‘Omnibus Edition’ Clapham’s Literary Festival 2016 took place in May of this year, at which ‘Reconquista‘ was launched. Claphamwriters was one of the partners organising the event and your blogger took part in several sessions ( in several guises ).
So it is with great pleasure that I can report that two of the participants have subsequently received awards and garlands.
Max Porter’s debut novel ‘Grief is The Thing with Feathers‘ has won the International Dylan Thomas prize for his “extraordinary feat of imaginative prose”. Described by the award administrators as “part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief”, the debut tells of how the death of a mother affects her two young sons and their father, a Ted Hughes scholar. As they face the blackest moment of their grief, they are visited by Hughes’s creation Crow, who helps them heal. It has garnered fabulous reviews and is definitely in my ‘To read’ pile.
The author, in conversation with novelist Elizabeth Buchan, entranced the audience and was happy to stay and sign books, with probably the most imaginative dedication of the festival. ‘Caw, caw!’ he wrote above his signature. Porter, Editorial Director at Granta, has won £30,000.
‘Nightwalking; A Nocturnal History of London‘ by Matthew Beaumont is the other much garlanded book. As founder of claphamwriters I acted as interlocutor for the session ‘Place and the Writer‘ with Matt and Elizabeth Buchan in a discussion about how location inspires writers.
This history begins in the Middle Ages, when sleep patterns were organised rather differently to now – an ‘evening sleep’ when darkness fell, then folk would rise for a few hours, to pray or reflect, or walk, then have ‘morning sleep’ before it became light. The walking was actively discouraged then and continued to be so, even when streets began to benefit from lighting. It has, therefore, always been considered with suspicion.
A lecturer at UCL, Beaumont charts the history of night-walking in London from then until the time of Dickens, that great night-walker, with remarkable erudition and a comprehensive literary knowledge. It’s a book which I will read through again as well as dipping into it. I can thoroughly recommend it.
But what of the Festival? Well, it was the first of its kind in Clapham and there seems to be an appetite to do it all again next year, despite the apparent glut of festivals of this type. Weeks after the Clapham version, the Balham Literary festival was launched and Wimbledon’s version is about the take place. There must be a finite market for festival going.
Yet there is no shortage of writers wanting to take part ( indignant phone calls were received by a number of us, asking why ‘so and so’ hadn’t been included ) many of them well known. So your blogger is already discussing the possibilities with partners. If it happens in 2017 we hope to engage more with local people, well in advance, with Clapham schools, Societies and book clubs, something which time restricted us from doing this year. We also need to raise money, through sponsorship and other sources, so that we can pay authors, at least nominally, and organise much more publicity.
Watch this space.