Shropshire Star

Wolverhampton Literature Festival judged a fun success by all involved

Performers, presenters, organisers and city leaders have all spoken about the great success of the latest edition of an annual literature festival.

There were big crowds at many of the events over the weekend

The 2023 Wolverhampton Literature Festival brought people to venues across the city at the weekend to hear poetry, try Bhangra fitness, create their own Shakespearean insults and hear talks from big names in the literary world.

Taking place between Friday, February 3, and Sunday, February 5, there were more than 60 events taking place, with venues including Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Arena Theatre, Newhampton Arts Centre and Mander Community Hub among those hosting events.

Performers including comedians Richard Herring and Robin Ince, TV writer and actress Emma Kennedy and novelist Irvine Welsh were among those who graced the stages to talk about their new books and their creative passions.

For Richard Herring, Wolverhampton was somewhere he loved to play and had enjoyed the setting of the Georgian Rooms at the Art Gallery.

Richard Herring said he loved coming to Wolverhampton and enjoyed playing the Georgian Room

He said: "It was fantastic to come here and play the festival as I love Wolverhampton and love taking the p*** out of it, but I do enjoy coming here.

"I've played gigs in a lot of different sized venues over the years, usually playing at the Slade Rooms, but it was nice to come back here after three years and I was very surprised about the room we were in, but it was nice to be surrounded by art.

"I like coming back to the festival as I love the set-up and I love coming back to a place where it's the same people coming to see me, so it was nice to be asked to come here and it was a really good audience as well."

Emma Kennedy was smarting from seeing her football team Liverpool lose 3-0 to Wolves the day before her appearance, but said it had been lovely to appear at the festival.

Emma Kennedy spoke warmly about her appearance at the festival, saying the response had been lovely

She said: "The event and the room was really lovely and I thought everyone was really receptive and engaged and it was interesting to talk to people afterwards about their situations and they really wanted to tell me their stories.

"What I think is really important is for regions outside of London that are really strong, creative hubs have the people who are creating all able to gather in one place and I'm a big fan of literary festivals.

"I will go anywhere to go and talk to people about books and I think this festival is absolutely brilliant, really well run and engaging, with everyone involved being really fantastic and it was a pleasure to be here."

Robin Ince has been a regular visitor to the festival and to the city and said he liked the fact that the festival was a celebration of local authors, as well as Wolverhampton Art Gallery having a great collection of pop art.

Robin Ince said he always loved playing Wolverhampton and had enjoyed his event

He said: "I remember being told about it by Phil Turner from Wolverhampton Council when I was backstage at the Civic Hall and I could see the excitement about it then.

"Yes, there are some big and glamorous festivals, but I don't find them as interesting as these festivals, which are just an intense weekend with lots of local authors and it's a celebration of the writers in the city.

"Also, Wolverhampton Art Gallery has a great pop art collection, which I love to come and see, and people aren't being snotty, so I really like Wolverhampton and the Midlands and like to come here on tour as much as I can."

Irvine Welsh was the headliner of the festival, appearing on Sunday evening and being interviewed by Robin Ince. The Trainspotting author said he hadn't heard of the festival before, but said the more festivals a city could have, the better.

Irvine Welsh said it was important for cities like Wolverhampton to have literature festivals

He said: "I think the more festivals a city like Wolverhampton can have, the better and the more music, art and literature events it can have means it can be better for the social side of things.

"I noticed there was a session here where local writers were involved in doing things and I think it's great to see that and to see people getting involved.

"It's great to be here as when you write a book, it's such a lonely endeavour and you don't have any concept of who is reading until you get here, so you get to see who your people are and it's nice to make that connection."

While performers have been the reason for people to attend events, the events themselves have run smoothly thanks to the people presenting, such as Mark Cartwright.

Mark, who performs as GingerBeardMark and hosts a podcast with the same name, hosted three of the Q&A's from the weekend with Richard Herring, Emma Kennedy and Robin Ince and said it had been a fun experience to be part of the festival.

GingerBeardMark (L) said it has been a dream job to interview the likes of Emma Kennedy and Robin Ince. Photo: Wolverhampton Council

He said: "I'm a fan of these people anyway, so to get the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with them has been fun and is something of a dream gig.

"The reaction from people has been amazing as well and I love the fact that we have this festival and and we're in a city that does festivals like this as you hear people say 'Why don't we have things like this?' and I can say, well it does.

"Everyone I've met and who have come up to me afterwards have been really lovely people and really excited about the authors so, yes, it's been great."

The festival has been a constant on the Wolverhampton Council calendar for seven years, with people such as Georgina Cheung helping to make it run smoothly, and she said she felt the latest edition had been a great success.

Wolverhampton Council said the festival had been a great success and it was already looking at bigger and better events for 2024

She said: "We've had so many people through the doors and so many sold out events and I think it's been an excellent festival.

"I think what makes the festival special is because it's a chance for us to bring big names to Wolverhampton and also bring all the local creative community together over a weekend to showcase what Wolverhampton is all about.

"It celebrates everything that is artistic and cultural within the city and and we're already planning for next year and bringing in bigger names and more local writers to give opportunities for people across Wolverhampton to share their skills."

Councillor Stephen Simkins, Wolverhampton Council's deputy leader and cabinet member for city economy, attended several events during the weekend and added his own voice to the success of the festival.

He said: “What an amazing weekend of inspiring talks, laughter and literary fun. It was great to see so much joy and enthusiasm for the arts from everyone that attended the festival.

“Now in its seventh year, the festival goes from strength to strength, and I’d like to say a big thank you to our headliners, local poets, authors, storytellers and more for taking part this year, plus everyone behind the scenes who makes it happen.

“The Wolverhampton Literature Festival is part of our events strategy and is a great asset to the city, bringing acts and visitors from far and wide, showcasing Wolverhampton and boosting our local economy.”