Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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Alice O'Keefe's most anticipated Books and Debate events

Alice O’Keefe, our Books and Debate Programmer, shares her most anticipated events from three of the most exciting writers of this year's Brighton Festival.

For reader’s out there who haven’t discovered Petina Gappah yet, you are in for a treat – her event is going to be one of my highlights of this year’s festival. The short stories in her latest collection, Rotten Row, bring alive the experience of living in Zimbabwe under Mugabe – the craziness, the poverty, the lack of justice or redress, but most of all, the inventiveness and humanity of ordinary people. She is as funny and scathing about the ageing dictator as she is about the folly of the Western aid agencies – get a ticket and catch this very special writer while you can.

Another highlight is sure to be Hanif Kureishi, who will be looking back over his whole taboo-busting and boundary-breaking career in conversation with the broadcaster Mark Lawson. From his portrayal of a cross-cultural gay relationship in the film My Beautiful Laundrette, to his very early look at Islamic fundamentalism in his novel The Black Album, Kureishi has consistently proved himself to be one of Britain’s most provocative and insightful writers. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about these and his latest novel, The Nothing.

Finally, I’m looking forward to seeing Gary Younge, who is one of my very favourite writers on politics both in Britain and America. He will be talking about his shocking and brilliant book One More Day in the Death of America, and also more generally about race, guns and Trump. He is in Brighton on the special invitation of Kate Tempest, who is a big fan - and his event is essential for anyone who wants to understand the current state of the USA.

Read more about our Books and Debate programme

Brighton Festival welcomes Bernie Sanders for special Festival Extra event

Former Democratic candidate for President of the United States Bernie Sanders will speak about his new book Our Revolution at a special Brighton Festival Extra event on Thursday 1 June, with tickets on sale from Wednesday 3 May at 10am (members pre-sale Tuesday 2 May at 10am).

Bernie Sanders will join Brighton Festival’s diverse Books and Debate programme, which includes Gary Younge discussing the role of guns in Trump’s America; Tariq Ali on his portrait of Lenin, and how we might challenge capitalism today; Palestine’s leading writer Raja Shehadeh on the Israeli occupation of Palestine; celebrated novelist Hanif Kureishi looking back on a career in which he has explored identity, cultural difference, and religious fundamentalism; and Democracy Debate: What Comes Next? in which Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee chairs a panel of top thinkers and politicians to debate the future of our political system.

Bernie Sanders stormed to international headlines after running an extraordinary campaign for the Democratic primaries that saw over 13 million people turn out to vote for him, and changing the global discussion surrounding US politics. But how did a complete unknown and an avowed socialist make such waves?

In Our Revolution, Sanders provides a unique insight into the campaign that galvanized a movement, sharing experiences from the campaign trail and the techniques that shaped it. And it wasn't just his use of new media; Sanders' message resonated with millions. His supporters are young and old, dissatisfied with expanding social inequality, struggling with economic instability and who rebelled against a political elite who has long ignored them. This is a global phenomenon, driving movements from Syriza in Greece to Podemos in Spain and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

Drawing on decades of experience as activist and politician, Sanders outlines his ideas for continuing this political revolution. He shows how we can fight for a progressive economic, environmental, racial and social justice agenda that creates jobs, raises wages and protects the environment. Searing in its assessment of the current political and economic situation, but hopeful and inspiring in its vision of the future, this book contains an important message for anyone tired of 'same as usual' politics and looking for a way to change the game.

Bernie Sanders ran to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. He is currently serving his second term in the U.S. Senate after winning re-election in 2012 with 71 percent of the vote. Sanders previously served as mayor of Vermont's largest city for eight years.

Bernie Sanders Our Revolution: A Future to Believe in is coming to Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Thursday 1 June. 

Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival Members pre-sale: Tuesday 2 May at 10am. Tickets go on general sale: Wednesday 3 May at 10am

5 mins with...Helen Oyeyemi

Writer Helen Oyeyemi whose recent short story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours made waves among literary critics, answers our quick-fire questions ahead of her Brighton Festival event.


I knew I wanted to be a writer when…

I’m still waiting for the definitive moment. More often I have moments when I know I want to be a lawyer or a psychiatrist or a librarian or a proprietor of a tea parlour, &c &c.

The first book I ever bought was…

Oh, I used a book voucher but that still counts – it was a novelisation of one of the storylines from The Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles cartoon.

My favourite writer is…

A combination of approximately seventeen different favourite writers.

The last book I read was…

Chaucer’s The Assembly of Fowls. Recommended.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

I’ll get back to you on this one…

People would be surprised to learn that…

For the past four years or so, somebody has been graffitiing the name ‘Helen’ on walls all over Prague (I swear it isn’t me – though maybe that is the plot twist, that I’ve been doing this in my sleep.) Anyway, this person is still at it – I came across a new ‘Helen’ a few weeks ago.

Helen Oyeyemi is at Brighton and Hove High School on Saturday 20 May

This is... Petina Gappah

Discover more about this outspoken prizewinning writer ahead of her talk this Brighton Festival (Sun 21 May)

On being labelled

“I’m not the voice of Zimbabwe; I can’t speak for every person in the country. I’m just a writer who is writing stories about Zim at the moment. I would like to be seen as a much more nuanced writer than just one who speaks truth to power. Plus, I don’t think terms like African writer or woman writer are helpful. It’s better just to focus on the content of the work.”

(from this 2015 interview)

On criticising NGOs in Zimbabwe

"I felt almost guilty about that because they are such an easy target – all these people who mean well but get it so awfully wrong! I am very cynical about the way Zimbabwe has become a project – it sometimes feels like the situation exists just so certain people can keep their jobs... One of the most abused job descriptions is that of “human rights defender” – we need to stop and ask, what is being defended, and what is not?"

On how her work as an international lawyer has influenced her writing

"...when I moved back to Zimbabwe in 2011 after years living in Geneva, I was amazed by the amount of space all the newspapers devoted to reporting crimes – both serious crimes and more opportunistic ones. It struck me that the criminal justice system links everyone together, from the top politicians to the street vendors – it cuts across the boundaries of race and class. So it was a theme that allowed me to build up a whole panorama of Zimbabwean society."

(from this 2016 interview)

On becoming a published author

"My first book, An Elegy for Easterly, was a collection of stories that sprung from a mini-life crisis. I had written all my life, I had just never shown anyone what I wrote, until 2006. That year, I woke up one day and panicked that, at 35, I might never achieve my dream of becoming a published author. So I forced myself to wake up early and write before I went to work. About 18 months later, I had a complete manuscript."

(from this 2016 column)

Petina will be discussing her works and writings on Sun 21 May, at Brighton & Hove High School, 3pm

5 minutes with... Hollie McNish

Internationally acclaimed poet and spoken word artist Hollie Poetry joins us for this year’s Brighton Festival as part of An Evening with Picador Poetry. You may know her from her Brighton Festival 2015 performance with Kate Tempest and George the Poet, or from one of her viral YouTube videos (now totaling almost 4.1 million views). Take 5 minutes to learn what makes Hollie McNish tick, ahead of her next fantastic show at the Brighton Festival in May.

I knew I wanted to be a performer when…

Honestly, I wanted to be a sports coach, then an economist, then a writer. But I love this job now! I knew I wanted to carry on doing this when I met the other poets I’d be working with.

My first public performance took place at…

Poetry Unplugged, Poetry Café, Covent Garden after a good pint of cider.

The first gig I went to was…

The Hollies with my dad. I’m named after them and he was determined I’d love them. The first one of my own choice was to see MN8.

The first album I ever bought was…

Errr, Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers. I was a little obsessed with the non-radio edit version! Other than that I’d record my own on tape from the radio. You know when you used to listen so carefully to click stop before the radio presenter spoke again.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

My daughter did my sound check at Abbey Road.

My favourite part of touring is…

Meeting other poets and people from the audience after the shows.

The best show I ever performed was…

Oooh, maybe The Moon Club, Cardiff. Lots of mums heckling and a burger place round the corner that served battered gherkins. Or Oran Mor on tour last year, cos it was in Glasgow and loads of my family were there.

If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…

Doing something admin-related with spreadsheets! Or writing other things. I’d still be writing poems, just keeping them under the bed instead.

People would be surprised to learn that...

I don’t like poetry.
Just joking.
Really, I do love it.

5 minutes with... Luke Wright

Poet, performer and broadcaster Luke Wright returns to Brighton Festival this May with a stunning new spoken word show, Luke Wright: The Toll. We took 5 minutes with Luke Wright to discover more about his passion for spoken word.

I knew I wanted to be a performer when... When I watched Ross Sutherland support Johnny Clarke at Colchester Arts Centre. He started doing a mic check (one ... Two ... One ... Two ...) which sped up and became a poem. It was brilliant. So fucking cool. I thought, "I want to do that."

My first public performance took place at… My sixth form college. I know, right, rock n roll. The audience were a bunch of sporty lads trying to eat their lunch. Not big poetry fans.

The first gig I went to was… As mentioned, Johnny Clarke, Martin Newell and Ross Sutherland. It changed my life.

The first album/book I ever bought was… Probably Martin Newell's The Illegible Bachelor. I love pun book/album titles. Half Man Half Biscuit are the masters of this.

My favourite poet / spoken word performer is… I'm a big, big fan of Catherine Smith. I could listen to her for days.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when… I'm just pleased to be here!

My favourite part of touring is… Eating. It's all about the food.

The best show I ever performed was… It's going to be this one in Brighton. Just you wait and see.

If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be… Richer.

People would be surprised to learn that… It's taken me seventeen minutes to come up with this final answer. And I'm not exactly thrilled with the results.

Luke Wright: The Toll is at The Spire on Fri 19 May.

Interview: Julian Clary discusses The Bolds on Holiday

Comedian, entertainer and author Julian Clary and illustrator David Roberts will be at Brighton Festival on 13 May to read two stories from the fantastically funny The Bolds series: The Bolds to the Rescue and new instalment The Bolds on Holiday! Here, Julian discusses the new The Bolds book and what inspired his book series.

Your children's books, The Bolds, have been hugely successful. How does writing for children compare to writing for adults?

It's delightful; I just have such a lovely time writing them. Making children laugh is a whole new thing for me, it's lovely. I’ve been doing lots of book events for children and it’s a delight – because they’re not pretending to laugh to please you. It’s a question of entering into that innocent world, a whole new world… it's obviously a world away from my usual filth but that’s liberating. It’s been a revelation.

Where did the inspiration come from for The Bolds?

From my childhood in Teddington. This is written from my point of view as a 7-year-old, because I used to daydream about the neighbours then, and wondered if they were animals. So when it came to writing the book I just regressed and that’s the story that came out. If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to do, it was be a writer.

I was very interested in Africa as a child and I was a member of the World Wildlife Fund. I’ve always liked hyenas, and once I heard my neighbours’ cackling laughs, I made up the story that they must be hyenas in disguise. I have always thought that animals are just as clever as humans. That’s where the story came from.

What about the new addition, The Bolds on Holiday? Why Cornwall?

I have such fond childhood memories of holidays by the sea in Cornwall, and St Ives, where I’ve set this book. It’s been so lovely to relive those happy times as I wrote this third story.

Why do you think they resonate so well with children?

It's not for me to say, really. But I think they're funny and morally sound, and very plot driven. I guess because I enjoy writing them so much that somehow comes across.

Will you continue with The Bolds or do you have a plan for a different series?

The Bolds are alive and well in my mind, so it's all about them. It's a bit like the Just William books, of which there were about 45. I feel like I can go on and on with them. Whether the public want me to or not.

Brighton Festival Live: Marlon James

Join us for an evening with 2015 Man Booker Prizewinner Marlon James. A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional account of an attempt to assassinate Bob Marley in 1976, a novel described by the New York Times as a ‘Tarantino remake of The Harder They Come… sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex’. Spanning three decades, the novel uses multiple voices – CIA agents, drug dealers, ghosts, beauty queens – to explore the turbulent world of Jamaican gangs and politics.

If you enjoy this live stream then you might be interested in some of the events still coming up at Brighton Festival

Five minutes with... Alexei Sayle

Alexei Sayle joins us this Brighton Festival to discuss his new memoir, Thatcher Stole My Trousers. We pinned him down for a quick, but seriously funny five minutes of questions...

I knew I wanted to be a comedian when…

I never wanted to be a comedian that’s why I seem so angry all the time.

My first public performance took place at…

My mother used to make the neighbours come around and watch me do little shows from about the age of six.

The first comedy gig I went to was…

There was a guy called John Dowie who came along just too early for the alternative comedy boom who I saw at the Bush Theatre in 1976.

The first album I ever bought was…

The Four Tops. On Top.

My favourite part of touring is…

Not touring.

My favourite comedian is…

I’ll say Louie C K because he is no threat to me.

My favourite place to perform live is…

The Soho Theatre in London. I can get the 19 bus there using my old person’s bus pass and be home again by 10.00. All for free.

The last song I listened to was…

“Circles” by Kate Tempest.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when…

I MC’d Glastonbury in 1985 a famously muddy year and I said from the stage “a woman’s lost a contact lens, if you could all just have a look for it...”

The best show I ever performed was…

Glastonbury 1985.

If I wasn’t performing, I’d probably be…

Eating a sugary cake such as a Lemon Yum Yum from the patisserie counter at Waitrose.

People would be surprised to learn that…

I don’t have diabetes.

Watch Again - Brighton Festival Live: Yanis Varoufakis

In his new book, And the Weak Suffer What They Must?, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis assesses the history of the European monetary union.

A passionate campaigner against austerity, Varoufakis argues that it is a fundamental threat to Europe and to the global economy. He also shows that the origins of the Eurozone crisis lie not with governments or the banks but in its founding structure. 

He will talk to Channel 4 economics editor and Guardian columnist Paul Mason about the current crisis and present his case for economic reform.

Find out more on this event.

If you enjoy this livestream, then you might be interested in some of the events still coming up at Brighton Festival:

Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal
Premiering in the UK, Silencio Blanco confronts the black silence of Chile’s mining history and the personal histories of the miners in this unique and poignant work. 

Fuga Perpetua
Meaning 'always running', this potent and thought-provoking new work by Yuval Atival combines music, sound, movement and visual projection to reflect and give insight on the situation of refugees and displaced people. 

New Writing South Annual Lecture: Nikesh Shukla
Nikesh Shukla discusses his recent calls for increased diversity in literature and asks: "Do I need to see myself in stories to enjoy them?"