The Stoke Newington Literary Festival returns this year after an enforced hiatus and with an ever-so-slight geographical shift in focus. It is a matter of a few hundred yards and a handful of furlongs (for fans of imperial measurements) from Church Street to Newington Green and still in N16 of course.
Our main venue this year is the suitably-storied (and storeyed) Mildmay Club with the neighbouring Newington Green Meeting House (the old Unitarian Chapel) also hosting events. Both venues are on the north side of Newington Green, allowing us to offer you a more compact experience with no need this year to take to the scooter to get to consecutive talks. Nearby Grasmere Primary School – around the corner on Albion Road – is host to the children’s events and workshops.
Long standing festival goers will remember that we have used the Unitarian Church before – some may remember Fay Weldon’s sparkling contribution a few years’ back.
Indeed, we have always sought to offer a mixture of the challenging and, perhaps this year more than ever, the comforting in our programming, while also amplifying dissenting voices.
Newington Green gives us the perfect context with its deep association with Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. (The green itself is now graced with her statue which may be worth a look between events and arguably demonstrates just how the area continues to foster and provoke debate).
Mary is only the highest profile of many famous figures to hail from the area, though of course her work has particular resonance with the festival and many of our festival goers.
In the 17th century, the Newington Green Academy, often described as the Dissenter’s Academy, was attended by future novelist Daniel Defoe.
The festival, in its own humble way, will hopefully add a few more tales – tall and otherwise.
We hope the programme this year holds something for everyone. It ranges from Laura Bates demanding that the system is fixed among other things to make it safe for women to walk alone, a sadly pertinent topic in London today and Lily Dunn (Sins of My Father) Xanthi Barker (Will This House Last Forever?) discuss respectively the absence of and the loss their fathers. Pete Brown discusses his book on working men’s clubs in – where else – the Mildmay Club – a particularly apposite venue.
Will Sergeant, hailing from another British city that sets itself a little apart, Liverpool, discusses his book Bunnymen. We even have a television tie-in of a sorts. Will Heron, author of the Slow Horses/Slough House books is interviewed by Will Smith (of the Thick of It/Veep fame) who adapted the books for the current TV series.
Led by Donkeys finish up the festival demonstrating that dissent is often accompanied by righteous indignation too.
We would remind you too of our children’s programme at Grasmere with lots of interactive events and a writing workshop for older children. Maybe we’ll give a boost in confidence to the next Mary or Daniel.
There will be bars at the Mildmay of course to help the ideas flow (though we suspect not all our local dissenters would have approved), and we have chatted to all the local coffee shops, restaurants and pubs who will be more than happy to see you if you want to continue to discuss, debate and dissent in the finest traditions of the Stoke Newington Festival and indeed of Newington Green. The festival team are really looking forward to seeing you once again.
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