Peggy Hughes, Programme Manager of Literary Dundee shares a Peggy-eye view of three days of literature…
To my delight I discovered, from Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams on the train south, that the Spanish word encuentro ‘means something between “festival” and “conference”’. She continues: ‘there’s no word in English that does justice to encuentro. It coaxes the word for “story” (cuento) out of the word for “encounter” (encontrar) and hints at what will happen at this upheaval of debauchery and roundtables…’ I had been wondering what I would find at an International Literature Showcase , what it might look like, and encuentro comes close to explaining the inspiring people, thought-provoking discussions, the opportunity to be still and listen to world-class authors and startling debut voices read their work, the conversations and the conversations and the conversations, in the breaks, in the pub, between the cracks. Here are just a few of my favourite stories.
Helen Macdonald and Jeanette Winterson who ‘fancied having a night about animals’; a perfect piece of programming. Mrs Winterson’s sage advice: ‘The trouble with a book is, you never know what’s in it until it’s too late’. A lunchtime dash to magisterial purveyors of tea and coffee, Wilkinsons of Norwich. Eimear McBride in general. Eimear McBride reading with her own voice from A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing in particular. Literature professionals surveying the overcast sky for the eclipse; literature professionals looking at the wrong side of the sky. Hannah Silva’s frankly astonishing Shlock!. A panel on digital literatures that fed my brain and a panel on building meaningful relationships with communities that fed my imagination. Ali Smith, always and forever. Palestinian delegate Sameh Khader saying ‘Literature puts you outside yourself and allows you to look at yourself through other people’s eyes’. Anna Selby suggesting that we had before us the makings of the Greatest World Book Club of all time. Intensive geek-in about books with Sam Ruddock. A last hurrah in Dragon Hall – a unique Grade 1 listed medieval trading hall, former butcher’s, former brothel, once a pub, itself crammed to the beams with stories – bringing a triumphant #ILShowcase to a fitting conclusion right where Writers’ Centre Norwich will soon make a bold new beginning.
One chapter closes and another unfurls.
The people I met are now part of my future chapters. When I’m oxter deep in spreadsheets and invoices, lugging chairs and tables, when deadlines are weighing on my head, I will imagine these people, friends, doing their inspiring things all over the world, and I’ll feel a glow again. Scottish writer Kirsty Logan, during her panel touched upon the idea of feeling ‘too big or small in the world’. It’s easy to feel big in our own worlds, working within our own networks, in our cities, our countries. These wonderful days in Norwich City of Literature reminded us that the world is big and exciting and full of possibilities: being with peers from all over the world doing wonderful, creative things, made me feel like a tiny cog whirring away in a magnificent machine. A festival hidden inside a conference, teeming with fantastic people and their stories that joins you to the world – that, I discovered, is what an #ILShowcase looks like.