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Durham Book Festival returns for 2018 with the support of Durham University

(10 August 2018)

Durham Book Festival 2018

Durham University is delighted to announce its support for the 2018 Durham Book Festival. The annual literary event will feature a huge range of inspiring talks, readings and performances from some of the most talented contemporary writers, artists and thinkers.

The Festival is commissioned by Durham County Council and produced by New Writing North; and the University is a core funder alongside Arts Council England.

Festival Laureateship and highlights

Durham University is once again proud to sponsor the Festival Laureateship. This year’s Laureate, Jacob Polley, is regarded as one of the leading talents of the new generation of British poets.

As part of his Laureateship, Jacob will perform his extraordinary drama Lamanby, write a specially commissioned poem for the Festival, and appear at a special event for Durham University students.

The University will also be hosting numerous events and exhibitions, and many University researchers will be speaking at the Festival, either about their own work or that of other authors and thinkers. 

The Festival will take place between 5 - 14 October and tickets are on sale now.

Headline guests this year include Sarah Waters, David Olusoga, Sarah Perry, Pat Barker, Alan Johnson, and returning former Festival Laureates Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage.

Durham University plays its part

Professor Stuart Corbridge, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “The Festival is a very important way for Durham University to celebrate our place within the local community, through our spaces, our people and our shared interests and values.

“I am especially glad this year to see the University’s Scottish Soldiers exhibition, Bodies of Evidence, at the heart of the programme, and to see the continuation of the long association between the Festival and poetry in Durham.”

A particular Festival highlight will be an evening talk at the Gala Theatre by one of the UK’s best-loved authors, Sarah Waters. Sarah’s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Little Stranger is this year’s Durham Book Festival Big Read, and the Festival will distribute 3,000 free copies of the book throughout County Durham to schools, libraries, prisons, businesses, and to University staff and students.

Professor Simon James, from the Department of English Studies, said: “Durham Book Festival is one of my favourite times of the year. I always look forward to seeing the University, the County and visitors to the region celebrating together the power of the written, and the spoken (and this year, the illustrated) word, and the joy of reading.

“As a fan of classic ghost stories, I’m delighted that Sarah Waters’s modern twist on the genre, The Little Stranger, has been selected as this year’s Big Read - it’s a fabulous novel and it’s great that Durham will be reading it in the run-up to the Festival, and to the author’s appearance at the Festival.”

What to look out for

The packed programme will include a diverse roster of speakers, genres and events.

Dr Eleanor Spencer-Regan, from the Department of English Studies, will be chairing a discussion with author Susie Boyt about her novel Love & Fame.

Following a monologue on the theme of Living in the Age of Anxiety by Durham-born writer Tamsin Daisy Rees, Caroline Dower, Head of the Durham University Counselling Service, and a panel of experts will discuss issues relating to mental health and young people.

Caroline will also be chairing a talk on comedian and science presenter Robin Ince’s new book, I’m a Joke and So Are You.

Dr Jennifer Luff, from the Department of History, will chair The World Above, a discussion on the mining communities of the past, and how its decimation impacts the future for the women and girls today.

Dr Fadia Faqir, Writing Fellow at St Aidan's College, will chair a Creative Exchange based on the experiences and writing of award-winning poet Linda France and Jordanian author, playwright, and screenplay writer Mefleh Al-Adwan.

Professor Stephen Regan, from the Department of English Studies, will introduce Festival Laureate, Jacob Polley, as he performs his extraordinary drama Lamanby.

Palace Green Library will play host to a number of events including Civil Insolencies with Bob Beagrie, the Literary Letters of AJ Pearce and Anne Youngson, and a celebration of a collection of short stories by Julia Darling entitled Purl.

Other highlights include an exclusive publisher’s preview event by Faber & Faber, an evening with Peter James and a discussion entitled Swimming outside the Lines with authors Jessica Hepburn and Libby Page. Professor Dame Sue Black, one of the world’s leading forensic anthropologists, will discuss her book All That Remains: A Life in Death, and Guardian political cartoonist Steve Bell will present his collection of cartoons on the rise and rise of Jeremy Corbyn.

Dr Eleanor Baraclough, from the Department of History, will chair a discussion on Bloody Brilliant Women: The Unsung Heroines Who Made 20th Century Britain, a new book by journalist Cathy Newman.

Professor Simon James, from the Department of English Studies, will be chairing two events during the Festival. The first will be a discussion of Claire Harman’s Murder by the Book: The Crime that Shocked Victorian Literary London. The second will be with Sarah Perry, as she talks about her new novel, Melmoth.

Professor Jonathan Long, from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, will host The Art of Translation, a discussion with a trio of international writers including Durham University’s Professor Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze.

Damian Le Bas will discuss The Stopping Places, an enthralling account of what it means to be a Gypsy in Britain today, and the chairperson will be Dr Alex Barber, from the Department of History. Alex will also be hosting a separate event discussing The Most Dangerous Books in the World.

Professor Charlotte Roberts and Professor Chris Gerrard, from the Department of Archaeology, will reveal the tragic fate of a cohort of Scottish Soldiers, who died in Durham following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. The event will mark the conclusion of the Bodies of Evidence exhibition at Palace Green Library.

Helena Habibi, a postgraduate research student in the Department of English Studies, will introduce award-winning poet, and former Durham Book Festival Laureate, Simon Armitage for an intimate reading in the beautiful setting of St Chad’s College Chapel.

Durham University Foundation Centre will be hosting Poetry Pop Ups – relaxed and friendly spaces where you can share, read, or write poems. The Pop Ups will be held in a range of cultural spaces in and around Durham.

Professor Douglas Davies, from the Department of Theology and Religion, will chair an event to discuss Kathryn Mannix’s book, With the End in Mind, which explores one of the biggest taboos in our society and the only certainty we all share: death.

Also involved are Dr Sarah Wootton, Dr Emily Thomas, Professor Michael O’Neill, Assistant Keeper in the University Library Francis Gotto, and PhD student Sophie Franklin.

Other University venues and Departments participating in this year’s Festival include the Durham University Centre for Poetry and Poetics and the Oriental Museum.

For more information, and to buy tickets, please visit

Related links

2018 Durham Book Festival

New Writing North

Durham County Council

Arts Council England

Department of English Studies

Department of History

Department of Archaeology

Palace Green Library

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