University-led Greenwich Book Festival returns this May

Co-organised by the University of Greenwich and author and journalist Patricia Nicol, the festival promises two packed days of events for adults, children and schools. It is one of the Royal Greenwich Festivals.

A wide range of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and short stories will be featured, as well as, for the first time, a playwriting strand for new drama. There will also be debates on issues of the day, from post-truth Trump to national identity.

The festival, now in its third year, is a vibrant expression of the university's growing reputation as a centre for creative writing and performance.

Co-director Dr Alex Pheby, Programme Leader of Creative Writing at the university whose second novel Playthings was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize last year, says the festival is a great way to showcase students' work and expose them to the publishing industry, as well as bringing the literary world to Greenwich.

Greenwich Book Festival organisers Patricia Nicol and Alex Pheby
Organisers Patricia Nicol and Alex Pheby

"From novelists like Jenni Fagan to poets like Filippa Bahrke, many of our students get published before they even graduate," he says. "We are committed to innovation and cross-genre experimentation which means students can develop their own form and style.

"The festival attracts well known authors and exciting new voices each year, as well as publishers, agents and critics so it's a wonderful opportunity for the university and wider community."

Festival visitors will be able to see the work of playwriting and screenwriting students for the first time at the Greenwich Theatre's new pop-up space, performed by professional actors alongside the university's drama students and young actors from the Progression Programme at GLYPT, the Greenwich & Lewisham Young People's Theatre.

The drama strand also features rehearsed readings of two European plays, newly translated and premiering in the UK.

The festival is being organised by the university's Department of Literature, Language & Theatre, together with author and journalist Patricia Nicol, who was Deputy Arts Editor at the Sunday Times for many years.

Patricia says: "This young London festival reflects the best of the city in being inclusive, welcoming and diverse."

The Children's Festival features characters such as Kipper
The Children's Festival features characters such as Kipper

A community festival

Friday is Schools Day, sponsored by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, when local primary children visit the university to meet popular authors, have a go at story-telling and discover how books are made.

Councillor Denise Scott-McDonald, Cabinet Member for Culture, Creative Industries and Community Wellbeing says: "We are delighted to be supporting the third Greenwich Book Festival and see it become a regular feature of the Royal Greenwich Festival calendar. Children and adults will enjoy the wide range of literary activities set in the university's historic Old Royal Naval College campus."

The popular Children's Festival returns with the chance to celebrate Elmer's birthday, colour in London, meet M.G. Leonard and her creations Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen, attend a masterclass with comics wizard Neill Cameron and bring your teddy to Michelle Robinson's A Beginner's Guide to Bearspotting after-school session.

Food stalls, face-painting, free workshops and roaming book characters, including Kipper the Dog, add to the festival vibe in the courtyards and lawns of the campus.

Highlights for adults include the Pool Party, with popular authors including Sarah Perry, Waterstones Book of the Year winner for The Essex Serpent, Lisa McInerney, Bailey's prize winner for The Glorious Heresies and Laura Barnett, author of bestseller The Versions of Us. There is also a tribute to the great novelist Buchi Emecheta, and the chance to tour London with Chris Rogers.

Award-winning poet Sabrina Mahfouz introduces the anthology The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write. Korean violinist Min Kym talks about her stolen Stradivarius and historical writer Wendy Moore discusses The Mesmerist, her new book about science and superstition in Victorian London.

The 'Independent Thinking' strand brings together authors, journalists and activists to explore how we live now – and where, from post-colonial India and Trump's America to Northern cities facing the fall-out from Brexit.

Research in the Department of Literature, Language & Theatre

Research is an important part of the department's work. It is home to two research groups: Literature & Drama, and Applied Linguistics, as well as housing and researching the Reminiscence Theatre Archive.

Girl reading a book on the grass in the Old Royal Naval College

The Creative Writing staff are all practising and published writers in their fields, ensuring their teaching is current and professionally focused, and allowing students to understand how creative work is received in the wider world.

Creative Writing researchers include Dr Emily Critchley, a widely-published editor, critic and researcher on contemporary poetry, feminism and phenomenology. She edited international contemporary poetry anthology Out of Everywhere 2 (Reality Street, 2016) and is currently co-authoring a book, What Poetry Is, along with fellow poet and academic Dr Tim Atkins (UEL).

Royal Literary Advisory Fellow Cherry Smyth is a regular critic for Art Monthly and writes widely on visual art. Current performance projects include writing a libretto for composer Guy Harries about Russian feminist conceptual punk band Pussy Riot, and recording a poem commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising for multi-media exhibition If The Ground Should Open, by Jaki Irvine at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Ade Solanke's research into African theatre, cinema and storytelling forms, together with her long-running practice-based research within fictional narrative filmmaking and contemporary theatre, has led to two award winning plays, Pandora's Box and East End Boys, West End Girls. She has also written two award-winning films about sickle cell disease: a feature-length movie, Dazzling Mirage; and an NHS-commissioned short script, The Family Legacy.

Simon Hardeman is an experienced journalist, broadcaster, stand-up comedian and playwright. He created and co-wrote the Beginners' Guide column in The Times and has specialised in both arts and science journalism for national media, including The Independent and Channel 5 News.

Dr Pheby's writing relies on a combination of factual research and imaginative recreation. He is currently writing his third novel.

The department is part of the university's Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities.

Notes on Greenwich Book Festival

The festival was founded three years ago by current co-directors Patricia Nicol and Dr Alex Pheby, and Auriol Bishop, Creative Director at publishers Hodder & Stoughton. All three are parents of children at schools in Greenwich.

All authors are being paid to appear at the festival.

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Creative writing at University of Greenwich

Creative writing at Greenwich is taught as an independent BA Honours programme, as a Joint Honours with English Literature, and as an element of an English Literature degree.

All the details can be found at

Royal Greenwich Festivals

The Greenwich Book Festival is one of the Royal Greenwich Festivals, an annual series of high quality events celebrating the cultural vibrancy of Royal Greenwich, providing some of the best and most varied entertainment in the capital every summer.

From street theatre to comedy, music to suit all tastes and invigorating dance performances, Royal Greenwich Festivals offer something for everyone.

For more information contact the Arts & Culture team on 020 8921 6109, or email

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