I wrote this back in 2010 to publicise and inform readers of what exactly the event Wordfest was and still is. For the record, it does not parallel a gaming convention whereby the gamers are wannabe Countdown contestants playing Fridge Poetry.
Wordfest Revealed: An Interview with Helen Taylor
Wordfest has now reached its 7th year. I went to find out exactly what Wordfest is all about and why you should attend. Helen Taylor is Cambridgeshire County Council’s Literature Development Officer and is also part of the Advisory Group for Wordfest which includes programming, funding and planning which writers to bring together for the festival. Sitting in a canteen at Shire Hall I get the chance to talk with Helen Taylor.
What exactly is Wordfest?
It is a new breed of festival. Bringing together different types of people and writers in a variety of venues: The Fitzwilliam museum, ADC Theatre and local libraries get involved in this celebration of literature. It’s a festival of ideas and inspiration.
What have you enjoyed most about Wordfest?
The amazing things I have learnt. For instance, the illustrator Andy English, gained inspiration from the armoury room at the Fitzwilliam, specifically from the knight situated on a horse. You can see here [she points to page 34 of the programme- oh yes I can definitely see the resemblance] and it’s knowing things like this that you can’t get elsewhere which make it such an interesting festival. (English is appearing at this year’s Wordfest with Phillip Pullman, author of Northern Lights.)
What have you learned from your involvement?
People like the ownership of Wordfest. Many who have attended immediately want to know when the next one is, it seems to become an important part of their calendar. Also, the concept of subterranean book: the sell out of Chinese writer Xinran’s event revealed an underground movement of books, which must have been spread by word of mouth. One of the hardest things is writers cancelling at the last moment. Rageh Omaar, BBC foreign correspondent, cancelled the day before his planned event. So giving apologies to large groups of people and finding replacement writers at short notice was a major learning curve.
Who usually attends Wordfest?
With our diverse programme we are trying to attract a wide audience. I think that often people are under the impression that festival audiences are full of clever people, they are mistaken. Wordfest is a celebration of literature and so is for everyone.
How do you find people to fill up the programme?
We have programming meetings with the steering group, advisory group and discuss the balance of the programme: genre, different groups to represent, unusual combinations of writers, response to requests for writers. We emphasise to publishers, agents and writers that Wordfest is in a beautiful location with appreciative audiences and opportunities to meet other writers and be well looked after.
So, are the contributors usually well known or is Wordfest more of an opportunity for people with debut works?
Both! We have local, debut and popular authors, and even comedians. For instance we had Lord Giddens speaking about climate change from his book The Politics of Climate Change. And this year we have Hilary Mantel, which sold out within the first day, with her prize winning Wolf Hall and the comedian Jeremy Hardy.
Who is the most famous speaker you have had at Wordfest?
It’s hard to say who’s famous and who isn’t. It depends on what area of literature you’re looking at, as different readers are familiar with different writers. Philippa Pearce, Michael Morpurgo, PD James, Jacqueline Wilson and Carol Ann Duffy would all be contenders for this.
Is there any chance of signings?
Yes, after every event. This has proven to be one of the main pulls to the festival. Jacqueline Wilson, for instance, usually takes about 4 hours to do her signings! She talks to everyone who approaches her and she is a very warm-hearted woman.
I hear Wordfest is looking for volunteers, what are the benefits from being a volunteer?
Oh, loads! You get to see everyone and all for free! It involves attending lots of events and undertaking a variety of tasks: from greeting people and taking tickets to running around the corner to buy biscuits for the green room. It is an exciting and exhilarating experience and a good taste of what it takes to run a festival.
What do you think of the Oxford Literary Festival?
It’s a fantastic event and huge. I can’t say anything against the festival, my sister is friends with one of the organisers. Although, Oxford have a safety net for their funding, The Sunday Times sponsorship, something we do not have, however I feel this can make such a festival lose its personal touch.
Would you say it is suitable for students?
Yes. Wordfest is a manageable event because it all happens over a single weekend. Also it gives a definite taste of what’s going on in the world of literature and politics. There’s a panel of party leaders from Cambridge, everyone is welcome to come and ask questions, this year the focus is specifically on carbon emissions.
Are there any anecdotes you can tell us about previous Wordfests?
Oh let me think. When Michael Moore and Philippa Pearce spoke at Wordfest it was fantastic to see every nook and cranny filled. Also, Richard E. Grants’ performance was the funniest event I have seen at Wordfest, which I was surprised at, because on television he seems really serious but in person he was completely different. This taught me that seeing writers in person gives you a wonderful insight to their character and thoughts.
To view the programme, sign up for volunteering or just find out more visit the website
International Film Festival
Written by Jenna Grabey
Another festival to choose Cambridge as its location is the International Super 8 Film Festival. In the greeting we were told “come see, have fun” and this set the mood for the festival. Dagie Brudert a German director presented her short films, all as premiers in the UK. There were an additional 20 film directors all presenting their films, some as UK premiers and others as world premieres. Furthermore, Super 8 can boast a possible first ever, all woman jury. So why is Super 8 popular among film makers? And what did Super 8 leave behind?
Short films of animation, comedy, documentary, drama, experimental and music entertained and was judged by the jury and the audience at the end of each day. The Boreal Forest Expedition, produced by N&L Bradford-Ewart, told the story of a family’s history, packed with emotion and pet Goffers. While Autophobia, produced by Paulo Abreu, was reminiscent of the Blair Witch, and The Eye you Lost in the Crusades, produced by Jay Eckensberger, what it lacked in plot it more than made up for in the emotional intensity it created between the viewers and the characters.
The Super 8 film makes films appear natural; we are not bombarded with special effects that leave us feeling we have just walked out of a light show. Despite the fact in modern society where in technology are forever seeking a smaller, easier and faster alternative; however Super 8’s naturalness makes it preferable to some film makers.
To find out some more information on this I spoke to Charlie Blackfield, the producer of the Clockwork Mouse films:
What are the main differences between Super 8 and digital film?
With Kodak film we use single frame recording for animation, you may have noticed a subtle graininess in the films (yes) this is something which isn’t done in digital recording but is taken advantage of in super 8 filming.
Are there any “hard-feelings” between super 8 film users and digital film users?
No. Not at all. In fact digital filming has helped Super 8 film users, like when we have to edit our films.
What do you think is in the future for Super 8?
Well, the popularity has recently picked up again, especially those in the art and experimental culture. It has been used in used in films like “The Doors” and “Natural Born Killers”.
Overall the Super 8 attracted children to the older generation, men and women and a diversity of nationalities. Peter, from Szeged bin, Hungary, an ex jury member who was also there to present films, commented that the Super 8 film festival is an excellent way to bring people together from all over the world, as film is something we can all share regardless of what language we speak. Since it began in Madrid with Germany and Hungary showing a collection of Kodak films the festival has picked up international recognition and is becoming increasingly popular.
Literary Society: Lesbian Burlesque Beauty Performance Poet
Sophia has previously appeared at Glastonbury, The Pink Festival, Velvet London Burlesque and Swindon, Oxford and Wells Literature Festivals among others. Her poetry is a social commentary immersed in emotion and comedy, delivered in a vibrant manner. Amy Winehouse, Eminem and Lilly Allen are just a few of her contemporary influences, while Sylvia Plath, John Donne and Philip Larkin also continue to inspire her.
To give you a taster, here is a stanza from her poem ‘This is Not the Poem About You’:
“… I want to tell you now that even when I’m 92, and necking tesco value gin while bombing down the street, on a nifty tartan scooter, with my fags under the seat, teaching classical translations with sapphic implications in an all girls boarding school. This is something I still won’t do. I will never, write the poem, about you…”
[Edited from the original…]
If you wish to hear more of Sophia Blackwell’s work before the show you can find her at www.myspace.com/sophiablackwell.
Weirdo. Mosher. Freak. By Catherine Smyth
(Taken from www.apex-magazine.co.uk/2011/03/weirdo-mosher-freak/)
By Jenna L. Grabey
This narrative account on the murder of Sophie Lancaster, the goth girl who was killed for the way she and her boyfriend dressed, gave me shivers from start to finish.
The S.O.P.H.I.E campaign was established to teach people to tolerate subcultures and campaign to extend the UK hate crime legislation to include ‘alternative subcultures’.
The book opens by telling the reader that if it weren’t for this book, newspaper articles and court papers would be the only literature on this horrific event. This is also Smyth’s attempt to find the truth of what happened that night: why three ambulances were called, why two went to the wrong place and why a journey that takes two minutes by car took an ambulance 14 minutes.
It is written by a journalist who became personally involved in the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign through her work. This ensures an emotive tone and prevents the telling from being too formal, however, at times, it does make you wonder how different the book would have been if told from another perspective.
Smyth provides plenty of background information, such as education, personality and anecdotes, on the attackers, defendants and victims, as well as the history of the town and its racist, violent and intolerant past stemming from the 70s.
The re-telling begins with Smyth receiving a phone call about an incident in Bacup Park; she goes on to describe how she discovered the attack of Sophie and Rob. We then go back in time to the night of the attack, where Smyth describes the unfolding of events beginning with Sophie and Rob visiting a friend through to the brutal primordial attack. From here the story is told in chronological order. We hear how Sophie’s death led to an accumulation of concerts, film festivals and peace marches in her honour.
Smyth describes how one of her most difficult interviews in her long journalistic career was with Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie’s mother. As Smyth became more personally involved, she describes Sophie’s funeral which she attended. This is followed by an account of the court trials including the attackers’ appeals for shorter sentences. Reliving the attack for ourselves we read the narrative transcript, of the phone calls made to the ambulance service, including background noises and voices.
Overall, it is amazing to find how one death caused such a ripple throughout the alternative community and sparked such a proliferation of fund-raising events and rightly so!
To find out more about the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign visit http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com.
I have now completed the page – Editorial Work – which contains links to Anglia Ruskin’s Student Newspaper. At these you have access to the entire publication; not only what I have worked on but other articles and interviews such as the following which are in descending order of date.
Valentine’s Day for Guys
Interview with Tameem Antoniades, Chief Design Ninja
Interview with Punk Rock band Bowling for Soup
Interview with Mumford and Sons
International Film Festival including interview with Charlie Blackfield producer of the Super 8 Clockwork Mouse Films
Jeffery Masson: The Face on Your Plate
Global Poverty Project
Confessions of an Intimidated Geek: Sport
Rediscovering Ancient Greece and Rome
Game, Music, Book and Film Reviews
University Lifestyle (Especially good if you live in Cambridge)