GREENWICH BOOK Festival returns for the fifth year from Thursday 13 to Sunday 16 June with its “strongest line-up yet.” This summer’s programme for book lovers young and old is shaped by the themes of social activism, different perspectives and women’s voices.
Headliner Michael Palin will deliver a globe-trotting presentation about his extraordinary book Erebus: The Story of a Ship; activist and musician Billy Bragg will discuss what actions we can take to protect democracy; while former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman OBE and Women’s Prize shortlistee Diana Evans join a panel celebrating the launch of New Daughters of Africa Anthology.
Working class activist Kerry Hudson is in conversation about Lowborn; gender equality campaigner Caroline Criado Perez will be interviewed about her Sunday Times bestseller Invisible Women; and LGBTQ poet Jay Bernard, winner of the Ted Hughes Prize 2018, introduces their Forward Prize-nominated first collection Surge.
The line-up for families includes: Cressida Cowell, the multi-million-selling author of How To Train Your Dragon, offering tips on becoming a writer; The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler delivering a live-drawing session themed around “kindness”; and Robin Stevens celebrating Murder Most Unladylike’s fifth anniversary.
London-themed books and local authors are also showcased in the festival programme, with a tribute to Andrea Levy, acclaimed as a chronicler of the Windrush generation; there will also be a discussion with Hallie Rubenhold about her book The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper; acclaimed literary authors Joseph O’Connor, Linda Grant and Bernadine Evaristo will all be discussing new London-set novels, while conservation campaigner and author Bob Gilbert leads a Greenwich Nature Walk; and writer Caroline Crampton offers a rare perspective on London from the Thames itself with a talk on her non-fiction debut The Way to the Sea: Forgotten Histories of the Thames Estuary.
The festival is hosted by the University of Greenwich, amid the scenic Thameside buildings and grounds of the Old Royal Naval College. It is part of the Royal Greenwich Festivals initiative and will be preceded by a fortnight of outreach events taking place in libraries and schools across the borough.
Mark O’Thomas, Pro Vice Chancellor of the University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences says: “The University is pleased to present the fifth Greenwich Book festival, which is now a well-established and well-loved annual event. This year, there is a huge range of activities planned – from sessions with high-profile authors to free lectures from our professors. I am particularly excited about the poetry and play readings as well as all the family-friendly events. We are very much looking forward to welcoming book lovers and their friends and families to our beautiful Greenwich campus.”
Patricia Nicol, Greenwich Book Festival Director, says: “Soon after moving to Greenwich in 2010, I was struck by the idea that these magnificent Thameside buildings would make a wonderful backdrop for a festival of words and ideas. The University of Greenwich enabled that dream to become a reality.
“The aim has always been to create an event that works for all ages and backgrounds and that celebrates London, reflecting its energy, eclecticism and diversity. This is our fifth festival and it feels our strongest line-up yet, with headliners like Michael Palin and Cressida Cowell, the incisive poetry of Jay Bernard’s Surge, and events ranging from Billy Bragg on activism to Axel Scheffler on kindness.
“I love the Open House Weekend aspect to GBF. I’m sure most of the millions of tourists who flock to the landmark Old Royal Naval College site annually, have very little idea of all that goes on behind its elegant Wren and Hawksmoor façades. Even after five years, I still get a behind-the-scenes-at-the-museum kick from how our festival allows the public in: with events in classrooms, state-of-the-art lecture-theatres, the recently refurbished Dreadnought building, and spread out on the ORNC’s majestic lawns.”
See below for some of the festival highlights
Look Up! With Dapo Adeola
Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m.
Meet illustrator Dapo Adeola and hear all about his brand-new picture book Look Up!, written by Nathan Bryon. Look Up! stars Rocket, a science-mad chatterbox who wants to be the greatest astronaut that ever lived, but she needs to convince everyone around her to look up from their phones first. Get ready to join an interactive workshop featuring storytelling, top facts and your chance to try your hand at out-of-this-world drawing!
Dapo is also leading the drive to get more black illustrators in the book industry.
High Rise Mystery with Sharna Jackson
Saturday, June 15, 11:15 a.m.
Join Sharna Jackson as she introduces her new crime-solving duo Nik and Norva in High Rise Mystery. It’s the hottest summer on record in London, and there’s been a murder in the Tri high-rise. Nik and Norva are determined to find the killer. High Rise Mystery is the first black detective duo in British children’s fiction. Great for fans of Robin Stevens (who’s raved about the book) or anyone else who likes to solve a good mystery.
Storytelling with Wendy Shearer
Saturday, June 15
Magic Story Bag: 12:30 p.m.
Earth Stories: 3 p.m.
Ages 5 and under, all welcome
Join our wonderful storyteller Wendy Shearer for two exciting storytelling sessions: Earth Stories and a Magic Story Bag. A wonderful session for the under 5s, but all ages welcome. Wendy is a very welcome returnee to the Greenwich Book Festival. Brought up in South-East London, Wendy is a professional storyteller who brings folkstories, myths and non-traditional tales to vivid life for audiences of all ages.
Friday Night Poetry with Jay Bernard and Mary Jean Chan
Friday, June 14, 8 p.m.
Join Forward Prize nominees Jay Bernard and Mary Jean Chan for a night of poetry at the festival. Jay Bernard is the winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2018. Their powerful debut Surge is one of 2019’s most anticipated releases and a fearlessly original, queer exploration of the Black British archive. Mary Jean Chan is a poet, editor and academic from Hong Kong who now lives in London. Her anticipated debut collection, Flèche, will be published by Faber in early July.
Bernadine Evaristo in conversation with Diana Evans
Saturday, June 15, 11:15am
Current Woolwich laureate Bernardine Evaristo is a dynamic figure in British letters. Her latest novel, Girl, Woman, Other offers a vibrant portrait of contemporary London, Britain and womanhood. It follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different people in Britain, predominantly female and black. Bernadine will be in conversation with award-winning novelist Diana Evans, whose latest novel, Ordinary People, has been nominated for several awards, including the Women’s Prize.
A celebration of the New Daughters of Africa with Margaret Busby, Malorie Blackman, Bridget Minamore and Diana Evans
Saturday, June 15, 2 p.m.
Celebrate the New Daughters of Africa anthology with its editor Margaret Busby, along with contributors Malorie Blackman, Bridget Minamore and Diana Evans, to showcase the global sweep, diversity and extraordinary literary achievements of black women writers. Comprising a wealth of genres and styles, this anthology speaks to the strong links that endure from generation to generation as well as the common obstacles that women writers of colour continue to face as they negotiate issues of race, gender and class.
A Tribute to Andrea Levy
Saturday, June 15, 4 p.m.
Andrea Levy, one of England’s most-celebrated novelists, who passed away in February this year, is hailed as the chronicler of the Windrush generation. As the UK prepares to celebrate its first ever Windrush Day on June 22, join us for a tribute to this prize-winning and important author with Patrick Vernon, creator of the Windrush Day campaign, legendary publisher Margaret Busbyand playwright Roy Williams. They’ll also discuss Small Island, our reading club book of the festival.
Notting Hill, Notting Dale: A Work in Progress
Saturday, June 15, 12:30 p.m.
This June marks the 2nd anniversary of the Grenfell fire in Notting Dale, West London, and May saw the 20th anniversary of the film, Notting Hill. British-Nigerian writer Ade Solanke grew up in the Nottingwood House estate, minutes from Grenfell and the border between the Dale and the Hill. ‘Notting Hill, Notting Dale’ is her semi-autobiographical novel about her experiences. She will read from her work in progress. Amber Lone will read from her work in progress, a novel, “Non-Believers” about growing up in the Birmingham Muslim community where recent protests about faith and education have flared. Following the readings, they will be joined in a panel discussion with Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon, and West London-raised Diane Abbott MP.