Literature at Latitude
13/07/2012 by Natasha Lavender
We give you a bite-size guide to the literary legends appearing at Latitude Festival this year
Poetry at Latitude
Blake Morrison is best known for his memoirs, but he is rather more versatile than this reputation suggests. Having written libretti, worked as a journalist, edited the Independent on Sunday and the Observer and published non-fiction works which include a book about the James Buglar case, he is returning to poetry at Latitude. His new work, The Discovery of Witches, is based on witch trials held in Lancaster Assizes in August 1612, which saw ten of the accused hang. He will also be reading his controversial 1987 piece, The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper, in what promises to be a criminally good performance.
Another established poet to return to the stage is John Cooper Clarke. Having inspired a generation when he rose to prominence in the punk era, performing on the same bill as artists such as the Sex Pistols, Joy Division and Elvis Costello, Clarke fell into heroin abuse and stopped writing. Having kicked the drug, he is back on form and bringing that anti-establishment attitude with him.
The air of dissent is also strong with Dean Atta, whose poem about Stephen Lawrence went viral upon the sentencing of the teenager’s murderers in January. Already likened to Gil Scott Heron, Atta recorded the poem on his iPhone and uploaded it to Facebook and Twitter, demonstrating the power of social media in poetry today. Atta’s powerful pieces frequently deal with racism, particularly attacking the casual use of racist slang, homophobia and sexuality.
Another voice for the black community is the outspoken Benjamin Zephaniah, who draws upon Jamaican poetry and music to challenge racism. He famously rejected an OBE as the symbol of an unjust government and monarchy, and, like Atta, uses his poetry and activism to urge black people to find their own voice.
Another act aiming to inspire an appreciation of words are Don’t Flop. Founded by rappers Eurgh and Cruger, the team stage rap battles to give MCs the chance to show off their skills. Each battle lasts three rounds, which are 60 to 90 seconds each, and begin with a coin toss to see which contender will start. At the end a group of judges decides on the winner. An alternative to a poetry slam, Don’t Flop shows that poetic skills can inspire the next generation. Rap also plays an important part in Patience Agbabi’s act, a revamp of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales that takes its inspiration from rap rhythms.
If Chaucer is perhaps a bit heavy, Martin Kiszko is offering a more family-friendly performance. His poems about the delights and challenges of going green are accompanied by projections illustrated by Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park.
Literature at Latitude
This year’s literature line up is looking like a strange mixture of comedy, autobiography and science. Simon Armitage will be discussing his new book, Walking Home, in which he walks the Pennine Way - the wrong way. Simon heads for home, specifically the Yorkshire town where he was born, giving poetry readings along the way for board and food, and encountering various colourful characters. Eccentricity is also the order of the day for Dave Gorman, whose latest book, Dave Gorman Vs The Rest Of The World, sees him travel the length of Britain after challenging the public to any game of their choosing.
Also appearing for discussion, and with both autobiographical and travel elements but without the humour, is John McCarthy’s You Can’t Hide the Sun, an account of the lives of Palestinians living in Israel. McCarthy combines history with interviews and references to his own experience as a hostage in the Lebanon in a work sure to provoke moving and important discussion.
While Simon Day’s memoir Comedy and Error is, naturally, more light-hearted, the former Fast Show star reveals a dark past as a petty thief funding a gambling addiction, who ended up in the borstal alongside professional criminals. Even as he recalls his time in prison, Day retains the comic edge which saw him rise to fame.
Other non-fiction writers appearing at the festival are of a more scientific bent. Vet and evolutionary zoologist David Bainbridge, who has previously focused on the science of sex, has moved on to examine middle age, in Middle Age: A Natural History. Bainbridge attempts to explain why humans, unlike any other animal, experience middle age, and whether there are any benefits. Despite the potentially disheartening subject matter, Bainbridge remains resolutely cheerful.
Further scientific delights come courtesy of Professors Brian Cox and John Butterworth, who will be offering insights into the hot topic in the world of science: the Higgs Boson particle and an interview with Robin Ince.
The theme which seems to have earned the attention of several fiction writers is history. Deborah Moggach, author of These Foolish Things, the novel behind The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, will be discussing her latest novel, In The Dark, which is set a boarding house in inner London the First World War. Ned Beauman’s The Teleportation Accident is set in 1930s Berlin but deals with a man looking for sex rather than the more expected rise of the Nazi party.