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Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2017’s City of Literature Weekend

The 2017 City of Literature Weekend is taking place in the gloriously decadent Adnams Spiegeltent! We’ve had some very famous literary visitors at festivals past, and this summer’s will be no exception. Check out the line-up below, then head to the Information Store to find some of their greatest books:

Christopher Columbus is credited with the “discovery” of America, but poet John Agard is committed to setting the record straight. His show “Roll Over Atlantic” retells the story of Columbus’ voyage to Cuba and Haiti, and the native people he trafficked and enslaved. Columbus’ own accounts are highly disturbing, and while he was eventually arrested and sent back to Spain, he created a demand for slaves that sparked the transatlantic slave trade.  Agard uses music and his own voice to highlight the link between historical colonialism and modern-day racial inequality. No Hickory, No Dickory, No Dock (BOOK ZONE 398.8 AGA) is a collection of Caribbean nursery rhymes, plus some traditional English rhymes rewritten by John Agard. His poem Flag is featured in the GSCE Poetry Anthology Conflict.


John Agard made the Carnegie Longlist in 2016- read about his book, called Book, here

Alison Weir visited Norwich last year to announce her plan to write six novels about the six wives of Tudor King Henry VIII. She will return on 28th May with her latest book The King’s Obsession, which stars wife number 2, Queen Anne Boleyn. Anne was executed on charges of witchcraft, incest, adultery and espionage, but she was almost certainly innocent- her only real “crime” was her failure to produce a male heir. Weir is a historian, and unlikely to devote many pages to Tudor conspiracy theories (like this one about Anne’s extra finger!) Anne’s life was so fraught with danger and deceit that it hardly needs to be embellished. If you’d like to find out more about the women of the Tudor dynasty, try Alison’s non-fiction books Elizabeth the Queen (BOOK ZONE 942.055092 WEI) and The Children of England (BOOK ZONE 942.05 WEI) Elizabeth I was Anne Boleyn’s only surviving child, and she ruled for 44 years- 6 years longer than her father.


We know the story of Anne Boleyn’s tragic beheading- but what of the events that led up to her death?

Will Self’s upcoming novel Phone is the final part of a trilogy which began in 2012 with his novel Umbrella (BOOK ZONE 823.92 SEL). Audrey De’Ath contracted encephalitis lethargica- known as “sleepy sickness”– in a WWI munitions factory, and remained asleep for over fifty years. When she is revived by an experimental psychedelic drug, she tries to trace her brothers: Stan De’Ath, who was last seen on the Western Front, and Albert De’Ath, an ambitious manufacturer with Asperger’s Syndrome. Phone tells the story of another De’Ath, Jonathan, who is secretly dating a married army Colonel. Like Umbrella, it contains no punctuation, capitalisation or paragraphs! Phone isn’t due to be released till 1st June, but you can snag a copy at the Playhouse on 16th May.


Will Self reads from his short story collection Liver 

Three female authors will enter the tent to discuss sex and sexuality on 23rd May. Among them is Sarah Hall, who was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004 for The Electric Michelangelo (BOOK ZONE 823.92 HAL). Hall’s male protagonist Cy is outmatched by Grace, a circus performer who wants to tattoo her whole body with eyes to teach her audience how it feels to be gawked at! At the end of his career, after years of drawing half-naked mermaids and hula girls onto burly male biceps, Cy is approached by an 18 year old girl looking for an apprenticeship. Will he take her on? Hall’s 2007 novel The Carhullan Army (sometimes titled Daughters of the North) is one of Victoria’s favourites- imagine The Handmaid’s Tale with more same sex relationships and even more violent resistance! Hall’s fellow panellists are Eimear McBride, who had her first novel published by Norwich indie Galley Beggar, and who can be seen in this film set in Norwich city centre; and Megan Bradbury, who is a UEA Creative Writing graduate and Escalator participant. Watch her read from her debut Everyone is Watching here.


The Electric Michelangelo sets up shop amongst the colourful rides and sideshows on Coney Island

In the 1970s the BBC commissioned a documentary series about art history called Civilisation. Although the series was subtitled “A Personal View”, art critic and painter John Berger took offense at presenter Kenneth Clark’s decision to feature only male, European artists. The BBC asked him to make a series in response, and the accompanying book, Ways of Seeing, will celebrate its 45th birthday in the Adnams Spiegeltent! Berger sadly passed away this year at the age of 90, but his book is still considered essential reading for any art or photography student. His chapter on the naked female body is particularly sobering: only one out of the thirty ‘classic’ paintings Berger surveyed showed its subject “as herself”, rather than as a target for male desire. Berger’s commentary informed the way we look at sexist advertising and condemned the likes of Clark for glorifying male artists while ignoring their female contemporaries. The Guerilla Girls fought the same fight in the 80s- do you think museums and galleries do enough to ensure gender parity in 2017?


“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting ‘Vanity’”– Ways of Seeing, John Berger 1926-2017

Lewis Dartnell’s dreams came true last week when NASA announced that they had found three habitable planets just 39 light years away (that’s 227 trillion miles to you and I!) Dartnell is an expert on aliens- in his first book Life in the Universe: A Beginner’s Guide (BOOK ZONE 576.839 DAR) he describes how creatures adapt to life inside volcanos or miles below the sea. This helps us to imagine the kinds of life that might exist on other planets in far-off solar systems. Dartnell will have just fifteen minutes to discuss all this when he visits Norwich on 27th May. He will be participating in 5×15, a show comprised of fifteen minute long, unscripted speeches by leaders in various fields. You can watch hundreds of past talks on the 5×15 website, from subjects like anxiety, burlesque and immigration to Roman history, taxidermy and children’s literature.


Lewis delivered a TED Talk in 2015- you can watch it here

Jon McGregor is one of The Guardian’s top ten writers to watch live, so we recommend you check him out on 27th May. His interactive show relies on mobile devices, so keep your phones and tablets switched on and fully charged! McGregor’s first novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (NORFOLK HOUSE 823.92 MAC) and his latest novel Reservoir 13 are both about community. In If…, life on a street in Bradford carries on after “a terrible day”, and in Reservoir 13, a village comes together to try and find a missing teenage tourist. He has appeared in Norwich before alongside Sarah Hall- listen to their discussion here.


There are still opportunities to volunteer at NNF 2017 and even appear on stage in some of the shows! Find out more here.

Have you taken part in the NNF before? Share you experiences over on Facebook and Twitter.






Cibot, E (1835) Anne de Boleyn à la Tour de Londres, dans les premiers moments de son arrestation Available at: (Accessed on: 28 February 2017)

drpavloff (2013) Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2013, Coney Island Smile Available at: (Accessed on: 28 February 2017)

Espinosa, A (2013) John Berger for PIFAL Available at: (Accessed on: 28 February 2017)

rudy0help (2012) John Agard in Southampton Available at: (Accessed on: 28 February 2017)

Shetland Arts (2008) Will Self Available at: (Accessed on: 28 February 2017)

TED Conference (2015) TED2015_031915_1BH3454_1920 Available at: (Accessed on: 28 February 2017)


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