Students meet literary world at Greenwich Book Festival


Creative writing students rub shoulders with top authors, agents and publishers at the annual Greenwich Book Festival, taking place this year on 16 and 17 June

University book festival gives insight into building literary careers

Creative writing students rub shoulders with top authors, agents and publishers at the annual Greenwich Book Festival, taking place this year on 15 and 16 June. Whether budding playwrights, novelists, poets, graphic writers or satirists, the festival presents opportunities to discover how to build a career in writing.

Blake Morrison, Dolly Alderton, Patrick Ness, Angie Thomas, Mick Herron and Lucy Mangan are just a few of the names appearing at the university-run festival, alongside Greenwich alumna Nina Stibbe and award-winning, published staff members including novelist Alex Pheby, playwright Ade Solanke (pictured) and poet Emily Critchley.

Dr Pheby, Programme Leader for Creative Writing, explains why the festival offers such a special experience: "Our students get immersed in London literary culture: they get to meet famous authors, their publishers, agents and publicists at Greenwich Book Festival, and they write and produce the Greenwich Anthology alongside professional publishers, which they then perform at the same festival. It's an all-round exposure to the world of writing, on top of a first class education."

Stars of the anthology include poet Zainab Ismail who already has a job with publisher HarperCollins after graduating this year, and Aidan Brunt whose play, Candy, is being performed at Greenwich Theatre's studio along with 13 other new plays at 'Lift-Off! Student Playwriting Showcase'on Friday afternoon. The 'script-in-hand' performances are all professionally directed and performed by professional actors alongside the university's drama students, so the festival provides valuable exposure for them too.

Creative writing alumni find success

Cherry Smyth, Senior Lecturer at Greenwich and a critic, curator, poet and novelist says: "Students have the amazing opportunity to meet and greet authors at the festival and participate in discussions around writing which makes writers and the writing life tangibly real."

She cites award-winning novelist Jenni Fagan, nominated as one of Granta's 'best new novelists', and Adele Stripe who published a novel called 'Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile' last year, as alumni who have found success. Another, Michael Bhim, landed a job in TV script-writing in Los Angeles after premiered a play at London's Soho Theatre.

Nina Stibbe of 'Love, Nina' fame returns

Nina Stibbe burst onto the literary scene with the hilarious Love, Nina about working as a nanny amongst the original Primrose Hill set (Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller, Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn) adapted for television by Nick Hornby. It also recounts her time studying English Literature at Thames Poly, forerunner to the University of Greenwich. She will be discussing this and her acclaimed comic novels, Man at the Helm, and Paradise Lodge at the festival on Saturday afternoon. 

Alex Pheby is interviewed on Front Row about latest novel 'Lucia'

Dr Pheby has been interviewed by Samira Ahmed on BBC Radio 4's Front Row arts programme about his latest novel Lucia (12 June). In the words of his publisher Galley Beggar, "In sharp, cutting shards of narrative, Lucia evokes the things that may have been done to Lucia Joyce." Lucia is the daughter of Irish author James Joyce and Dr Pheby discusses the challenges of writing about real people in 'Keeping It Real?' on Saturday 16 June with fellow authors Shiromi Pinto and Matthew De Abaitua. His last novel, Playthings, was described by Literary Review as "the best neuro-novel ever written" and shortlisted for the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize.

Award winning Ade Solanke showcases new plays in 'Exhume Those Stories: Dramatising African-British Historical Figures'

Ade Solanke, Lecturer in Creative Writing, is known for her plays Pandora's Box and East End Boys, West End Girls (BEFFTA Award for Best Play 2015) as well as her screenplay for award-winning film, 'Dazzling Mirage.' She brings Phillis in London to the festival, about the first black person (and second woman) to publish a collection of poetry. Kidnapped in West Africa and sold into slavery in America as a child, Phillis Wheatley was still an enslaved teen when she came to London in 1773. A prodigy and international celebrity, her promotional tour saw her feted by the aristocracy and in literary circles. Ade Solanke also showcases The Court Must Have a Queen, about the African musician John Blanke in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII, which is on at Hampton Court Palace from 29 June until 3 September. The readings on Saturday afternoon are followed by a panel discussion about making drama based on historical figures, and how best broadcasters and publishers might work with writers. The panel includes Brycchan Carey, Miranda Kaufmann, S.I. Martin and is chaired by Diane Abbott.

Eley Williams is Writer-in-Residence at University of Greenwich

Eley Williams, whose Attrib. and other stories (Influx Press) was awarded the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2018 and is shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize 2018, is the university's third Writer-in-Residence. She follows Paul Stanbridge and Paul Ewan of whom fellow author Toby Litt (also appearing at the festival) said: "It's becoming a cliché to say 'Paul Ewen is a comic genius and Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author is the funniest book in years' – but it's no less true." In fact Paul Ewan revived Francis Plug in a novel not entirely unrelated to his experience at Greenwich called – wait for it – Writer in residence, to be published in September.

Eley discusses 'The long life of short fiction' with David Hayden and Clare Fisher on Saturday morning, as well as joining poet and editor Emily Critchley, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, at 'Poetry: Alternative Alternatives: radical poetries from London, Brighton, Wales & California' on Saturday afternoon. Eley's poetry pamphlet Frit is out with Sad Press.

The Greenwich Book Festival team

The Greenwich Book Festival is co-directed by author and journalist Patricia Nicol and Dr Alex Pheby. It is supported and organised by the Department of Literature, Language & Theatre in the Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities at the University of Greenwich. It is one of the Royal Greenwich Festivals and Friday is Schools Day, sponsored by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, when local primary children meet popular authors, discover how books are made and have a go at story-telling.


Greenwich Book Festival:

Front Row:

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