Review: Durham Book Festival

Durham Book Festival is an annual event, usually held in the picturesque cathedral city of Durham; this year however, events have shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our arts writers have attended a variety of the events held and are here to report back to us their thoughts. Laura Bates: A new angle on […]

multiple writers
1st November 2020

Durham Book Festival is an annual event, usually held in the picturesque cathedral city of Durham; this year however, events have shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our arts writers have attended a variety of the events held and are here to report back to us their thoughts.

Laura Bates: A new angle on everyday sexism

As I settled into my sofa, tea in hand, I felt prepared to engage in the discussion about sexism – something I assumed I was relatively well educated in – by the acclaimed Feminist author Laura Bates.

My mind was blown, and my expectations exceeded. Sexism and gender have been greatly discussed, especially in the past few years, and it is something I believed was one of the only things improving in our current society. However, I was brutally wrong. Bates explains how social media and online forums have led to the spread and radical anti-feminist groups and picks up on murders performed by young boys who have been radicalised by these groups. These groups who many do not even realise existed.

If you fancy a whirlwind education in some of the most undercover events happening in society, I would definitely recommend the interview – and perhaps even her book! 

Iona Lowe

In Conversation with Adrian Tomine

Illustrator Adrian Tombine recently published 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Cartoonist', maybe a somewhat niche insight into an individual pursuing this profession. It follows his successful graphic novels, and his work in The New Yorker. As Durham Book Festival is now virtual (and free), I felt more inclined towards events I wouldn't normally attend: Tombine's talk amongst them.

No description available.

Angus Cargill, Publishing Director at Faber and Faber, chaired the conversation and questions the cartoonist on his structural choices when assembling the autobiographical 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Cartoonist'.

A major component of the discussion was the interaction between illustration and the text, and whether drawings compliment the plot, or vice versa. In response to the reception of the book, Tomine comments: "people focused on the content and the story, and saw the illustrations as a way to express that".

Attending the event online largely worked well, whilst there was no Q&A element, the chat-box allowed conversation within the audience - not normally a possibility during an in-person event. This event has certainly piqued my interest in Tomine's work.

Maud Webster

Richard Osman: The Thursday Murder Club

I finished reading The Thursday Murder Club a couple of days before the talk, so the story was fresh in my mind for Richard Osman to discuss his fantastic debut novel. Famous for creating the UK’s biggest TV gameshows, and being the face of Pointless the focus of the talk was primarily about how he managed to write a book.

While I was definitely inspired by his writing tips (bashing out 500 words a day is no mean feat), I was still holding out for some interesting insights into how he came up with his plot, characters and setting. He addressed the retirement village as being a place that, after visiting, would make for a unique mystery spot; the plot, I discovered, was always going to be crime-oriented, being Osman’s favourite genre; the characters were the most intriguing part of the book and ironically, whoever they may have been based on, remains unknown.  

Cayla Viner

Writing the Missing

A compelling and thought-provoking masterpiece of spoken art, addresses the fight for freedom in an ableist society; it is both heart-breaking and beautiful to watch.

Award-winning disabled activist, Lisette Auton performs her mesmerising words in an idyllic setting of far-reaching trees and a gentle stream. The vastness and quietness of her surroundings emulates what she is saying as she stands alone. However, what she is doing is far from solitary and if you close your eyes, her expressive poetry transforms image description and thus her art becomes inclusive for the blind.

Joining Lisette is Bex Bowsher, Sarah Crutwell and Vici Wreford-Sinnott who offered words that immediately stuck with me: “my constant companion is my own imagination,” “access denied,” and “they were different glasses when they were talking to me.”   

Cayla Viner

Notes from a Biscuit Tin & Young Poets: Poetry and Philosophy for Confusing Times

In 2019, Newcastle-based philosopher Mary Midgley's biscuit tin embarked on a 12-month journey around the world, collecting notes and poems, and transcending geographical barriers. It is currently in lockdown in Tokyo, safe in the care of philosopher István Zárdai.   

Celebrating Mary Midgley’s memory in this year’s Durham Book Festival, poet Gillian Allnutt, philosopher-musician Jennifer Judge, and philosopher István Zárdai discuss poetry, philosophy, and the current reality.  

How can philosophy and poetry meet? The simple answer is through language. Poetry uses the language of the individual and philosophers often use poetic language to put the blood back in the ‘lifeless body’ of reason. Both poetry and philosophy are made to be communicated. During these times of isolation, they remind us that the world doesn’t exist for us but thinking about the future in terms of the individual and the universal is the tool that will help us understand it better. 

 So, write; keep track of your peculiar thoughts even if they seem trivial, the speakers urge us. You may not have the answers now, but this might not be the time for answers after all. Perhaps now is the time to ask the peculiar questions. 

Mary Tsiara

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