For the last few years Belfast Book Festival has been one of my favourite weeks in the calendar. I usually plot my route from Monday to Sunday early on, pack a rucksack full of provisions to sustain me, (cereal bars, Raymond Carver and walking shoes for hightailing it between venues), and then attempt to make it to as many readings as I can possible squash into one slim week. (Last year I peaked at 13 before running out of steam and resorting to spending the rest of the weekend on the couch in front of Inspector Morse re-runs).
This morning it was a real treat to be part of the launch of Belfast Book Festival 2014 at the Crescent Arts Centre. I’ve included a few quick snaps from the launch here and am particularly enamoured with the beautiful graphics on the new brochure, (please note the teeny tiny, perfectly formed icon of the Ulster Hall on the front cover. I was impressed before I even opened the programme). As part of the launch festivities Hannah McPhillimy and I got to eat free pastries and debut some of the music and words we’ve prepared for our Book Festival “gig” (Disappear Here Tuesday 10th June, 9pm, The Black Box). It was the first time I’d been able to read from an actual physical copy of Malcolm Orange Disappears and while it was slightly traumatic breaking the novel’s spine in front of a live audience, reading from a real book with flippable pages and proper paragraphs was infinitely preferable to shuffling through the photocopied sheets and post-its I’ve been using up to this point. It was also my first time performing with a fellow artist and, I have to say, the very fact that at any point in proceedings I could turn to my right and see a smiling, familiar face in exactly the same position as myself, made it one of the most enjoyable, relaxed readings I’ve ever given. Afterwards, while posing for awkward pictures with ukuleles and giant scrabble letters, Hannah and I involuntarily turned to each other at exactly the same time and said, “that was a lot of fun,” and it really was. Having a partner in collaboration is one of the best creative experiences I’ve ever had. We’re both very excited about putting the finishing touches to Disappear Here over the next few weeks and sharing it with you next month.
The Belfast Book Festival programme is pretty impressive this year. Keith Acheson deserves credit for putting together a marvellous, and extensive, line up of great writers, fantastic workshops and wonderful events. There really is something for everyone here and 30% of all the events are free. My own personal highlights are going to be Joseph O’Connor, amazing short story writers Colin Barrett, (of Young Skins fame), and Claire Keegan, local legend Michael Nolan’s book launch, and poetry from Paul Muldoon. Then there’s a great selection of Literary Lunchtimes at the Ulster Hall and some brilliant events for kids and families. For full listings check out the website at http://www.belfastbookfestival.com Book your tickets early for there’s nothing that warms an event programmer’s heart like a pre-booked ticket and then start packing your rucksack for a fantastic week of bookishness.