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Literary Suffolk

The Ipswich and Suffolk Book League was formed forty years ago this year as a regional branch of the National Book League.

The object of the branch was to ‘promote, encourage, foster or strengthen by all and every suitable means the habit of reading and the wider and more general distribution of books by and among all people in one or more of the following ways:

  1. To encourage the meeting and discussion of all persons connected with or interested in books.

  2. To create wherever possible local centres of information about books and related events within the County of Suffolk.

  3. To organise and arrange exhibitions, lectures, discussions, competitions and readings relating to books and their production and use.

  4. To publish a newsletter [BookTalk] for the information of members.’

The Suffolk Book League, as it was renamed in 1986 with the demise of the National Book League, now exists within a county where the habit of reading is encouraged by a wide range of organisations and a county which is inhabited by many creative writers who often use Suffolk as their inspiration. There is no doubt that Suffolk is now a ‘County of Literature’ and the Book League is proud to be part of it, arranging its own events and helping to promote Suffolk’s literary heritage, past and present, through its website and via social media.

Members of the League will know how difficult the last two years have been with regard to organising our meetings but we have managed with a mixture of face to face meetings at the Ipswich Institute and online events. Elsewhere in the county many literary festivals continued either face to face or in a dual mode in 2021. Here are some of them.

Between the 25th and 27th of June the Felixstowe Book Festival was held at the Harvest House with a mix of face to face and online events including Elly Griffiths, Richard Dawkins and Carol Drinkwater.

From Friday 30th July to 1st August the Primadonna Festival was held at the Museum of East Anglian Life, having been cancelled the previous year due to Covid. A wide ranging event, it involved many writers including Saimi Mir, Karline Smith, Kia Abdullah, Erin Kelly, Stella Duffy, Adele Parks and Kit de Waal among many others. This year’s event will take place between 29th and 31st July.

The Two Rivers Book Festival, organised by Waveney and Blyth Arts was held in early September and included Jessie Greengrass talking about her novel High House; Henry Sutton talking about his crime novels that he writes under the pseudonym Harry Brett and a celebration of the author Doreen Wallace.

Between the 3rd and 4th September a new festival WAMfest –Women in Arts & Music hosted two literary events: An audience With Ruth Dugdall and Amanda Hodgkinson and an audience with Cassandra Parkin, Jeanette Hewitt and Kate Sawyer.

The Aldeburgh Literary Festival, which was set up in 2002 by John and Mary James of the Aldeburgh Bookshop, had its first virtual festival in between 10th and 12th September with talks being presented on-line and in person. This year the festival will be held at the beginning of May

The 3rd Bury St Edmunds Literary Festival took place at the end of September at the Unitarian Meeting House with and exciting line-up including Julia Blackburn, Simon Edge, Rachel Hore, Liz Trenow, D. J. Taylor and Nicola Upson.

At the beginning of November the ‘Way With Words’ team organised a 5-day festival in Southwold involving a range of authors including Deborah Moggach, Alison Weir and Esther Freud. Another festival is being organised for this year between 31st October and 6th November.

The Lavenham Literary Festival was held between 5th and 7th November with the famous Festival Dinner held at The Swan Hotel featuring Alan Johnson. The guest at this year’s dinner will be Kate Humble.

The Poetry in Aldeburgh festival was held entirely online between the 4th and 7th November with the usual range of established and up and coming poets including Sarah Doyle, Abeer Ameer, Pam Thompson and with Robert Selby reading from his debut collection of Suffolk-inspired poems.

Suffolk Libraries goes from strength to strength with the organisation of literary events much of it easily available through their Facebook page including their Discover Reads Book Group and online author events hosted by Lisa Passingham. Their next online festival is being held between 7th and 12th March.

Jeff Taylor


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