Thursday, 27 January 2011

Congratulations, Jo Shapcott

Congratulations to Jo Shapcott from Headingley admirers for winning the general Costa Book Award. Individual winners are selected from five categories: novel, first novel, biographical work, poetry volume and children’s book. These winners are then put back into the competition and an overall winner comes out – with a prize of £35,000. This year, Jo Shapcott’s Of Mutability took it, narrowly beating Edmund de Waal’s memoir The Hare With Amber Eyes.

Help us with publicity

The LitFest programme leaflets have now been printed. If you want some to give out, please email here. You could also ask for the pdf of the programme, then send it on to people in your address book.

Don't forget to add the LitFest if you use Facebook: click on the icon top right. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

Peter Lorre - one of the greats

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Peter Lorre appears in the LitFest’s showing of The Beast With Five Fingers at the Cottage Road Cinema on Monday 21 March at 7.30pm. He stands out, almost inevitably, from the other actors in a strong cast, and not simply because of his reputation: he is genuinely one of the greats. The screenplay, taken from a short story by W F  Harvey, one-time resident of Headingley, is a little daft, but there’s the horror genre for you. It’s still very enjoyable.

His voice . . . face . . . the way he moved . . . laughed  -   he was the most identifiable actor I have ever known. (Vincent Price)

His ‘real’ name was László Löwenstein, and the languages of his youth would have included Hungarian, German, and probably Yiddish, because he was born in 1904 in Rózsahegy (now Ružomberok in Slovakia, then in the Kingdom of Hungary) to a fairly well-off Jewish family. He was educated in Vienna and became a bank clerk to please his father, in spite of his fascination with theatre.

Membership of a theatre group which specialized in improvisation led him to stages in Breslau (now Wrocław), Zurich and Berlin, where he became famous for his interpretation of Danton in Georg Büchner’s Danton’s Death. Bertholt Brecht took a great linking to him, and cast him in his Happy End and Man Equals Man. In 1931 the film director Fritz Lang cast him as a psychopathic child murderer in his first talkie, which had the short title of M. This caused something of a sensation, and Lorre began to be careful about typecasting. However, although he starred in a fair number of German films after M, people remembered it rather too well, and in 1933, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who was deeply interested in the power of film (just like his master Hitler, whose favourite film was Lives of a Bengal Lancer) sanctioned the use of Lorre’s image on a poster advertising the anti-semitic The Eternal Jew. Lorre was supposed to look like a typical Jew. Sinister, that is…

Lorre took the hint and got out. In England, he quickly teamed up with Alfred Hitchcock to become a villain in The Man Who Knew Too Much, then sailed to the United States to star in Mad Love and to become the Japanese sleuth Mr Moto. His international reputation, which was substantial, escalated to stellar heights when he appeared in Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. After the War, still sensitive (rather late in the day) about typecasting, he appeared in The Beast With Five Fingers and similar films. He finished his career with a series of character parts in the likes of Around the World in Eighty Days.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Ben Okri booked for the LitFest

Ben Okri, one of the most acclaimed African writers within the postcolonial tradition, will be speaking on the afternoon of the final Saturday of the Headingley LitFest (26 March) at the brilliantly refurbished Heart centre in Bennett Road.

Often described as a 'magic realist', Okri's novels and poems are written in English but draw heavily on Yoruba myths, stories and culture.  Praised for his experiments with new literary forms, he is probably best known for The Famished Road, which won him the Booker Prize in 1991. In this, African and European literary traditions meet, in a story narrated by a 'spirit-child' who moves between the worlds of spirits and human beings, observing the chaotic history of his country. There is plenty in it about corruption - economic and political - in modern Nigeria, and about the devastation brought by war.

I was told stories, we were all told stories as kids in Nigeria. We had to tell stories that would keep one another interested, and you weren't allowed to tell stories that everybody else knew. You had to dream up new ones.

The oral storytelling tradition of Africa is a powerful influence, and Okri has added Ancient Greek legends, Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dickens to the list. Those who want to do some background reading before 26 March in addition to our guest's work might like to read the classic Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Okri's poem The Awakening, written to mark the Millennium, appears on this Oxfam Cool Planet website, and you can find a full bibliography and biography on this British Council website.

Tickets are not yet available for this, or any other event, because the programme's final details are still being sewn up, but if you want to express on interest in the Ben Okri event, email your details.  

Other guests include Rommi Smith, who works to fuse spoken word and music, the writer, singer and former television producer Isabel Losada, who will give a presentation on how to get published, Nicola Beauman, the founder of Persephone Books, which specialises in rediscovered inter-war novels by neglected women writers and a flock of female poets called Wordbirds.

Three people with the surname Brown will take part – Dr Richard Brown, who will talk about novelist and critic Storm Jameson, Ray Brown, who will talk about his plays for radio and Wes Brown, who has had his first novel published in his early twenties. 

Veteran writer for teenagers Robert Swindells (Stone Cold, Brother in the Land) will speak to Year 9 students at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, other high schools will hold poetry slams and the Flux Gallery will show a film about Irish writers and also host the launch of poet Genny Rahtz’s collection Sky Burial.

There will also be 'house events', following last year's successes, on Sunday 20 March. Apart from the Heart Centre, things will take place at the New Headingley Club, the Lento Café on North Lane, the LS6 (Clock) café on Headingley Lane, the Flux Gallery on Midland Road, Headingley Library and local high schools.

*Now read about what happened: