“they discuss Bloomsbury’s history as a meeting place and point of intersection for poets, radicals, and visionaries of all kinds”

Bloomsbury is famous for its literary heritage, and still evokes a powerful hold on the literary imagination today. For this year’s Bloomsbury Festival the Institute of English Studies, drawing on contributions from across the SAS Institute’s and the Senate House Library will be offering a series of literary events that celebrate the power of the written word.

Earlier this week we looked at the literature events focused on the library, museum and archives (click here for that post), today we explore the many other events looking at the lesser-known aspects of Bloomsbury’s literary heritage.

Madness, Modernity, and ghost hunting!

Will Self

Will Self

On Wednesday 16th October, at 6.30pm acclaimed author, journalist and public intellectual, Will Self comes to Senate House. In conversation with Dr Nick Shepley  (UCL), he will explore the topic of the Madness of the Modern City, and the links  between modernity, urban life and pathologies of the mind.  This discussion explores themes of modernism and urban life central to Bloomsbury’s history, and to Will Self’s Booker-shortlisted novel Umbrella.

On Thursday 17th we will be hunting ghosts with new writer Neil Spring.  Neil works for the John Lewis Partnership as a Senior Communications Manager, but he is also a writer with a lifelong interest in the paranormal and the unexplained.  At this event he launches his debut novel The Ghost Hunters which is inspired by his researches in the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature at Senate House.  Paranormal investigator Harry Price left his personal collection to the University of London on his death in 1948, where it still resides today. But what were the circumstances behind Price’s demise?  Was it linked to the most haunted house in England, Borley Rectory?   Neil Spring investigates in this launch for his novel… The truth is stranger than fiction!

Bloomsbury in fiction

Over the weekend of the 19th-20th, in the Beveridge Hall we host a whole programme of Bloomsbury-themed literary delights. On Saturday at 2pm, we will welcome some of the finest archaeologists of lost and neglected literature, as they come together in an event dedicated to Resurrecting Lost London Fictions. Andrew Whitehead, Ken Worpole, and Cathi Unsworth will join us to discuss the greatest Bloomsbury authors ever to fall out of print in this most ‘literary’ quarter of London.

Bloomsbury SquareDirectly following this event, at 3.30pm, authors   D.J. Taylor (Derby Day, Orwell: The Life) and Helen Smith (the Emily Castles Mysteries) explore Bloomsbury in Contemporary Fiction.  These two bestselling authors will discuss the influence Bloomsbury continues to exert on the contemporary literary imagination, in relation to their two new novels set in the area. Taylor’s The Windsor Faction presents a counter-factual history of the early years of the Second World War (as viewed from a seedy Bloomsbury office), whilst Smith’s Invitation to Die paints Bloomsbury as the setting for a perfect English murder. Both authors will be reading from their novels, which offer very different contributions to the canon of ‘Bloomsbury Fiction’.

At 5pm, one of the foremost writers on contemporary London, Iain Sinclair (London Orbital, Hackney: that rose-red empire), is joined by Bloomsbury-born writer and academic  Phil Cohen (Reading Room Only) to present Bloomsbury, Bad Journeys.  Both writers have their roots in the counter-culture of the 1960s, and in this one-off event for the Bloomsbury festival they discuss the area’s history as a meeting place and point of intersection for poets, radicals, and visionaries of all kinds over that period and beyond. From the British Museum reading room to the dissolute fringes of Soho, a journey across Bloomsbury can be as intoxicating and terrifying as any ‘bad trip’, These authors will be on hand to lead you through, with reference to their own very different literary careers.

Human Rights Poetry at #BloomsburyFest

The Poetry Slam (2012)

The Poetry Slam (2012)

On Sunday 20th, we turn to poetry and human rights. Back by popular demand at 4pm is the annual Human Rights Poetry Slam hosted jointly by the Keats House Poets and the Human Rights Consortium in SAS. One of the highlights of last year’s programme, the 2013 event will see a host of young London poets putting their skills to the test in a fast and furious competition for poetic supremacy, as they explore some of the most pressing human rights issues of the day.

Directly following this, we close our programming for Bloomsbury 2013 with the launch of In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights. This major new anthology, produced by the Human Rights Consortium and the Institute of English Studies, will be launched by internationally renowned poet Ruth Padel and publisher and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing (The Sigrid Rausing Trust, Granta Books). The event will also feature readings from both established and emerging poets featured in the anthology: including James Byrne, David Lee Morgan, and Chrissie Gittins, who will come together to launch this important new book and to provide a stirring finale to the Bloomsbury Festival.

Also on Sunday there are also a series of poetry events investigating issues of refugees and human rights. To find out more about these events and more check out our Festival Highlights post for details of even more events at this year’s Bloomsbury Festival.

16 October

6.30pm                 The Madness of the Modern City: Will Self in Conversation

17 October

6pm                       Neil Spring Presents: The Ghosthunters

19 October

2pm                       Resurrecting Lost London Fictions

3.30pm                 Bloomsbury in Contemporary Fiction: D.J. Taylor and Helen Smith

5pm                       Bloomsbury, Bad Journeys: Iain Sinclair and Phil Cohen

20 October

4pm                       Human Rights Poetry Slam

6pm                       In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights

The Bloomsbury Festival runs from October 15-20, 2013. The full schedule of events at the School of Advanced Study is available here. We are also running a series of exciting competitions in October. Follow us on @SASNews for festival news and updates.

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