing has been piqued by Anita’s event, we recommend you come along to another nature writing event on Thursday 17 March, when Katherine Norbury, editor of Women on Nature, will join us  – you can book tickets here.

Katherine will be joined by local nature writers Karen Lloyd, Polly Atkin and Sarah Thomas.

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EVENT UPDATE: Rachel Holmes (Tuesday 8th March)

Litfest very much regrets that, due to Covid, Rachel Holmes will be unable to come to Lancaster to speak in person on International Women’s Day 8 March.  Naturally we are very sad to not be welcoming Rachel in person, and we wish her a full and speedy recovery.

However, although the in-person event can no longer go ahead, Rachel has very kindly agreed to go ahead with the online event, for which we encourage you to book a ticket by visiting our Crowdcast website here.

N.B. If you are an in-person ticket-holder for Rachel’s event, you will be contacted by telephone or email to discuss your purchase.  You will have the option to convert your ticket to an online version, and we would very much like to see you all online instead — but if online events aren’t your cup of tea, you will of course be eligible for a refund instead.


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Watch Joseph Coehlo introduce the Litfest Big Read

The Litfest Big Read has returned for this year’s festival, and we’re excited to hear what you think about our chosen titles: The First Woman, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (for ages 16+) and The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho (for ages 11-16).  We’re challenging everyone to sign up to the Big Read and read one of the books, with the chance to win a prize!

To whet your appetite, here’s a video from Joseph in which he tells you all about his brilliant verse novel, The Girl Who Became a Tree.  

Intrigued?  You can read more and sign up to the challenge here.

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Calling all poets!

At Litfest, we really value our connection with aspiring writers across the region (and beyond).  In particular, we encourage young writers to get involved with our events, projects and competitions year-round.

As part of Litfest 2022, we are running a project called This Place, This Planet, for which poets of all ages are invited to submit poems on the theme of climate change, the planet we inhabit, and the places we live.

For young people, Litfest has produced a resource pack, which we hope will inspire you to write poems of your own and submit them to our poetry map — there is no lower age limit, and all submissions are very welcome!

You can download the resource pack here, and submit your poems or view the map here.

We look forward to seeing your poems!


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Win the chance to see a rarely shown, Oscar-winning animated classic

This beautiful, animated film based on a story by the French writer Jean Giono won the Canadian director, Frédéric Back, an Academy Award for the best animated feature in 1988. Giono himself said: ‘The goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable’ and insisted his story should be distributed freely, declining to take any royalties.

Author Michael Morpurgo says: ‘I love the humanity of this story and how one man’s efforts can change the future for so many. It’s a real message of hope.’

You can find out more here — sign up to the event, and win a chance to see this rarely shown Academy Award-winning animated feature film at Atkinson’s Hall Café on March 18th at 7.30pm!

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Enter our Wildlife Photography Competition!

Are you a keen wildlife photographer?  Litfest invites photographers of all ages to submit to our free photography competition — winning entries will be displayed as part of a special exhibition in The Storey, Lancaster.

You can find out more here — and don’t forget to sign up to the event with Darren Andrews and Jon Carter on March 16th, when the winners will be revealed!

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Litfest Reading Lists: Short Novels and Novellas

On 12 November 2021 we welcomed Sarah Hall to an ‘In Conversation’ event about her recently launched short novel, Burntcoat. If you missed the event, you can watch it on our Youtube channel here.

At the event, we asked Sarah to name some of her favourite short novels or novellas, and here are her choices:

Madonna in a Fur Coat Sabahattin Ali
Herland Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Exit West Mohsin Hamid
SE Hinton
In the Orchard, the Swallows Peter Hobbs
Mrs Caliban
Rachel Ingalls
Train Dreams Dennis Johnson
The Longshot Katie Kitamura
The Giant O’ Brien Hilary Mantel
Coming through Slaughter Michael Ondaatje
Solo Faces James Salter
The Lonely Londoners Sam Selvon

We then invited our online audience to name their own favourites in the chat. The instant brainstorming session included the following novellas and short novels, to which Litfest has added some other suggestions:

The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes
Mercier and Camier Samuel Beckett
The Heart of a Dog Mikhail Bulgakov (trans. Michael Glenny)
Agamemnon’s Truth Javier Cercas (trans. Anne McLean, Granta, No. 98)
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
The Secret Sharer Joseph Conrad
The Old Child Jenny Erpenbeck (trans. Susan Bernofsky)
Chronicle of a Death Foretold Gabriel García Márquez (trans. Gregory Rabassa)
No one Writes to the Colonel 
Gabriel García Márquez (trans. JS Bernstein)
Wandering Herman Hesse (trans. James Wright)
In the Springtime of the Year Susan Hill
The Turn of the Screw Henry James
The Aspern Papers Henry James
Metamorphosis Franz Kafka (trans. Michael Hofmann, Penguin)
The Alienist Machado de Assis (trans. William L. Grossman)
Death in Venice Thomas Mann (trans. HT Lowe-Porter)
Pierre et Jean Guy de Maupassant (trans. Julie Mead)
The Weaver’s Grave by Seumas O’Kelly
There Was Still Love Favel Parrett
10 minutes 38 Seconds… Elif Shafak
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept Elizabeth Smart
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (trans. Anne McLean)
Chess Stefan Zweig (trans. Anthea Bell)
Richard Ford Wildlife
Abram Tertz (Andrei Sinyavsky) The Trial Begins (translated by Max Hayward)

We hope you will consider reading one or more of these excellent short novels and novellas. If you do, we’d love to hear about it — please send us a tweet, or contact us on Facebook or Instagram with your thoughts.  And if you haven’t already read it, copies of Sarah’s fantastic short novel Burntcoat (with signed book plates) are available to buy from the Litfest bookshop.

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*RESCHEDULED* Sarah Hall in Conversation – 12th November 2021

Photo: Richard Thwaites


Litfest is delighted to announce a new date for the livestreamed event ‘Sarah Hall – In Conversation’, which was originally due to take place on Friday 8th October and was postponed after Sarah unfortunately tested positive for Covid-19.

We are thrilled that Sarah will now be able to join us on Friday 12th November at 7pm to discuss her new novel, Burntcoat, which has received outstanding reviews since its release in October.

‘The pleasure of Hall’s prose – visceral, intimate – is a balm to our collective wound’ Mia Levitin,Spectator

‘Finely wrought, intellectually brave and emotionally honest’ Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

‘Burntcoat hovers somewhere between the literal truth and what, during the worst moments of the pandemic, many of us feared the truth might be’ Claire Allfree, The Times

‘In many ways … Burntcoat feels like a culmination of Hall’s work and, in my opinion, it is her finest yet’ Ruth Gilligan, Independent

If you are already a ticketholder to this event, your event booking will be transferred to the newly rescheduled date.  If you do not already have a ticket, there’s still plenty of time to book!  The event takes place via the online platform Crowdcast, and tickets are completely free.

Reserve a Ticket

You can buy Sarah Hall’s acclaimed new novel ‘Burntcoat’ from the Litfest Bookshop now at £3.20 off the RRP (includes an optional signed bookplate).  All profits go directly to support Litfest as a charitable organisation.

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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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Litfest launches the Poetry Mosaic!

WOW! Look at what we just did – create a Poetry Mosaic of 100 original poems from writers across the Northwest!


We received more than 250 fantastic, newly-penned poems from adults and Lancaster and District school students on the subject of ‘Choice’ for our big online ‘Poetry Mosaic’ to celebrate National Poetry Day which has now been launched here . Grab a cuppa and visit the site to lose yourself in uplifting poems, moving poems and funny poems – these amazing pieces represent our writers’ personal experiences, their creative ideas and their hopes for the future!


Some of the poems have even been chosen to be read out loud at our big, free, online and open-to-everyone National Poetry Day event, which will be hosted by local poet Hannah Hodgson. It’s at 7.30pm today, the 7th October, and you can book your tickets here:


The event is part of Litfest’s ‘Autumn Weekend’ which will run from 7 to 12 October. It’s all free of charge and online, and features a Poetry Double Bill with Polly Atkin and Kim Moore; an evening with Sarah Hall in Conversation talking about her new novel Burntcoat, a story of love in a pandemic; and an event with Karen Lloyd who will take us through the issues surrounding the challenges to biodiversity which inspired her new book Abundance: Nature in Recovery.  A special International Fiction Book Club meeting plus a lecture with acclaimed Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez explore how fiction as an artform can be used to make sense of a challenging world.


So come and browse the Poetry Mosaic at – you can also find details of how to join us online for the Poetry Mosaic launch event and all the other Litfest Autumn Weekend events. And don’t worry if you miss any of them – all Litfest events will be available on YouTube for 30 days after the festival ends.

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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)