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Newcastle's 'mini books festival' gets underway

Authors are gathering in Newcastle this week for Books on Tyne which is being held at the Lit & Phil and the City Library

Poet, performer and Journal columnist Kate Fox
Poet, performer and Journal columnist Kate Fox

Modestly billed as Newcastle’s “mini book festival”, Books on Tyne can boast some pretty big attractions.

Kate Adie’s talk at the Lit & Phil on Friday is sold out but there are still tickets for a range of events featuring the likes of David Almond, Michael Chaplin, Anne Cleeves, Harry Pearson and Journal columnist Kate Fox.

The modest approach is understandable. Last year’s more ambitious affair went pear-shaped when a publisher - no longer based in the North East - pulled out at the 11th hour, meaning many events were cancelled.

This year, not wishing to see the city lose its book festival, Newcastle Libraries and the Lit & Phil joined forces to stage Books on Tyne, deliberately focused largely on talent in the region.

“We are funding it ourselves,” says Anna Flowers, publications manager of Tyne Bridge Publishing, Newcastle Libraries’ book publishing wing.

“It is on a small scale but we are hoping to make it a big success.”

Tomorrow morning will see the launch of the latest Tyne Bridge publication, Lost Industries of the Tyne. Authors Alan Morgan, Ken Smith and Tom Yellowley will be in conversation in the City Library’s Bewick Hall at 11am.

The festival proper begins on Thursday evening with a launch event called Songs and Stories, featuring David Almond and songwriter Jack Arthurs. It is billed as a new collaboration celebrating the uplifting power of language, music and art.

A busy weekend follows with events in both the City Library and the Lit & Phil.


Newcastle writer and cultural historian Gail-Nina Anderson kicks things off at the library with a ‘virtual tour’ of Whitby.

No doubt there will be stuff about ice-creams and day trippers but Gail’s knowledge of all things Gothic and vampire-related is unsurpassed, as is her ability to tell a spine-tingling tale.

A talk by Faye Keegan, who is working on a PhD about Sunderland-born Mary Stewart, will bring back to mind the bestselling author of romantic and historical novels including The Moon-Spinners, which was made into a Disney film, and The Ivy Tree, which is the focus of Faye’s research.

Mary Stewart, who studied and taught at Durham University, is now 97 and lives in Edinburgh.

Media historian Chris Phipps, a contributor to Tyne Bridge’s recent 1980s book Sweet Dreams, will remember Channel 4’s landmark rock show The Tube in a session at the City Library.

At the Lit & Phil Michael Chaplin will talk about Tyne View, his book based on a walk he took with a painter, a poet and a photographer, and award-winning poet Jean Sprackland will discuss Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach, a book inspired by her walks on estuary beaches.


In the City Library you can hear storyteller Yvonne Young, aka Florrie the Housewife, talk about her second volume of real-life tales from folk who live in Newcastle’s West End.

Crime writers Ann Cleeves and Mari Hannah will discuss their work with Gail-Nina Anderson and Sarah Blunt, a radio producer with the BBC’s natural history unit, will talk about creating ‘sound pictures’ for radio in a presentation called Radio Postcards.

Northumberland poet Katrina Porteous will discuss radio as a medium for poets while publishers Peter Mortimer and Sheila Wakefield will offer some advice for writers keen to get into print.

Keith Jewitt will talk about Jesmond’s literary legacy and humorist and sports nut Harry Pearson will reflect on the changes football has undergone since he wrote his very funny book The Far Corner 20 years ago.

Ann Cleeves offers an interactive reworking of her detective story The Glass Room, inviting audience members to solve a crime.


Poet and performer Kate Fox, whose witty columns appear weekly in The Journal, will entertain at the City Library at 11.30am. No doubt she will read from her latest poetry collection, Fox Populi.

There will be a concurrent gathering of horror writers - Rod Glenn, Ricki Thomas and Tony Wright - and then Mari Hannah will be back in the hot seat, this time with Hazel Osmond, talking about Love and Crime on the Tyne.

Eight new Iron Press poets will entertain in the afternoon and they will be followed by three others published by Red Squirrel, Tom Kelly, Fiona Ritchie Walker and Andrew McMillan.

It’s a mini festival with some big personalities. It should be a lot of fun. For details, visit www.booksontyne.co.uk

On Thursday Kate Adie will give another talk about her new book in the Murray Library Lecture Theatre at Sunderland University, where she is an honorary professor of journalism. For tickets tel. 0191 5153169.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer