A book is whatever you want it to be. A best friend, a total solitude, an action-packed adrenaline rush or your first steps to discovering new worlds. The Belfast Book Festival, principal funders Arts Council Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council and generously supported by Nicholson Bass and Belfast Calling, is thrilled to welcome authors from all walks of life from June 9th – 15th.
From political heavyweights, former Labour cabinet minister Alan Johnson and former Conservative Ann Widdecombe, to Ireland Rugby’s bagman ‘Rala’ O’Reilly and ex-Horslips drummer Eamon Carr, Russia Today economics experts Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert with finance columnist Mitch Feierstein, and breast cancer survivor Christine Hamill – they’re all united as published authors.
The Festival is a celebration of Northern Ireland’s love of all hardback, paperback and e-books. With artists and authors representing many key themes including literature, poetry, non-fiction, sport, coming of age, art and music, there’s something for everyone.
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “Belfast has long been famous as a city of readers and writers and the Belfast Book Festival perfectly captures the moods of invention and reflection and fun which only a book can excite. The Arts Council is delighted to support this Festival – reading is still a private and intimate joy, but where it goes ‘live’, on song, outdoors or on stage, this is where public funding rightly comes into its own.”
There’s also lots to keep children entertained at the Festival, including a special Family Fun Day on Saturday 14th June, from 10am, designed to help younger generations fall in love with reading plus an arts and crafts market.
If you’re after something sweet, come and indulge with the queen of couture cakes, Mich Turner. Mich has catered for top celebrities including Madonna, David Beckham, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne and even Her Majesty The Queen. Savour every morsel of Mich’s tips on passionate baking, at Hillmount Garden Centre, Wednesday 10th June from 6.30pm.
Music fans can revel in music when Jan Carson performs her vibrant work with a musical response by Hannah McPhillimy, hosted by BBC NI Arts Extra presenter, Marie-Louise Muir. Blues aficionado and band manager Paul Charles’ career started when he took on his first group aged 15, and never looked back. The Magherafelt man is behind the popular Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy series and has also written on how to succeed in the music business. Meanwhile theatre lovers will enjoy performances of Brendan Behan’s The Confirmation Suit and Frank O’Connor’s Guest of the Nation by local actor Conor Maguire at Linenhall Library.
There’s plenty going on at Book Festival Extra – an extra chance to get up close and personal with fantastic authors outside of the Festival Week schedule. Award-winning French writer, Pierre Lemaitre, who will be in town on Friday 30th May from 7.00pm, shot to fame after Alex won the CWA International Dagger for best crime novel of 2013. There’s no admission for Pierre’s show, so come down to Crescent Arts Centre early!
Book Festival Extra continues with Irish journalist and playwright Mary Kenny, who will talk about a lifetime dedicated to campaigning for women’s rights, on Monday 16th June from 8.00pm.
Prolific broadcast writer and novelist, Liz Nugent, visits the Crescent Arts Centre on June 18 to talk about her years of scriptwriting and the best-selling Unravelling Oliver, a shocking thriller about Oliver, a man who savagely beats his wife into a coma and delves into an unsettling exploration of his mind.
There will also be two great opportunities to see The Bookseller of Belfast, a highly acclaimed documentary about the former bookseller John Clancy and the different lives he encountered as he made his way through the pages of his vast stock of unsold books, and throughout the streets of Belfast.
Ex-Labour cabinet minister, Alan Johnson, with his memoir, This Boy, a heart-wrenching account of growing up in poverty in post-war London. It recently won the RSL Ondaatje Prize, which recognises the best evocative and emotional writing in fiction, non-fiction or poetry. In conversation with BBC NI’s Noel Thompson, Crescent Arts Centre, Sunday 15th June, from 1pm. £8/£6
Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, discussing her life after politics as a novelist. Ann has published four fiction works which show her as a compassionate writer. Crescent Arts Centre, Sunday 15th June, 8pm. £8/£6
Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly, bagman for the Irish rugby team for almost 20 years, with his book, Rala: A Life in Rugby, which features anecdotes from Brian O’Driscoll, Keith Wood and Paul O’Connell. Methodist College Belfast, Thursday 19th June, 7.30pm. £8/£6.
Russia Today business experts, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbet, will both be in conversation with Independent and former Daily Mail investment columnist, Mitch Feierstein.
Crime writer Pierre Lemaitre was awarded the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary prize, for Au revoir là-haut, a World War I epic. Alex, which scooped the CWA International Dagger for best crime novel of 2013, was his first work translated into English. Crescent Arts Centre, Friday 30th May. Free admission.
All events will offer audiences the chance to ask their favourite authors and personalities questions, along with signing sessions. For more information, the full programme and tickets, contact Crescent Arts Centre on 028 9024 2338 or visit www.belfastbookfestival.com.
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