Offil, Osman and Cleeves feature in first digital Durham Book Festival

Offil, Osman and Cleeves feature in first digital Durham Book Festival

Jenny Offil, Richard Osman and Ann Cleeves are among the authors taking part in the first digital Durham Book Festival this October. 

The event will take place between the 9th and 18th October, joining writers and artists from across the globe in online activities including talks, workshops, readings, live drawings and podcasts. 

Crime writer Ann Cleeves will be interviewed by broadcaster Steph McGovern, while 4,000 free copies of her latest book Written in the Blood will be distributed around county Durham, in addition to a free e-book. Cleeves has also written a new story exclusively for the festival, and is this year's Durham Book Festival Big Read event.

Ian Rankin will also appear in conversation with A A Dhand about his new novel, A Song for the Dark Times (Orion), alongside Osman (pictured) discussing his debut The Thursday Murder Club (Viking). Offil will be discussing her Women's Prize for Fiction short-listed novel Weather (Granta), as a response to climate change, while Sarah Moss examines her latest book, Summerwater (Picador), as a state of the nation Brexit novel. 

Bennett will dicuss her latest novel, The Vanishing Half (Dialogue), which spans 1950s–1990s America, and follows twins who adopt different racial identities, leading different lives as a result. 

Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “The festival line-up is truly inspirational and really does offer something for everyone. 

“It is obviously a shame that we can’t have the usual physical events for the festival this year, but by moving the programme online, we can spread the joy of reading and writing to a much wider audience. We can also shine a light on the North East and showcase the tremendous literary talent that flourishes here."

The festival will also host conversations produced in partnership with Birmingham Literature Festival. Laura Bates, author and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project will discuss her new book, Men Who Hate Women, and Alastair Campbell will offer an "honest and ultimately life affirming account of his lifelong struffle with depression", talking about his new book Living Better

Writer and activist Fatima Bhutto will also respond to PEN International's Women's Manifesto, suggesting that while literature "knows no frontiers", the first and last frontiers can be in the domestic sphere, and may often be the front door of the house a women lives in, or her husband's home. 

The festival is also launching a series of 15 essays, short stories and poems. New Narratives for the North East will feature writers including David Almond, Mim Skinner, Andrew Hankinson, Richard T Kelly and Melissa Tutesigensi, who will also be appearing in a series of podcasts launched during the festival.

A screening of the BBC Arena documentary "Them and Uz" will be aired via the festival, featuring writers who identify as working class including Degna Stone, Shaun Wilson, Jodie Russian-Red and Inua Ellams.

As part of the Little Read Project, 1,500 copies of Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker, illustrated by Zoë Persico will be distributed to primary schools and nurseries in Durham. The book-gifting campaign will be supported by video resources, inlcuding a reading of the stroy by the author, and a set of creative workshops and songwriting, inspired by the book. 

Ticket holders will also receive proof copies of new books by  Danielle McLaughlin, Fiona Mozley and Lisa McInerney and debut novelists Buki Papillon and Kit Fan.

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, said: “I’m incredibly proud of how the New Writing North team has risen to the challenge of creating a digital event this year. We decided early on to be positive about the opportunities that digital would offer for extending our film and audio commissioning and for producing across platforms. As always new commissions mark the festival out as unique and this year we have invested seriously in new work from both the region and internationally.

"It feels important to use literature as the positive connection point for people locally and to connect Durham to people across the world. We hope that our events will both delight our regular attendees and engage readers from across the globe in the work and ideas coming out of the North."