The first ever digital festival has come and gone, and we are so proud to have been able to continue championing the voice of Black Country writers, poets, storytellers and creatives by bringing them all to the virtual stage.
The festival was delivered across two weekends, with 40 events delivered digitally via a Zoom or filmed in Wolverhampton Art Gallery. It was a full programme of events, with speakers joining us from Wolverhampton, London and America, attended by over 2000 households.
The festival saw a range of headline acts. Jon Ronson answered the audience’s burning questions on his career, Shobna Gulati joined us to discuss the image and role of a carer in society, and Robin Ince closed the festival with his take on the Human Condition. We also had some home-grown talents join us this year, with Yam Yam Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest, returning to the Black Country and sharing stories from his extraordinary life. Creator of hit BBC Dramas Jed Mercurio, joined us to discuss his career and how he crafts the stories depicted on TV.
The festival also saw important discussions around lost history, with Patrick Vernon delivering an event focused on our shared lost histories and asking what Wolverhampton could do more of to discuss, explore and celebrate Black History. Audiences were also given the opportunity to explore further than Wolverhampton and look into the impact Empire has had on Modern Society, with Sathnam Sanghera discussing his book Empireland. Both speakers spoke passionately about the topic and considered how we could share and explore our history and our perceptions of it, both regionally and as a nation.
The festival provides a platform for local and aspiring talent, and this year we had some outstanding showcases of our local talent. Local poet Kuli Kohli joined us across the festival weekend to share her writing and speak about her amazing life. Emma Purshouse launched her book Dogged and shared her process for writing her debut novel. The festival also saw an opportunity for young creatives and our aspiring talent, with showcases from the University Creative and Professional Writing Department, and from four amazing young writers sharing pieces of their personal work and craft.
“Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists” brought their popular Fringe Room Poetry Slam and a new Valentine’s workshop. Joelle Taylor, award-winning poet, playwright, author and editor, told audiences of her travels across the world with her poetry, and gave an insight into her debut book of short stories, The Night Alphabet.
The Children’s Festival, featuring Sohan Kailey, Ben Davis and John kirk, took place on Saturday (13 February). Recordings of the children’s events will available during half-term, via the Wolverhampton Literature Festival Facebook and YouTube.
We are now looking forward to 2022 and we can’t wait to welcome you all back, in hopefully our amazing venue across Wolverhampton and to continue re-lighting our city through literature.
Here are just a few of the comments from our audiences:
Thank you. What a piece of lockdown silver lining.
It has really lifted our spirits in such an awful year.
I think the Festival has gone really well in such a difficult time as in the pandemic lockdown.
It was very smoothly organised and thank the organisers once again for some very interesting sessions.
I personally really appreciate being educated on this lost shared history.
Please keep doing what you're doing. The festival is inspirational.
Absolutely fantastic programming and administration and communication.
A really excellent session, as good as any Hay Festival event.
Excellent speaker and fascinating topic.
Very varied and interesting programme.