“Why has there never been a Leeds book festival?” Was the question asked by Leeds author Anthony Clavane at one of his events in 2011, and echoed by many others.
Several of the now Big Bookend team were at that event and were inspired to take up the challenge and try to bring such a festival to Leeds. In 2012 we did just that. Over 400 people came to see 15 authors including the world renowned, Joanne Harris, talk about their lives, experiences and passion for the written and spoken word.
In June 2013, our Rock Festival for Words was bigger and better. We had writers, poets, authors, story tellers and performers taking part in the festival in different venues across Leeds, with over 600 people attending our events. Our headliner was the UK’s greatest poet, Leeds born Tony Harrison.
In 2014, for the first time ever, we received Arts Council funding which enabled us to provide not only a main programme but more events for children and a programme aimed specifically at young people. We had over 60 writers, authors, poets, performers and artists taking part and we attracted nearly 1500 people to the festival. Our head line author was the legendary Alan Bennett.
2015 is the year we mapped Leeds. What is Leeds? we asked. A place defined by its history, by the stories we recount and the events that have been played out on its streets? A place defined by its future, by new writers with visions of how our city should be shaped? A gateway to the world, a place where people from many different cultures live and work side by side? Perhaps it’s all three – and many other things too. This year the Leeds Big Bookend Festival became a living map of the city.
There were inner journeys to explore in the première performance of Drink with a Chimp, and you partied there with us too at our festival launch. There was an A-Z of Leeds’ people and places with Chris Nickson and Frances Brody. There were literary rambles to take with AJ Kirby, Richard Smyth and Zodwa Nyoni. We looked outwards too. Sunjeev Sahota discussed his latest book, The Year of the Runaways. Max Farrar tackled the thorny subject of how we understand Islamism and terrorism, while Jemimah Steinfeld examined the sexual and cultural revolution taking place in China. Philippa Lester and Diane Saunders brought us back home to discover the stories of Jewish immigrants to the city. We had workshops with SJ Bradley and Chris Tutton, poetry events including the Black Horse Poets, and The Index on Censorship Big Debate.
If you came along to any of our events, thank you. We hope you have great memories and will continue to support the Leeds Big Bookend.