blog tour, books, reviews

Cheltenham Literature Festival Blog Tour & Book Review

Something a little different today, to celebrate this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. Read on for info on the Festival and a review of one of the books being celebrated there.

Cheltenham Literature Festival is the world’s first literature festival, leading the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers, while inspiring over 9,000 school children with a love of books through its Literature for Schools programme. 

Cheltenham Literature Festival is part of Cheltenham Festivals – a charity delivering a pioneering year-round educational programme culminating in four internationally-acclaimed Jazz, Science, Music and Literature Festivals. Cheltenham Festivals creates experiences that bring joy, spark curiosity, connect communities and inspire change.

The Festival has an accompanying year-round programme of education and talent development outreach including its flagship Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils project which has rolled out nationally, enabling teachers and their pupils to rediscover the joy of reading. The other programmes include: the award-winning Beyond Words, a creative writing project working with vulnerable young people unable to access mainstream education in Gloucestershire, Words That Burn, a national human rights poetry project created in partnership with Amnesty International and Write Now, a unique mentoring, workshop and networking project that nurtures young people’s creative writing abilities.

One of the writers featured at the festival is crime writer Mick Herron, who will be at an event celebrating the life and career of John Le Carrè. Herron is sometimes seen as Le Carrè’s literary heir and his most recent title is Slough House, which I was kindly sent to review below.

Slough House – the crumbling office building to which failed spies, the ‘slow horses’, are banished – has been wiped from secret service records.

Reeling from recent losses in their ranks, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold, and fatal accidents keep happening.

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, the aftermath of a blunder by the Russian secret service that left a British citizen dead, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

My thoughts: this was very enjoyable, with lots of intrigue and conspiracies to keep the characters occupied in chasing around London and out into the countryside after a pair of Russian assassins, who are chasing after Jackson Lamb’s team and he’s not happy about it.

Diana Taverner might be First Desk at M15 but she’s not as in control as she thinks, stupidly getting entangled with dangerous men who play the political long game and far better than she can. She’s in it up to her neck and only Lamb and his band of misfits can sort things out, whatever their reputation as slow horses suggests.

Jackson Lamb is probably the unhealthiest spy around, overweight, chain smoking, perpetually drunk and living on a diet of terrible takeaways, he’s hardly the suave, sophisticated ideal, but he’s survived a long time in this world and under the dishevelled appearance is a top notch brain. Same goes in many ways for the rest of his team – they might not be the ones pipped for bright futures but they’ve got skills and are innocuous enough that they don’t look like much of a threat.

I’ve only read one other book in this series, a while ago, but the writing is very clever and the plot gripping, just the right amount of convoluted. I might just have to check the rest of the series out, see what else Lamb and his slow horses have been up to.

This ends with question marks over the future for the team and indeed the life of one member. Will they be allowed to stay at Slough House, quietly doing boring busy work for MI5 or will there be changes coming?

*parts of this blog post were created using a press release but the opinions expressed in the book review are my own.*

books

DESIblitz – The UK’s Leading South Asian Literary Festival begins 18th September

The DESIblitz Literature Festival 2021 is the UK’s leading South Asian Literature Festival. Opening in Birmingham City Centre on 18th of September with a string of leading British South Asian and South Asian literary stars, the festival, with a mix of in-person and digital events and runs until 1st October. All tickets are free apart from three headline events at £2.99 per ticket with Sathnam Sanghera, Nikesh Shukla and a panel event on Cultural Representation in Literature. Live events will take place at the Rep Theatre and B Music (formerly Symphony Hall) in the city centre.

Buy your tickets here  

The festival is designed to encourage young and aspiring British Asian writers but is open to all. It provides a much-needed programme of author events, workshops, performances and panel discussions, showcasing the work of British South Asian authors and poets, and international writers with South Asian heritage. As well as aiming to inspire new creative writers, the festival  provides an opportunity to highlight the way writers of South Asian descent have contributed to the literary canon across the world.

DESIblitz Literature Festival Director Indi Deol said: This is the third annual literature festival curated and produced by DESIblitz.com. As in previous years, the aim of the  festival is to provide a platform for new voices from within the British South Asian writing community, as well as feature existing British South Asian voices who are already successful as role models. As well as aiming to inspire new creative writers, it provides an opportunity to highlight the way writers of South Asian descent have contributed to the literary canon across the world. It has never been more important to showcase the incredible and multifaceted talent of Britain’s South Asian literary community.

 

Discussions on Diversity in British Publishing

The British South Asian demographic is still hugely underrepresented in British publishing and panel events taking place at the festival will include “Diverse Characters Matter” a panel discussion about the importance of diversity in children’s books, with leading authors Bali Rai, Serena Patel, Sita Brahamchari and Monika Singh Gangotra; “Cultural Representation in Literature a panel discussion about the importance  of diversity in adult writing with Saima Mir, Pragya Agarawal and Sufiya Ahmed; as well as Women of Colour in Publishing a panel discussing the importance of diversity in British Publishing with Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Publishing, and Hannah Chukwu from Penguin.

Workshops to Inspire and Ignite

Workshops taking place in person at the festival include: Genre, Setting and Character led by Bali Rai the award winning children’s author, Writing Memoir led by Shyama Perera, Guardian and Channel 4 Journalist and author of three novels, as well as a South Asian Poetry Masterclasswith acclaimed poet Rupinder Kaur – a Birmingham Panjabi writer and performer whose debut poetry book Rooh (2018) was published with Verve Poetry Press.  

 

Author Events:

Highlights from the author programme include talks with the award winning Bangladeshi novelist and Granta Young Writer Tahmima Anam about her critically acclaimed 2021 novel The Startup Wife.

Bestselling author, journalist and screenwriter, Sarfraz Manzoor will be discussing his new book They: What Muslims and Non-Muslims Get Wrong About Each Other.

Nikesh Shukla bestselling author of The Good Immigrantwill talk about his new book Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home.

Social media influencer, podcaster and BBC presenter Anchal Seda will talk about her new book What Would the Aunties Say? A brown girl’s guide to being yourself and living your best life.

Acclaimed journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera, will talk about his latest book Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain.

Successful self-published author Preethi Nair will also host a talk on how to get published called “Being Published – Traditional or Indie. The pros and cons.”

 

Sci-fi, crime & graphic novels

Writer-painter Amruta Patil is India’s first female graphic novelist whose work sits at the cusp of ancient Indian philosophy and ecological-feminist stirrings. In 2017, she received a Nari Shakti Puraskar from the 13th President of India for “unusual work that breaks boundaries” in art and literature.

Samit Basu is an Indian SFF novelist. His most recent book, Chosen Spirits, a near-future anti-dystopian Delhi novel, was shortlisted for the JCB Prize, India’s biggest literary award.

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian.

Saima Mir is a British Pakistani journalist who grew up in Bradford. Her essay for It’s Not About The Burqa (Picador) appeared in the Guardian and received over 250,000 hits online in two days. She will be talking  about her debut crime  fiction novel The Khan whichis currently being optioned for TV.

 

Poetry

An evening of Poetry on Sunday 19th will showcase the work of leading South Asian Poets including Founder of Kiota Bristol, Shagufta K Iqbal is an award-winning writer, workshop facilitator and Tedx Speaker and will read from her poetry collection ‘Jam Is For Girls, Girls Get Jam’, described by Nikesh Shukla as ‘a social political masterclass.’ One of the UK’s most exciting young poets and playwrights, Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi who is currently a Sky Writers writer in residence will read from her debut collection of poetry re;desire – longlisted for the Jhalak Prize.

In addition the world leading Pakistani poet Imtiaz Dharker whose work is part of both the GCSE and A-Level syllabus in the UK and has been described by Carol Ann Duffy as “If there were to be a World Laureate, then for me the role could only be filled by Imtiaz Dharker” will read from her extensive poetry collection.

About DESIblitz  Literature Festival

The DESIblitz Literature Festival provides a much-needed programme of author events, workshops, performances and panel discussions, working with British Asian authors and poets, as well as those with South Asian heritage. The festival is designed to encourage young and aspiring British Asian writers, but is open to all.

DESIblitz.com’s first venture into literature events began with the production of a specific British Asian Literature strand for the Birmingham Literature Festival in 2017. The organisation then went on to produce a series of high quality, independent festivals every year since then. The festival in 2020 was converted to an online offer owing to the UK wide situation with Covid 19. The festival is grant funded by Arts Council England

DESIblitz.com is a non-profit organisation, dedicated to promoting South Asian literature. In particular we aim to make British South Asians and the wider Desi community aware of the huge catalogue of literature written by and for those with South Asian heritage.

The organisation increased its commitment to supporting creative practitioners from within the British South Asian diaspora with the launch of the dedicated online platform, DESIblitz Arts, in 2020.

DESIblitz Arts is focused on encouraging and showcasing submitted works produced by creatives that include short fiction and poetry which have a South Asian theme.

*this post was created using text and images from a press release. I received no payment for this but wanted to share this fascinating and enjoyable event with you.*