Cloud Atlas and Schindler’s List authors top bill at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

PUBLISHED: 08:39 04 June 2016 | UPDATED: 08:44 04 June 2016

Booker-winner and author of Schindlers List Thomas Keneally

Booker-winner and author of Schindlers List Thomas Keneally


Back for a seventh year, the Stoke Newington Literary Festival has a star-studded line-up of 87 events. Emma Bartholomew chats to organiser Liz Vater and finds out what not to miss.

Novelist David Mitchell, twice shortlisted for the BookerNovelist David Mitchell, twice shortlisted for the Booker

The Stoke Newington Literary Festival returns this weekend, with the men behind Schindler’s List and Cloud Atlas sharing the bill with a punk celebration, a literary salon up a horse chestnut tree and a kids’ protest march.

Big names like Rotters’ Club author Jonathan Coe, performance poet John Hegley, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell and former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis will also visit venues across Stoke Newington to celebrate the area’s fascinating radical history and share ideas on everything from bee keeping and utopia to Turkish bakeries.

The event was set up seven years ago by Liz Vater, 52, who says she had no idea it would become so big.

“Our reputation among authors has grown,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere, and our audience are incredibly engaged and ask brilliant questions. Authors love that – they come back and say ‘I’ve never had questions like that before’.”

Performance poet John HegleyPerformance poet John Hegley

“The response is fantastic – you have people coming out of events buzzing with new ideas and really excited. It’s wonderful to watch.”

One of the highlights of the festival is their first-ever Booker winner Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s Ark – adapted into Oscar-winner Schindler’s List by director Stephen Spielberg.

Liz said: “Schindler’s List was such an important film for so many people. It captured a period in history that until then no one had spoken about. It was such a moving story you couldn’t not be horrified and gripped in equal measure.

“To hear Thomas talk about that will be very inspiring for lots of people.”

British Nigerian writer and journalist Noo Saro-Wiwa, daughter of Nigerian poet and environmental activist Ken Saro-WiwaBritish Nigerian writer and journalist Noo Saro-Wiwa, daughter of Nigerian poet and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa

Keneally, who has been formally declared a Living Treasure in his native Australia, will be talking about his astonishing career and latest book, Napoleon’s Last Island, at the Town Hall at 4pm on Saturday.

The same venue will see another big name the following day at 6pm – twice Booker-shortlisted Mitchell.

Liz said: “He is genuinely one of the most exciting novelists of his generation. I would say he’s a genius writer – he’s got such a broad intellect. He mixes humour with outlandish fantasy and creates these incredible stories. He will take you from 100 years in the past to the future.”

A whole kids’ festival featuring a Gruffalo (sort of), Mr Gum author Andy Stanton and comic workshops is taking place throughout the weekend.

Sonic Youth song writer and guitarist Thurston MooreSonic Youth song writer and guitarist Thurston Moore

On Saturday, a protest camp at William Patten School will see youngsters creating slogans, making banners and marching down the high street, calling for the changes they want to see in the world – from not eating Brussel’s sprouts to cleaner air.

The festival is also raising the profile of Eric D. Walrond, one of only two writers buried in Abney Park cemetery, whose influence is finally being recognised – 50 years after his death.

His biographer, American academic James Davis, is flying in to talk with authors Colin Grant and Robyn Travis, plus MP Diane Abbott. They will discuss Walrond’s role in the Harlem Renaissance, his relationship with Marcus Garvey and the factors that led to his until-now relative anonymity. Liz Vater said: “He was always slightly out of fashion. He was out and about nature writing when other black writers could only be political.” It’s on Sunday at 11am in Abney Hall. Entrance is £5.

Music in a marquee outside the Town Hall that day is from Andy Diagram, the trumpet player from James, the Bikini Beach Band, children from Hackney Twist Theatre and the Hackney Secular Singers.

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