London Literature Festival

Student Writer | Tasmin Fatodu

For the twelfth year running, the London Literature Festival returned this autumn to the London Southbank Centre with more riveting and diverse Hollywood speakers, poets, authors and artists. The festival was full of lively discussions and talks, with live readings and workshops for all literature interests. Over twenty days, events ranged from a whole weekend of Young Adult fiction to Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry readings from her final collection as Poet Laureate.

The theme of this year’s festival was Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. This epic was explored in talks, workshops and live readings. Thanks to Mary Beard and Madeline Miller, discussion surrounded Emily Wilson’s English translation, the first by a woman.

Highlights include Salman Rushdie’s discussion of empire and race, led by rapper Akala and historian David Olusoga. They explored class, culture and the origins of modern British society.Additionally, Tom Hanks co-star Sally Field appeared to share her new memoir, ‘In Pieces’. The platform given to the discussion of diverse backgrounds, from ‘Visions of Latin America’ to a performance by Heaux Noire, was astonishing. The room for diverse writers and stories appears to grow each year.

The panel ‘Women Rewriting Homer: Madeline Miller and Sharlene Teo’,hosted by broadcaster Natalie Haynes, was a must-see. Miller and Teo explored their early memories of the beloved mythical texts that inspired them, while emphasising the need for a platform for these female characters to come to life and have their stories told. They highlighted the power of stories like the ‘Odyssey’ and their endless interpretations. They discussed the negative and incorrect portrayal of women in these epics and why modern society has found comfort in retelling these old stories. All three women were delightful and inspiring to hear as they displayed their love for the myths and the need for their retellings.

Poetry readings from Carol Ann Duffy, Keith Hutson and Imtiaz Dharker were unique, witty and memorising. Duffy’s new work was personal and gripping as she commented on the current political climate of Brexit.

Ted Hodgkinson, Senior Programmer for Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre, stated the aim 2018’s festival was to ‘invite audiences on a journey across centuries and borders to explore the timeless power of literature to question and reflect on the burning issues of our times’. Indeed, these festivals are a marvellous space for readers and writers to devour their love for literature with other enthusiasts and discover the power of words in history and our society.

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