After the overwhelming success of the September 2014 launch weekend the Bradford Literature Festival is set to take the national festival scene by storm with its distinct, diverse and dynamic brand of programming. At the heart of this unique festival is cultural literacy – an exploration of race, faith and culture through a celebration of literature, history and the arts.

The Bradford Literature Festival takes place Friday 15 to Sunday 24 May. With over 150 events in 20 venues, featuring more than 250 writers, thinkers, artists and experts from countries ranging from Nigeria to Syria, from Poland to Pakistan and from Ireland to Iran. Exploring everything from ISIS to Islamophobia, from Bollywood to the Brontes, from comedy to crime, from diabetes to doll-making, from football to feminism, from horror to goth, from Sufism to Judaism, and from poetry to politics; the festival has something for everyone.

The Festival will host some of the most notable names from the worlds of literature, poetry, journalism, science and faith this year. Favourite children’s author Lauren Child will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her iconic book and television series, Charlie and Lola. To celebrate the occasion the Festival will not only screen the very first episode of Charlie and Lola, but the author will also talk about the process of taking the famous siblings from book to screen. There are workshops for different ages too – everything from storyboarding to making your very own 3D Charlie and Lola, and it all takes place on Saturday 16 May.

Will Self

Will Self

Will Self will be offering philosophical insights on particle physics with leading scientist Professor Akram Khan. The former literary editor of The Independent, Boyd Tonkin, will be discussing Freedom of Speech as well as chairing a number of events as part of a special Bronte-themed weekend. Bestselling author Sophie Hannah will be talking about her very first Hercule Poirot mystery while Lauren Beukes discusses thrillers and horror. The Festival is also hosting poetry legend Brian Patten, Leonard Lewisohn (an expert on the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi), and welcoming back Lemn Sissay.

In the world of current affairs Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will give her take on the real meaning of Englishness, Baroness Warsi discusses issues of trust surrounding Muslims, Professor Paul Rogers from the University of Bradford examines ISIS and No More Page 3 campaigner Lucy Ann Holmes considers the impact of female tabloid euphemisms.

This is one festival that doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions. How do rising Islamophobia and antisemitism reflect on British values? What is the lure of ISIS? Ten years on, have we learnt any lessons from 7/7? Is there a crisis of masculinity today? What are the burning questions you’ve always wanted to ask about Islam but never dared?  Do we really have freedom of speech, or is it a delusion of liberal societies? From current affairs to the politics of gender, from global conflicts to their local effects, this groundbreaking festival offers a neutral space for constructive conversations about thorny topics which urgently need to be addressed.

By celebrating Bradford’s literary, historical, faith and cultural heritage the festival is as much about the local as it is about the global. One of the festival’s flagship events is Sacred Poetry, a showcase of Bradford’s entire faithscape featuring Michael Symmons Roberts alongside some of Yorkshire’s finest artists including Supriya Nagarajan, Shabnam Khan and Inder Goldfinger, and taking place this year at the oldest building in the city, Bradford Cathedral.  

There’s an entire weekend devoted to the Brontes including a return of last year’s sell-out full day Bronte Heritage Tour with Christa Ackroyd. To mark 70 years since the first performance of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and to coincide with a new TV adaptation, the Festival brings together


Sophie Hannah

a panel of renowned Priestley experts to offer their insights on the play’s enduring appeal. There’s the opportunity to learn about the work and life of acclaimed artist Sir William Rothenstein, who painted the likes of Oscar Wilde and Albert Einstein. Rothenstein’s father ran a textile warehouse in Little Germany and the young artist grew up in Manningham, once the Jewish quarter of Bradford and known a hundred years ago as the best end of town. Don’t miss the chance to hear Rothenstein’s grandnephew, art dealer Max Rutherston, discuss his family’s roots in Bradford’s textile heritage.

To coincide with the release of his new book, Necropolis: City Of The Dead, local author and photographer Mark Davis will offer a twilight tour of Bradford’s Undercliffe Victorian Cemetery. There’s even the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s gruesome past at Bradford Police Museum with a talk by Allan Cox to mark the launch of an exhibition on the history of Bradford’s most notorious public executioners.

Linking the city’s past and present and with an eye on its future, Bradford Literature Festival is spearheading the city’s cultural renaissance. For details of the full programme and tickets, please visit

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