There is perhaps no purer form of writing about what you know than the memoir.
And yet these personal stories have always registered strongly with others. The most challenging of experiences can offer a degree of comfort, prompt self-reflection, offer new perspectives and maybe even inspiration.
Friday’s gala evening at the festival features four writers telling their remarkable stories from recently published memoirs and other writing, demonstrating, in the process, just how powerful setting down your own experiences, taking ownership of your own story and sharing it with others, can be.
There may be tears as our writers tackle the difficult topics of cancer, toxic relationships, the Black educational experience, and online obsessions from a woman’s perspective, but, we promise, some laughter too.
The evening will be hosted by Catherine Taylor, the former deputy director of English PEN, an organisation that campaigns for the ‘unhampered transmission of thought’ within and between nations.
It would be difficult to think of a better host to present an evening of people telling their personal stories, while perhaps making a contribution to the ‘unhampered transmission of thought’ in this part of North London in the process.
This brings us to the evening’s writers and their stories.
Jeffrey Boakye, the author of I Heard What You Said and Black, Listed, will discuss his experiences in the British education system as both teacher and student with a witty approach but one that doesn’t flinch from challenging the status quo, something which remains (unfortunately) highly relevant in today’s Hackney.
Sylvia Patterson, author of I’m Not with the Band discusses the recently published Same Old Girl, a book about coping with a mid-life breast cancer diagnosis and the self-explanatory subtitle, ‘Staying Alive, Staying Sane, Staying Myself’. This reflects, as the reviews suggest, Sylvia’s unflinching, poignant and gallows-funny odyssey, which is likely to resonate with many others.
Tom Mitchelson, author of Don’t Ask Me About My Dad: A Memoir of Love, Hate and Hope discusses a family home blighted by explosive violence, where his father would often drag his mother brutally around the house and yet a relationship where “Tom knew his dad was a monster, yet he loved him. He was both friend and foe”.
Ultimately, he discovers restorative power in his own fatherhood.
Harriet Gibsone author of Is This Ok? A Woman’s Search for Connection Online recounts a very online existence since her teenage years and later emotional consequences; how as a culture and music editor she eventually sought to be creative in her own right and later the struggles of getting pregnant via a donor.
The book is, according to the Guardian, “full of finely told stories that were once secrets, existing only in the writer’s mind; addictions, obsessions, weirdnesses”.
It promises to be a thought-provoking evening of sadness, laughter and ultimately hope.
Friday June 2nd, from 7pm. Tickets are available here.
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