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Writing workshops, comedy, poetry, trains, quizzes, graphic novels, football and Michael Portillo. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

This pleasantly surreal mixture of fact, fiction and fun is part of the diverse offering at York Literature Festival, which proudly boasts a roster of high profile names, first-timers and ‘something for everybody’.

For full details see our What’s On guide.

York Literature Festival

Across the city

Mar 10-23, 2016

All the events

In the meantime, here are a few selected excerpts we think you’ll enjoy.

Star names

Michael Portillo

Michael Portillo steams in to York to give a talk at the NRM
Michael Portillo steams in to York to give a talk at the NRM

National Railway Museum, Leeman Road

Fri Mar 11, 8-9.30pm

£18.50 plus booking fee

Michael Portillo is best known for losing his parliamentary seat in 1997. But, in the years since, he has built a new career as a writer, broadcaster and train buff, all of which he’s discussing at the National Railway Museum (in between staring lovingly at the locos).

At the end of his talk, the audience can ask questions about his life and career.

Val McDermid

St Peter’s School, Clifton

Sun Mar 13, 7-8.30pm

£10

Val McDermid is one of the biggest names in crime writing. Her novels have been translated into 30 languages, selling over 10 million copies worldwide.

She’s in conversation with festival director Miles Salter, talking about her 27 novels, short stories, non-fiction and prize-winning children’s book.

Arthur Smith

Grand Opera House, Cumberland Street

Sat Mar 12, 7.30-10pm

£19.90 plus £4 booking fee

Wit, raconteur, playwright, grumpy old man and Leonard Cohen fan Arthur Smith talks about his life as a former road sweeper, dustman, market researcher, teacher and walking advertisement (he dressed up as a fox to sell chicken burgers) and the meaning of life.

His support is writer, Private Eye cartoonist and performer Mike Barfield

Margaret Drabble

St Peter’s School, Clifton

Tue Mar 15, 7-8.30pm

£7

Educated at The Mount School in York, Dame Margaret Drabble has gone on to become one of the UK’s leading literary writers.

She’s in conversation with Jo Lawrence, head of English at St Peter’s.

Wendy Cope

Poet Wendy Cope heads to York Grand Opera House to talk about her literary life
Poet Wendy Cope heads to York Grand Opera House to talk about her literary life

Grand Opera House, Cumberland Street

Sat Mar 12, 3-4.30pm

£11.90 plus £4 booking fee

She started her career Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis in 1986 and has since become a leading light of the British poetry scene.

Expect ruminations on love, loss, women bishops and The Archers.

John O’Farrell

St Peter’s School, Clifton

Thu Mar 17, 7-8.30pm

£7 including refreshments

It’s 2022 (doesn’t time fly?) and England’s unbeatable national football team has reached the final of the Qatar World Cup. But one journalist is convinced there’s a scandalous secret behind England’s incredible form.

John O’Farrell discusses his latest book There’s Only Two David Beckhams – A Football Fantasy.

Vince Cable

St Peter’s School, Clifton

Fri Mar 18, 7-8.30pm

£7 including refreshments

York-born Sir Vince Cable, who was at the heart of the coalition government, provides a fascinating insight into the state of UK politics and economics.

His new book, After the Storm, provides a previously unreported inside view of the coalition, and offers a carefully considered perspective on how the British economy should be managed in the future.

Poetry

York Literature Festival / YorkMix Poetry Competition

Carole Bromley reading at the poetry prize night in 2014
Carole Bromley reading at the poetry prize night in 2014

Black Swan, Peasholme Green

Sat Mar 19, 3.30-5.30pm

Free, no need to book

We don’t usually like to blow our own trumpet but we feel we must give a quick parp to mark the fourth York Literature Festival / YorkMix Poetry Competition which, in just four years, has grown into a major literary event, attracting some of the biggest names in poetry among hundreds of entrants.

Winning and commended poets will be reading their own entries. Judge Carole Bromley will present the winner with the £500 first prize, and will also be reading a selection from her brilliant new collection The Stonegate Devil.

Yorkshire Poetry Special

Black Swan, Peasholme Green

Wed Mar 23, 8-10.30pm

£4 including buffet

Celebrate the end of the 2016 festival with a line-up of spoken word talent compered by poet and comedian Kate Fox.

Among the many poetic performers are Ben Wilkinson, whose collection For Real won the 2014 Poetry Business Competition; Peter Knaggs, editor of Hull poetry journal The Slab; and Helen Mort, described as ‘the new star of British poetry’ by the Daily Telegraph.

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Comedy & Fun

Dave and Miles’ Rumbustuous Book Quiz

Festival director Miles Salter and YorkMix's very own Dave Nicholson get quizzical (and maybe a tiny bit tipsy)
Festival director Miles Salter and YorkMix’s very own Dave Nicholson get quizzical (and maybe a tiny bit tipsy)

City Screen Basement Bar, Coney Street

Wed Mar 16, 8-10pm

£3

Test your knowledge of literature, poetry and everything else comperes Dave Nicholson (of YorkMix fame) and festival director Miles Salter can think of.

The winning team will walk away with £80 worth of book tokens.

Right Here, Write Now

Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate

Fri Mar 11, 7.30-9pm

£5

York’s top improvisers indulge in a mix of ridiculous games and comedic chaos, whipped into shape (we think it’s a rhomboid) by host Paul Birch.

There are games, off-the-cuff silliness and some seriously good laughs. There is, however, no script and no safety net.

Writing Comedy: The Art of Stand-Up

Temple Hall, York St John University

Mon Mar 14, 7-8.30pm

Free

Comedians Sebastian Bloomfield, Richard Massara and Alasdair Beckett-King perform their stand-up then discuss the comedy writing process during a Q&A.

Geeky

York St John Con

Dynamic duo Bryan and Mary Talbot talk about their powerhouse careers in the world of graphic novels
Dynamic duo Bryan and Mary Talbot talk about their powerhouse careers in the world of graphic novels

Temple Hall, York St John University

Sat Mar 12, 10am-10pm

Free

Enjoy a whole day of full-on geeky fun with comics, video and board games, graphic novels and other sequential art, including talks, workshops and stalls.

Among the highlights are a zine workshop (11am-noon) led by writer, artist and creator CJ (in collaboration with Travelling Man); a video games and story roundtable discussion (2-4pm) led by game designer and novelist Gabrielle Kent and game designer and theatre maker Hannah Nicklin; and a keynote event with illustrator and writer Bryan Talbot and writer and academic Mary Talbot, together acclaimed as ‘true powerhouses of the British graphic novel scene’.

Sci-Fi Workshop

York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk

Wednesday March 16, 2-4pm

Free

Join renowned science fiction author Adam Roberts for a writing workshop and discover the secrets of the genre.

Children

Bedtime Story

Alaska the dog takes the lead in Mini Custard's theatre production for children
Alaska the dog takes the lead in Mini Custard’s theatre production for children

Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate

Sat Mar 12, 4-4.45pm

£4.50 (accompanying adults free)

Mini Custard children’s theatre tells the tale of Peter, his dog Alaska and their cantankerous travel machine in this interactive story session for 3-6 year olds.

Hoglets

Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate

Sat Mar 12, 10-10.50am

£4.50 (accompanying adults free)

This is an exciting voyage across the seven seas for children aged 2-5 (they’ll be fine with their waterwings on).

Mama Hoglet tells the classic tale The Night Pirates followed by a pirate training course with songs, games, drama and crafts (pirates love a bit of glittering and gluing).

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Tanya Landman

St Peter’s School, Clifton

Mon Mar 14, 6.30-7.30pm

Free

What kind of girl steals the clothes from a dead man’s back and runs off to join the army? A desperate one.

Tanya Landman tells her story in Buffalo Soldier, for which she won the CILIP Carnegie Medal, at an event suitable for school groups and young people aged 14+.

Family Day

York Explore Library, Museum Street

Sun Mar 20, 11am-4pm

£3

Author events celebrate the wealth and breadth of York talent with, among others, illustrators Ros Beardshaw and Sam Zuppardi and ‘The Poetry Bloke’ Craig Bradley.

Getting published

You've done the hard bit – the writing. Now for the sell…
You’ve done the hard bit – the writing. Now for the sell…

We’re not in Kansas Anymore

King’s Manor, Exhibition Square

Mon Mar 14, 10am-noon

£8

The Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York hosts a ‘world building’ workshop on how to write scenes, create locations and describe imaginative worlds.

It’s led by creative writing teacher Rob O’Connor.

How Not To Submit Your Manuscript

Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate

Sat Mar 12, noon-2pm

£25

Written a book but not sure how to get it published? Join the queue to pick the brains of leading literary agents Sam Copeland, Sallyanne Sweeney and Jo Unwin.

They’re offering advice on how to put together a well-crafted submission package and how to avoid common mistakes. There’s also a Q&A session.

From Ideas To Publication

Bennett’s Café, High Petergate

Sat Mar 12, 10.30am-noon

Free

York Novelists talk about the methods they’ve developed as a writing critique group, transforming ideas into the printed word, followed by readings and a Q&A.

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