Is there such a thing as a Leeds writer?
In the second of three seminars, entitled (Re)Writing Yorkshire, writers A J (Andrew) Kirby and Richard Smyth will explore the literary map of Leeds and its region (with a particular focus on grassroots writing) and will try to ascertain what Leeds does to writers and what writers, both past and present, have done to Leeds. The event, organised by the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett and The Leeds Library, is free, open to the public and will take place at 6.30pm on Tuesday 17 November at The Library (18 Commercial Street, Leeds, LS1 6AL).
Dr Rachel Connor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, organiser of the series and chair for the evening, said: “In Mapping Leeds’s Fictional Landscape we will explore the literary topography of Leeds and debate such questions as: is there such a thing as a Leeds writer? What are its real and fictional boundaries? Where in the city does grassroots writing take place? And how is Leeds represented both locally and globally?
“The event will fuse readings from Andy and Richard’s fiction with participatory discussion from the panel and audience about Leeds’s place on the northern, UK and global literary map.”
Award winning author, A.J Kirby, has written six novels, including crime thriller, The Magpie Trap, and over forty short stories. Andrew said: “I’m delighted and proud to have been invited to appear at the (Re)Writing Yorkshire series as Leeds has imprinted on my career in a number of ways.
“The way in which Leeds, Yorkshire and ‘the north’ have been portrayed in novels (predominantly dark and gritty) interests me greatly - but is it right that they should be portrayed this way? In truth, the way in which Leeds and Yorkshire are imagined in literature differs greatly from book to book and from writer to writer, but is there such a thing as a Leeds writer or a Yorkshire writer? And should there be? What’s important, is to draw a line between the localised nitty-gritty of life and location as it appears in fiction, and the overall result or coherent whole of the novel or story.”
Richard Smyth is a novelist, historian and journalist whose work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The Author, New Humanist and New Scientist, among others, Richard commented: “What does it mean to be a Leeds writer? I'm pretty sure I am one. I was born and brought up here - but I'm not sure what that says about my writing, or even if it says anything at all.
“It's natural to wonder what effect the places in which we live and work have on the stuff we publish, and that's what the (Re)Writing Yorkshire series gives us an opportunity to do: to explore the fiction, poetry and drama being produced in Yorkshire and by Yorkshire writers and to ask what - beyond the postcode districts in which they were written - they have in common. Andy, Rachel and I will each bring a unique perspective to the discussion.”
The (Re)Writing Yorkshire series, which sees academic researchers, established writers and creative practitioners examine new representations of Yorkshire in Literature, Television, Film, Music and Art, was launched last month by Yorkshire based poets, Helen Mort and Tara Bergin – both of whom were selected by the Poetry Book Society in 2014 as writers expected to dominate the poetry landscape in coming years. A packed house gathered to hear Helen and Tara discuss whether, and how, Yorkshire has influenced their writing, and where they see poetry going in the next 10 years.
The final seminar, featuring Sunjeev Sahota, named one of Granta’s Best of British Young Novelists in 2013 and a rising star of contemporary literature, will take place on Tuesday 8 December. The event will consider representations of the North of England, its problems and its future in contemporary British Fiction.