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Trumpet by Jackie Kay

Review by Sarah Clouston 

Jackie Kay’s novel Trumpet (1998) takes place in the aftermath of jazz musician Joss Moody’s death.[1] Set in both London in 1997 and Glasgow’s music scene in the 1960s, it moves between the narrative of Joss’ life, and the events following his death. In a eulogistic style Kay’s narrative provides responses from several characters who knew Joss, with each providing different perspectives on his demise once his biological gender is revealed to be female. This revelation causes a media frenzy, and so Trumpet begins with his wife Millie, hiding from the paparazzi. The novel recognizes and explores the separation between a person’s biological gender and their identity. Joss’ adopted son Colman struggles to understand the news that his father was born biologically female and subsequently releases details about his father’s life to an unfeeling, self-serving journalist, Sophie Stones, who is ruthlessly seeking material for her forthcoming book. Meanwhile Joss’ wife, Millie, exhausted from the constant media attention, escapes to their Scottish seaside home to work through her grief alone. Colman ultimately decides to cancel the exposé on his father and finds some peace in accepting his father’s identity.

Jackie Kay Trumpet

Kay has stated that the novel is loosely based on the life of jazz musician Billy Tipton, who like the character of Joss, lived the majority of his adult life as male, yet was biologically born female. Individual cultural identity or heritage is a notable interest throughout Jackie Kay’s work and Trumpet articulates many of the themes prominent in her writing: identity, adoption, displacement, beginnings, and gender. Sex and gender are positioned through the private and public spheres in which the novel takes place. Different accounts of Joss are given from his wife, his son, a journalist, a fellow musician, a doctor, a registrar and an undertaker. These multiple perspectives allow Kay to present opinions from a varied number of narrators, including those who did not know Joss well, in order to consider the reception of transgender persons in British society. Eventually, most of Kay’s characters consider Joss’ sexuality to be separate from his gender and identity.

Joss poses challenges to normative conceptions of gender when a doctor and funeral director both struggle to categorize him on his death certificate. Kay suggests a need to expound the myth that gender and sexuality are co-dependent, using a distinctive jazz aesthetic throughout the novel as a platform to explore the fluidity of gender, suggesting that the creation of identity can be continuously remade and performed. During a solo Joss becomes ‘a girl. A man. Everything, nothing. He is sickness, health. The sun. The moon. Black, white. Nothing weighs him down. Not the past or the future. He hangs on to the high C and then he lets go’ (136).

Questions and concerns surrounding race are also central to Trumpet. Born to a black father and white mother, Joss is disapproved of by Millie’s mother. Joss’ song, ‘Fantasy Africa’ invokes the African diaspora and experiences of displacement. Joss claims, ‘Every black person has a fantasy Africa’, but believes that to visit ‘the real Africa’ would have a significant  ‘affect’ on his music (Trumpet, 34). Kay subsequently situates her readers within Black diasporic communities in twentieth-century Britain but, by connecting Joss’ heritage with jazz music, she suggests an improvisational approach towards identity. She reminds readers of Joss’ Scottishness in an attempt to recalibrate what it means to be Scottish, English, or Black British. Kay focuses not only on the issue of transphobia surrounding these characters, but also the impact of colonial histories within modern Britain.

Kay also explores the effects of adoption on the self, as Colman, struggling with his identity, feels that he doesn’t belong to either Joss, Millie, his birthparents, Scotland or England. Colman subsequently seeks company in the tabloid journalist Sophie Stones, who can only offer insult to both Colman and his father. Meanwhile, his struggles with identity are compounded by similar attempts to understand his own masculinity. Irene Rose identifies Trumpet as a ‘resolutely post-patriarchal display of multiplicity of masculinities’.[2] Joss’ anatomy complicates Colman’s understanding of what masculinity should look like, but in his final acceptance of reading his father’s letter we are presented with how alternative masculinities may be expressed. Importantly, the letter between father and son is the first time Joss is afforded a narrative voice in Trumpet. Kay’s novel ends with a positive, openminded vision for countering social injustice as Joss tells Colman, ‘You will be my father telling my story’ (Trumpet, 277).  Kay suggests the potential and productivity that can arise from both tolerance and creative writing if Colman challenges his energies into generative forms of storytelling, rather than fuelling a tell-all exposé.

 Interestingly, each chapter of Trumpet is labelled after sections in a magazine or newspaper: ‘House and Home’, ‘People’, ‘Interview Exclusive’ etc. Here Kay crosses the boundaries between public and private lives and reflects upon a sensationalised tabloid press culture withinBritain. Constant references to the exposé nature of the novel which Stones intends to write about Joss reminds us of the media’s ability to present fiction as news. Learning about Joss’ life and choices through other characters’ narrative voices offers us, as readers, the opportunity to gain a more nuanced view of Joss’ personality. Kay’s choice of form further inscribes the separation between gender and sexuality as Joss’ sexuality is not connected to his gender until the newspapers tie them together after his death.

Ultimately, jazz culture binds this novel together. Jazz enables Joss to ‘lose his sex, his race, his memory’ (Trumpet, 131). Despite the unforgiving responses to Joss’ sexuality, his musical talent cannot be denied, and remains untouched by the media. The swinging London music scene of the 1960s provide a crucial setting for the liberation of the self, where identities can be remade and renegotiated. Kay brings jazz and identity most poignantly together when the registrar hands the pen to Millie to complete the ‘gender’ section of Joss’ death certificate: ‘It was as if the pen was asking her to dance’ (Trumpet, 81).

This novel is seminal to transgender thinking. Published just before the turn of the new century, Kay offers us, her readers, new non-binary modes of thinking about identity, sex and gender. Just as her chapters mirror the compositional technique of call and response, Trumpet calls its reader to action their understandings of non-heteronormative sexualities, racial differences and gender constructions. Kay denies any silencing of non-normative identities and in doing so has created a striking, thought-provoking novel.

References

1 Jackie Kay, Trumpet (London: Picador, 1998).

2 Irene Rose, ‘Heralding New Possibilities: Female Masculinity in Jackie Kay’s Trumpet’, in Posting the Male: Masculinities in Post-War and Contemporary British Literature, ed. by Daniel Lea and Berthold Schoene (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003), pp. 144-6.

Sarah Clouston is a full-time postgraduate student at the University of Leeds reading an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature. Her dissertation researches the phenomena of Modernist magazine culture: ‘little magazines’, and the poetry of Mina Loy. Her other research interests include postcolonial Britain, indigenous literature and Modernist poetry. She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Leeds.

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Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Review by Jahnavi Misra

Rush Oh by Shirley BarrettShirley Barrett is a screenwriter and film director, and Rush Oh! is her first novel. It depicts a small Australian whaling community from the early nineteen hundreds, in the disingenuous and unembellished narrative voice of the protagonist – Mary Davidson. The thrill and the tragedy inherent in traditional, small-scale hunting of a creature as majestic as a whale is vividly brought out through an unobtrusive recounting of whaling incidents. These whaling sequences are accompanied by tiny illustrations that bring the experience to life.

The story is told from the perspective of Mary, who is the daughter of a celebrated whaler, George Davidson. The book is a record of a year of her life as a young girl, growing up in the company of raucous whalers in Eden, New South Wales. While the first part of the book is about her as a young girl, the later chapters reveal to the reader that Mary is now a middle-aged woman, writing this story to better acquaint her nephew with his whaling ancestry. The digressions into Mary’s personal stories through the first half of the narrative – her need for romantic love, her affection and resentment towards her sister, her eulogy for her brothers – have greater emotional impact in the fade-out of the later chapters, when the reader is told that she had simply wanted to write a straightforward record of the whaling culture. It is almost as if the other, more personal parts of the story had furtively found their way into the narrative of their own accord. The reader, thus, not only gets a glimpse of a unique and declining whaling lifestyle, but also becomes privy to Mary’s personal joys and frustrations, especially in relation to her short-lived romance with John Beck – the part of the narrative that she hopes to remove before showing it to her nephew.

The novel portrays a time of transition – whaling is dying out, race relations between the aborigines and settlers is changing, and World War I is breaking out; all of which effects the Davidson family quite directly. These transitions mean that almost no relationship survives without considerable scars – one such relationship that stands out in the novel is between Mary and her sister, Louisa. The pretty and hard headed Louisa is lost to her family and the reader when she elopes with an aborigine whaler, Darcy. She, like John Beck, never returns to Mary, and the reader is left with a tragic portrait of a woman who has constantly been thwarted in her affections, but has never let cynicism get the better of her. Mary, although much older, is still alive and kicking, having thrown herself headlong into church activities, and awaiting the arrival of an exciting new Reverend, to replace the old, boring one.

Rush Oh! is a novel that is full of heart, effortlessly transporting its audience to the small town of Eden, as it was in the year 1908. Mary is a robust and elevating narrator who does not linger on her heart-breaking experiences for so long as to make them seem maudlin, or so fleetingly as to make them seem superficial. Mary strikes a note so exact that the reader comes to trust her implicitly, never questioning her perspective of all the beauty and tragedy that surrounds her.

The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah

Review by Eve Ryan

the_narrow_bed_jacket__portrait.jpgThe Narrow Bed is the 10th novel in Sophie Hannah’s Culver Valley series, following detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer through plots of suspense and murder. Known for her masterful dealing of the plot twist, Hannah has taken the risky road of implausibility in this latest psychological thriller. The clunky “Billy Dead Mates”, mocked by characters and readers alike, and the eye-rolling appearances of the little white book eventually leads to a neat and technically original conclusion, yet falls far short of inspired.

Despite an encouraging start, the novel loses momentum in the ‘omniscient detective’ chapters and suffers from the (slightly tedious) short story interruptions. Yet what The Narrow Bed lacks in grit and consistency it compensates for with black humour. By far the strongest element of the novel is not the murder revelation, as is typical of Hannah’s writing, but the comic, warm portrayal of protagonist Kim Tribbeck. Through honesty and wit, Kim’s refreshing characterisation displays great literary skill as Hannah convincingly pulls off the comedy memoir genre. A comparison with Sue Perkin’s recently published memoir, Spectacles, is strikingly appropriate; Hannah gets the tone and content of a great female stand-up spot on. Kim betrays frequent comic confessions, such as: “I’d like to die of Too Much Fun, if only to spite Drew. I don’t want to give the bastard any chance to feel sorry for me.” (p. 53) This complex and convincing character makes the alternate chapters that pose as extracts from Kim’s memoir Origami the most engaging, personal and page-turning segments of the novel.

Hannah’s weakness for controversial journalist characters, as in her previous novel The Telling Error, re-emerges through a debate on feminism in The Narrow Bed, as radical feminist Sondra Holliday is fiercely demonised. Easily more unlikeable than the actual murderer, Holliday’s articles on ‘Lifeworld Online’ are predictably excessive and theatrical. Hannah holds this ‘brand’ of militant man-hating feminism up to ridicule yet shies away from presenting a moderate, reasoned engagement with gendered concerns. Instead, we have Simon Waterhouse determined to find a female murderer to blast Holliday out of the water, Colin Sellers joining Weight Watchers for the cleavage and Charlie Zailer neglecting the real case due to her own obsessive domestic drama. Is this a post-gendered world? I think not.

Hannah is therefore an anomaly within contemporary female detective writers. As The Narrow Bed deconstructs the binary of male murderer and female victim she advocates moderate humanist thinking, gesturing towards gendered debates only to dismiss them as superfluous to her portrayal of crime and storytelling. Yet Gavin argues that feminist crime fiction deals predominantly with violence against women through a “gendered protest” in which “Women are victims: captured, raped, murdered, butchered and in the hands of forensic detectives dissected into evidence” (p. 268). Hannah strongly asserts this is not her literary realm or ambition, yet she does raise one flag for feminism: women are funny.

Engaging though it was for the most part, this does not appear to be Sophie Hannah’s finest work. Luckily The Narrow Bed’s disappointing and unsatisfying conclusion will not dwell long in the mind, unlike my desire to meet Kim Tribbeck.

Bibliography

Gavin, Adrienne E. “Feminist Crime Fiction and Female Sleuths”. A Companion to Crime Fiction. Ed. Charles J. Rzepka and Lee Horsley. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 258-269. Print.

Perkins, Sue. Spectacles: A Memoir. London: Michael Joseph/Penguin Books, 2015. Print.

Review of Room (2015): Page vs. Screen

Review by Beth Kelly

In 2010, Emma Donoghue’s novel Room set the literary world ablaze. Quickly shortlisted onto several awards lists – including the Man Booker Prize – it was also included as one of the New York Times’ top six fiction books for the year.

Partially inspired by the kidnapping case of Elisabeth Fritzl and the circumstances surrounding her escape, Room captivated millions of readers with its courageous message of resilience and hope. Now in the news for a second time, the story has made the successful leap from the page to the screen.

Charged with the task of tailoring the screenplay herself, Donoghue worked closely with director Lenny Abrahamson to maintain the emotional tenor of novel. The film, starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, has already received critical praise from festival critics – as well as purported Oscar buzz.

Some aspects of the novel were, by necessity, lost in translation. Ma is now two years younger, making her seventeen instead of nineteen years old when she was kidnapped and placed in captivity, allowing us to see her as a slightly more vulnerable figure. Room the book relies on the narration of five-year-old Jack, played by Tremblay, as the reader’s entrance to their world. Through his eyes, an outsider is slowly introduced to the eleven-square-foot world of “Room.” Room the movie relies on camera angles and set design to present the cramped compartment that holds Jack’s universe, revealing to viewers in a twist the profundity of their situation.

Much is asked of Tremblay, as his character’s perspective is still the driving force of the film. We see through his eyes, with sparse narration in key scenes, how it feels to have your world crack open at the seams. Larsen’s Ma also captures the reality of their captivity with remarkable depth, and the chemistry between her and Tremblay is truly striking. While lacking some of the nuance of the book – the absence of breastfeeding between Ma and Jack as a physical bond, for example – the strength of the actors’ performances enables the story to be successfully condensed.

There are several key alterations that stand out: in addition to the aforementioned choice to remove breastfeeding scenes, Ma is now an only child, and the adventure that Jack has with his uncle Paul and Paul’s family is now gone. While done in the name of cleaner storytelling and run time, this does remove an important aspect of comparison: how a child brought up with Jack’s unique experiences compares to a more “normal” family unit and a child of similar age. But this streamlining does focus more on Jack and Ma’s experiences, and Larson’s range as an actress is allowed to shine through.

Without the direct text of the novel to say what Jack is thinking, the audience can project their own thoughts onto Tremblay and Larson’s own expressive faces. In some ways, this enables the audience to form an even deeper bond with the characters. Tremblay’s wide-eyed fascination in response to the outside world in particular is both heart breaking and a joy to behold.

Produced by A24 Films and DirecTV, Room the film reveals much more than the horrors of kidnapping at abuse. Never saccharine or overwrought in its approach, it makes a concerted effort to show viewers that the limits of the physical realm are inconsequential when our imaginations are allowed to soar.

EVENT: Feminist writer Erica Jong talks sex, ageing and her new novel – Fear of Dying

Erica Jong – Fear of Dying

Erica Jong

With readings by Sandi Toksvig, Meera Syal and Gemma Cairney; chaired by Southbank Centre’s Jude Kelly.

1 November, 7.30pm, Royal Festival Hall.

Hear readings by Sandi Toksvig, Meera Syal and Gemma Cairney as Erica Jong introduces her new novel, Fear of Dying.

Erica Jong changed the way we look at love, marriage, and especially sex.

Her revolutionary 1973 best-seller Fear of Flying celebrated consequence-free, casual sex at a time when women weren’t supposed to have it, and the book quickly became the ultimate symbol for female sexual liberation.

Now, over 40 years later, Jong returns with Fear of Dying – the story of an older woman who never wants to give in to fear – including that of sex, as her mortality becomes a reality.

These two novels, separated by four decades, show a generation of women as they age in real time. But how much has really changed for them, and the women around them?

The evening begins with Sandi Toksvig, Meera Syal and Gemma Cairney reading from both Fear of Flying and Fear of Dying.

The event concludes with Erica Jong exploring our enduring fascination with ageing, sex and death in conversation with Jude Kelly, Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director and founder of the WOW – Women of the World festival.

For more information and to book tickets see: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/

CFA: ‘Werewolves: Studies in Transformations’

 (abstracts: 30th November 2015, full submissions: 31st March 2016)

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Dr Janine Hatter and Kaja Franck, ‘Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural’
contact email:

j.hatter@hull.ac.uk / k.a.franck@gmail.com

‘Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural’ is a peer-reviewed, online journal looking at the supernatural, the uncanny and the weird. Revenant is now accepting articles, creative writing pieces and book, film, game, event or art reviews for a themed issue on werewolves (due Autumn 2016), guest edited by Dr Janine Hatter and Kaja Franck.

Werewolves have been a consistent, if side-lined, aspect of supernatural studies. From medieval and Early Modern poetry, through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ fascination with the occult and the exotic, to contemporary depictions of werewolves in new media, these adaptable, mutable and ever resilient creatures have continuously transformed body and meaning to reflect social, cultural and scientific anxieties of their period. This special issue of Revenant seeks to examine werewolves from an all-inclusive interdisciplinary angle to allow for the fullest extent of these creatures’ impact on our cultural consciousness to be examined. Articles, creative pieces and reviews may examine any aspect of the representation of werewolves within the context of worldwide literature, drama, fan cultures, film, television, animation, games and role playing, art, music or material culture from any time period. We welcome any approach, but request that authors minimize jargon associated with any single-discipline studies.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

technological metamorphoses, folklore & mythology, allegory, symbolism, aggression, humanity & bestiality, romance, monstrosity, hybridity, lycanthropy, transformation, nature versus nurture, the environment, natural/supernatural, the abject, hunger & desire, teeth & biting, infection & transmission, possession and/or mind control, split personality, disability, power, death & killing, burial rites, occult, religion, superstition, culture, philosophy, psychology, politics, gender, queer readings, sexuality, race and class.

For articles and creative pieces (such as poetry, short stories, flash fiction, videos, artwork and music): please send a 300-500 word abstract and a short biography by 30th November 2015. If your abstract is accepted, the full article (maximum 7000 words, including Harvard referencing) and the full creative piece (maximum 5000 words) will be due 31st March 2016.

Additionally, we are seeking reviews of books, films, games, events and art that engage with werewolves (800-1,000 words in length). Please send a short biography and full details of the book you would like to review as soon as possible.

Further information, including Submission Guidelines, is available at the journal site: www.revenantjournal.com.

Please e-mail submissions to j.hatter@hull.ac.uk and k.a.franck@gmail.com. If emailing the journal directly at revenant@falmouth.ac.uk please quote ‘werewolf issue’ in the subject box.

Thank You & Goodbye

The PG CWWN are saddened to be bidding farewell to two of our steering group members. Our longest serving member Laura-Jane Devanny is stepping down in order to focus on the final stages of her PhD. Since joining the network at the end of 2013, Laura-Jane has been a hard-working and enthusiastic member of the team, and her contribution to all areas of the network will be greatly missed. We are also saying goodbye to Joanne Ella Parsons, who since joining in February 2014 has been key in providing an online presence for the network across a variety of platforms, including social media. On behalf of our members, we would like to wish both Laura-Jane and Jo best of luck for the completion of their research, and every success for the future.

Call for Steering Group Members

We are looking for a new member to join our team!

If you are interested in joining then please send an email with a cover letter outlining why you would like to join the steering group and what you think you can bring to the network, as well as a current academic CV, to info@pgcwwn.org by 11th September 2015.

Please distribute widely. You can download the full call below:

PG-CWWN-Call-for-Steering-Group-Members

Ruth Rendell: CFP for a Special Issue of Contemporary Women’s Writing on Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. Edited by Ruth Heholt, Fiona Peters and Gina Wisker.

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Ruth Rendell, who has recently died, was one of the most prolific and important female authors of the C20th/21st centuries, achieving many literary awards and honours, plus a Labour peerage. Her literary output, both as Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine, transcended generic boundaries and conventional assumptions about character, the police procedural novel, class and gender, amongst many of her other concerns.

Rendell’s output can be divided into three categories, bearing in mind that these overlap, shift and change over time: The Wexford series (beginning with From Doon With Death in 1964 up until No Man’s Nightingale in 2013), the stand-alone Rendells, and the arguably more psychologically driven Barbara Vines. Running through all her work, certain themes emerge, including gender, sexuality, crime, poverty, origins, pathology and deviance (especially in the domestic, often suburban sphere), fate and inescapable hereditary, both psychological and physical, and human relationships. Val McDermid notes: ‘Never content with mere description, she illuminated the human condition in all its obsessive complexity in a style that was invariably clear and compelling.’

This special edition aims to mark Rendell’s death with a selection of essays which celebrate her achievements and unique talent – as a writer who never shied away from complex or difficult issues, but who instead shifted the entire focus of the crime fiction genre into a complex study of human beings and their interaction with social and psychological forces.

We invite proposals for articles on any aspect of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine’s work. CWW seeks to publish essays that reach beyond a reading of a single text in order to challenge existing thinking or extend debates about an author, genre, topic, or theoretical perspective and relate literary analysis to wider cultural and intellectual contexts.

With this in mind topics may include (but are not limited to):

Gender, Class, Age, Family, Marriage, Violence, Death, Authority, The Police, Detection, The Psychological, Race, Homosexuality, Obsession, Poverty, Deviance, The Domestic, The City, The Suburbs.

The deadline for abstracts is 1st September and completed essays of 8000 words will be due on 1st Feb 2016. All essays are subject to peer review and as such publication is not guaranteed.

Please send 300 word abstracts and a short bio to: ruth.heholt@falmouth.ac.uk, f.peters@bathspa.ac.uk and g.wisker@brighton.ac.uk by 1st September 2015.

The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival returns for 2015

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Press release: Bristol Women’s Literature Festival

 

14th – 15th March 2015, Watershed

After its dazzling success in 2013, the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival is delighted to announce it is returning to Watershed on the 14th and 15th March 2015.

Some of the literary scene’s brightest stars will be arriving in Bristol to join a unique festival that celebrates women’s writing.

 

The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival aims to celebrate the work of women writers working today and throughout history. It brings together the diverse and exciting talent of women writers, academics and activists to showcase our fantastic literary heritage.

The fascinating and varied programme features award-winning novelist and short story writer, Michele Roberts, winner of Faber Young Poet of the Year Helen Mort, writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, poet and filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, activists and writers Beatrix Campbell and Caroline Criado-Perez, and leading academic Professor Helen Hackett. These women are, without doubt, some of the most influential and vibrant writers working today.

The festival takes place across the weekend of 16th and 17th March at famous Bristol arts venue, Watershed. Organised by feminist writer Siân Norris, the event aims to celebrate the work of women writers in a literary scene that is all too often dominated by male voices.

A stage full of brilliant, brainy, articulate and witty women discussing literature, women, history, activism and the future. An audience full of literature-lovers and woman-likers of all ages, races and walks of life. If anything restores a woman’s faith that we are not just roaring but writing and reading, it’s the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival.’

Bidisha

 

The programme

Paris was a Woman film screening

The festival opens on Saturday 14th March with a screening of the award-winning documentary film Paris was a Woman. Greta Schiller’s 1996 film explores the lives of the extraordinary women who made their home on Paris’ Left Bank in the 1920s, including Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Colette and Sylvia Beach. The film will be followed by a brief audience discussion, chaired by Siân Norris.

Women, Feminism and Journalism

In the afternoon, writers and activists, Beatrix Campbell and Caroline Criado-Perez, activist Nimko Ali, and Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of the New Statesman, will be talking about their work and the relationship between feminism and journalism.

Poetry, Prose and Palestine

On Saturday evening award-winning film director and poet Annemarie Jacir and novelist Selma Dabbagh will read and discuss their own work, and the poems of other well-known Palestinian writers. This event is organised in collaboration with the Bristol Palestinian Film Festival, as part of Conversations about Cinema: Impact of Conflict.

Women Writing in Shakespeare’s Time

Sunday opens with a talk from Professor Helen Hackett on the women of Shakespeare’s time. Professor Hackett will introduce us to the women writers of the Renaissance who have been written out of history, and the process of bringing them back into the canon where they belong.

Women Writing Today

 

The final event of the festival brings together some of the most exciting and innovative women working in the UK today. Novelist and short story writer Michele Roberts, first time novelist Amy C Mason, poet Helen Mort, playwright and memoirist Samantha Ellis, and writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo will join Sarah LeFanu to discuss their work.

Why do we need a women’s literature festival?

 

Although women have always written and always read, the UK literature scene continues to be very male dominated. A 2012 survey by For Books’ Sake revealed that at Manchester Literature festival, only 20 out of 74 speakers were women, whilst at the Latitude Literary Area, women made up 15 of 53 performers. Meanwhile, the VIDA Count shows the gross gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews.

The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival aims to:

  • To celebrate the diversity and creativity of women writers
  • To counter the male dominance of literature and cultural festival line-ups
  • To promote women’s writing and history

Founder and director Siân Norris explains:

I decided it wasn’t enough to be frustrated at the continued marginalisation of women writers in our cultural scene. I needed to do something about it. The success of the 2013 festival was phenomenal. Everyone wants to be part of this event. It is a real and vital opportunity to talk about women’s writing and women’s role in shaping and influencing our culture – both historically and in the present. I am so proud to be part of it and delighted that Watershed will be hosting it again this year.’

The festival is supported by Watershed, Foyles, The Bristol Palestinian Film Festival and The Bristol Festival of Ideas.

Vital info

When? Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th March 2015

Where? Watershed, Bristol

How much? Individual events are priced at £8 (£6 concession) with a weekend ticket available for £30 (£25 concession. Please note there are a limited number of weekend tickets). Tickets are on sale at the Watershed Box Office and website.