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Celebrated writers head for region in Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts

Penelope Lively and Frank Cottrell Boyce are among those signed up for the spring season of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts

Poet Gwyneth Lewis
Poet Gwyneth Lewis

Some of Britain’s most celebrated writers have been lined up for the spring season of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.

They include Dame Penelope Lively, who has won both the Booker Prize and the Carnegie Medal for children’s literature, Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and Frank Cottrell Boyce who wrote the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

The Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA) was established at Newcastle University in 2009 with the principal aim of contributing to North East cultural life by organising readings, discussions and debates related to creative writing.

The spring season, introduced by NCLA director Prof Linda Anderson, starts on February 6 with the launch of a new collection of poems by Douglas Dunn.

The distinguished Scottish poet once worked at the library of Hull University with Philip Larkin and in December was announced as the latest recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

His reading at Newcastle University will coincide with the launch of a new poetry anthology published in association with Northumberland-based Bloodaxe Books on the subject of ageing, to which he is a contributor.

Don’t Bring Me No Rocking Chair is edited by John Halliday and includes contributions from Shakespeare’s time to the present day. Other contributors will also be present at the launch.

Penelope Lively, who won the Booker Prize with Moon Tiger in 1987 and the Carnegie Medal for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe in 1973, will be in Newcastle on May 1 to discuss her latest book, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, which is subtitled A Life in Time and draws on a lifetime of reading and writing.

It is, says Linda Anderson, a “beautiful book” representing “the view from old age”.

Following on the heels of Douglas Dunn, on February 7, will be an appearance by American poet Timothy Donnelly whose last collection was the award-winning The Cloud Corporation.

Then, on February 20, comes an evening of crime at Northern Stage featuring Val McDermid in conversation with fellow novelists Denise Mina and Louise Welsh.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, another Carnegie Medal winner (for Millions, published in 2004), will deliver this year’s Fickling Lecture in the university’s Curtis Auditorium on February 27. Bound to be entertaining, for he is as good a talker as a writer, his chosen subject is a question: What’s in your head?

Michael Chaplin will talk about his contribution to a major BBC drama project in Writing The Great War on March 13. The Tyneside writer is one of a team working on Tommies, a Radio 4 series following the course of the First World War over a four-year period.

This year’s series of three Bloodaxe lectures will be delivered by Gwyneth Lewis, who was appointed the inaugural National Poet of Wales back in 2005, under the heading Quantum Poetics.

Scheduled for March 19 and 20 and 26 (with a reading on March 27), this is, writes Linda Anderson, more evidence that NCLA’s partnership with Bloodaxe Books “goes from strength to strength”.

Newcastle University recently bought the Bloodaxe archive which contains a wealth of literary material.

The lectures, combined with an event for World Poetry Day on March 21 featuring poets Colette Bryce, Zaffar Kunial and Ahren Warner, constitute “a mini poetry festival”, adds Linda.

The season closes on a high with Malorie Blackman in conversation with Jackie Kay on May 15 at Northern Stage and Tim Winton reading and talking about his work at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab on May 28. Blackman is a hugely successful writer of teenage fiction, including Noughts & Crosses, Knife Edge and Check Mate.

Winton is one of Australia’s best-known writers. His new novel, Eyrie, featuring Tom Keely, an idealist fallen on hard times, has been described as “a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting”.

The new NCLA season also includes a series called First Thursdays, lunchtime readings in the university’s Percy Building on the first Thursday of each month.

Find details of all NCLA events in the new programme or online at www.ncl.ac.uk/ncla

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