James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre
As we move towards the summer we are now approaching the Royal Greenwich Festivals, an annual programme of cultural festivals supported by the local authority, ranging from the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival to Greenwich Dances and the Greenwich World Cultural Festival.
This year, as well as co-producing the new Greenwich Family Arts Festival in partnership with Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre, I am delighted to be working on the Greenwich Book Festival. Organised by the University of Greenwich with author and journalist Patricia Nicol, the festival promises a packed programme of events for adults, children and schools and, for the first time, a playwriting strand hosted here at Greenwich Theatre. Over two days we will be showcasing the work of playwriting and screenwriting students from Greenwich University, performed by professional actors and university drama students, alongside rehearsed readings of two European plays, newly translated and premiering in the UK.
The first of the two is a surreal and quirky play by Polish writer Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk. Directed by Dr Natasha Oxley from the University Drama Department, The Suitcase follows a man on a voyage of discovery, and his ad-libbing answerphone that falls in love with the play’s narrator. I will be directing the second of the two, a French play by Joël Pommerat called This Child. A patchwork quilt of parents and children, of broken relationships and brand new opportunities, Pommerat’s play caused a sensation in France when it was written almost a decade ago and it has lost none of its potency today.
The festival is a vibrant expression of the university’s growing reputation as a centre for creative writing and performance. Co-director Dr Alex Pheby, Programme Leader of Creative Writing at the university, sees the festival as a great way to showcase students’ work and expose them to the publishing industry, as well as bringing the literary world to Greenwich.
“The festival attracts well known authors and exciting new voices each year as well as publishers, agents and critics,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the university and the wider community. From novelists like Jenni Fagan to poets like Filippa Bahrke, many of our students get published before they even graduate,” he says. “We are committed to innovation and cross-genre experimentation which means students can develop their own form and style.”
As well as a programme for children, with everything from Elmer the Elephant to Kipper the Dog, the adult line-up includes appearances from Sarah Perry, Waterstones Book of the Year winner for The Essex Serpent, Lisa McInerney, Bailey’s prize winner for The Glorious Heresies and award-winning poet Sabrina Mahfouz who will introduce the anthology The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write.
Councillor Denise Scott-McDonald, Cabinet Member for Culture, Creative Industries and Community Wellbeing said, “We are delighted to be supporting the third Greenwich Book Festival and see it become a regular feature of the Royal Greenwich Festival calendar.”
Greenwich Book Festival, Fri 26 & Sat 27 May