The last time I performed at Waterstones, Birmingham, it was 1990-something and the building was in a different place – i.e. New Street. A few days ago (20 September 2016), I was back. This time I was reading with other West Midlands-based writers at the refurbed Waterstones in its new location in High Street opposite the Bullring. It’s a funky, friendly set up with cafés and plug points and far more books in it (so it seems to me) than the new Library of Birmingham. And almost every night Waterstones hosts a different literary event or soirée. I’ve gone in for a lunchtime meeting and stayed all afternoon. Now that they’ve acquired a booze licence, I might have to take a sleeping bag.
This month’s event was the taster for a series of free 30-minute pop-up events called Moveable Feast – all with emerging regional writers – that will be running throughout the Birmingham Literature Festival (6 to 15 October). Over the past four months, West Midlands writers Carol Caffrey, Naomi Paul and I have been putting together said feast.
We are all alumni of a regional career development scheme for writers called Room 204 (named after the number on its Custard Factory office door) run by Writing West Midlands (WWM), the hyper-active literature agency responsible for organising the Birmingham Literature Festival. The scheme is now in its fifth year and has helped more than 80 regional writers in all genres who have been through the Room 204 doors. I was in year two back in 2013/14 – here’s my Room 204 bio – Room 204 gave me new writing buddies, confidence and opportunities.
Carol, Naomi and I feel that we owe a lot to Room 204 and were only too pleased to give something back – plus we learned at the recent National Writer’s Conference also organised by WWM that we all need to be ‘ambassadors for literature’ now. We had a thought: wouldn’t it be great if, in addition to the line up of famous names performing at the festival, emerging writers from the region could be represented? We had a word with Writing West Midlands who loved the idea. Chief Executive Jonathan Davidson said they’d long wanted to include Room 204 writers more actively in the festival but were too stretched. With their endorsement, we put a call out to all 80 rising literary Room 204 stars.
Groups of six or so of these up and coming regional writers will be popping up before main events at the festival as set out in the list below. They’ll be whetting the audience’s appetite in foyer spaces at the Library and in Waterstones before main festival events. If you’re coming to the festival, why not pop along to one of our pop-ups, which are all completely free? We can’t promise you a free glass of wine, which was the treatment audience members received at the 20 September event at the new-look Waterstones, but we can guarantee to whet your literary tastebuds with fiction, poetry and songs.
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