‘WRITERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!’
Another May Day, another May Day Manifesto?
Our Literary Manifesto this May 2017 comes from our ‘Writers of the World Unite!’ festival of literature and social change – London’s newest festival. Over four days, writers, poets and activists from round the world descended on London to discuss revolutionary novels, poetry, graphic novels, global politics, identity politics and life-changing books. They held workshops, performed, filmed, tweeted and blogged. Fergal Keane, Elif Shafak, Mervyn Morris, Maria Stepanova and Xialou Guo were just a few of the stirring speakers. Hosted at Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe’s largest bookshop and the brainchild of the magnificent Mark Banting, organised and run by the literary and political magazine ‘Little Atoms’, live literature producer ‘Speaking Volumes’, our very own ‘European Literature Network’ and a host of other cultural groups, the festival ended on May Day with a riotous cabaret of radical comedy and ukulele playing (!)
We @eurolitnet ran the special launch event, ‘International Riveting Reads’, hosted by yours truly, Rosie The Riveter. In true revolutionary style I invited not one nor two nor even five international writers but a collective of ten, to read from their own works and to debate the role of literature in times of change. It was a high-octane, packed, wine-charged and long evening – but utterly riveting. We might not have changed the world but we gave it everything we could. How could we go wrong with authors such as Boris Akunin (Russia), Zinovy Zinik (originally Russia, now London), Rory MacLean (Dorset / Berlin), Vesna Goldsworthy (Belgrade / London), George Szirtes (Norfolk / Hungary), Oscar Guardiola-Rivera (Colombia / London), Cristina Sanchez- Andrade (Galicia, Spain), Vaseem Khan (London / Mumbai), Elif Shafak (London / Istanbul) and Diego Marani (Brussels / Ferrara / Europe). Oscar and Diego delivered the final funky manifestos – you’ll be able to access all ten readings and manifestos on our website soon, thanks to ‘London Video Stories’.
My motivation for ‘International Riveting Reads’ was the centenary of the Russian Revolution and two exciting exhibitions I attended at the British Library and Royal Academy. Can culture change the world? In the glass cabinets and on the gallery walls there was much evidence that it can and did.
I believe literature can comfort us in times of trouble, it can motivate, incite, enthuse and record change and revolution. Some say we currently live in revolutionary times. What does that mean for writers, performers and readers in the UK today? Are we undergoing a creative revolution? We are definitely facing a European revolution.
We will continue to unite European writers this May. Don’t miss AL Kennedy at ‘European Literature Night’ on May 10th at the British Library, or the French literature festival at the Institut Francais; if you are reviewing for us this month then 12th May is your deadline; our next Slovak ‘Euro Stars’ is on 17th May; I’m helping Meike Ziervogel launch her new novel on May 19th; I’ll be hosting the ‘European Union Prize for Literature’ gala in Brussels on 23rd May (a super batch of winners – expect lots of EUPL author postings from us this month) and, at the end of May, I’ll be seeing lots of you, I hope, at the special 30th Hay-on-Wye festival, where the glorious Man Booker International-shortlisted Dorthe Nors is amongst my interviewees. May is a mad and very merry month indeed.