This preview of Humber Mouth was originally published online by Browse. The festival, arguably the best ever, drew to a close last night, with a fine and dandy appearance by Alan McGee. But I thought I’d post the preview on here cos, well, what else do I do with this shit?
At the latest update from the UK City of Culture team there was talk of Hull being an authentic city of poetry and celebrating that fact. From Andrew Marvell to Philip Larkin, Douglas Dunn to the legendary Bête Noire nights tied to the poetry journal of the same name, it’s hard to argue against Hull’s credentials. Australian writer Peter Porter described Hull as “the most poetic city in England.” Words matter here. Have always mattered. It’s what we live and breathe for. It’s what we do.
And we have been celebrating that fact for several years already. Central to those celebrations is the annual Humber Mouth literature festival, which this year takes place at various venues across the city from November 6-16.
The festival’s directors have always known their stuff. Maggie Hannan, who ran the Mouth for many years, authored the highly influential collection of Liar, Jones (1985) and, after many successful festivals, is now back concentrating on her writing.
Current incumbent Shane Rhodes is also a poet as well as the editor of one of Hull’s great success stories – Wrecking Ball Press, which has a national and international reputation for publishing high quality, cutting edge literature. Both Hannan and Rhodes have an obsession with language. Rhodes’ attitude to accessibility and innovation has seen a slight shift in Humber Mouth programming but the festival continues to move forwards, at a pace; its reputation genuinely going from strength-to-strength.
Humber Mouth is different to other literature festivals that take place across the country, more aligned to its host city’s personality than any other. Not only are we, as Larkin wrote, a city sufficiently on the edge of the world to have a different resonance, but we have a literature festival that is brilliantly, wholeheartedly and joyously unique.
So, what’s in store in 2015? What are the stand out events? What should you see? All of it. Which might not be practical, for both financial reasons and pressures on your time, and the occasional diary clash. But, as someone that has wallowed in this festival for years, I’d urge you to break the bank, cancel whatever else is in your diary, tell your friends and family that if they want to see you before November 17 that they must come too, and simply see as much as you possibly can.
I’m being serious. This festival is as life affirming, emotionally involving, entertaining, educational and as bloody interesting as it gets. Rubbing shoulders are the likes of DBC Pierre, Helen Mort, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Rosie Millard, Shoo Rayner, Ian McMillan, celeste doaks, Matt Haig, Hanna Lowe and more.
Fans of music can wallow in the appearance of Alan McGee, the man who signed Oasis to his own Creation Records, being interviewed by Loaded founder James Brown, Kathryn Williams performing material inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, or former Teardrop Explodes frontman Julian Cope having a natter with Hull’s own Russ Litten. And if “Hull’s own” is what tickles your fancy, you can also chew the fat with Louise Beech and her literary friends Cassandra Parkin, Brian Lavery and Nick Quantrill.
There’s international poets Kim Addonizio, Choman Hardi and Tony Hoagland, song writing and autofiction workshops, story sharing events, time capsule burying, young writers blowing myths right out of the water, an improvised live performance event based on the language of the shipping forecast and a play about Winifred Holtby. A lot of it is free. All of it is affordable. All of the venues are wheelchair accessible.
You really need to be there. And the best way to do your planning and grab your tickets is to visit the website www.humbermouth.com
Humber Mouth 2015. November 6-16, 2015 at various venues, including Hull Central Library, Kardomah94, Pave, and Jubilee Church. The Festival launches with a free event at 7pm on November 6 at Hull Central Library with Penned in the Margins’ Sunspots – charting the poetic, musical, and visual journey of the Sun through its long and eventful life.