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The right idea - Rochdale’s literature festival is story of success

25 October 2019

Kate Bottley.

Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival proved another big hit with audiences in 2019, with 12 sold out performances and over 1,300 tickets sold. Hundreds more attended un-ticketed events throughout the festival and warm up shows earlier in October.

Over the 8-day festival hundreds of people watched top names including Kate Bottley, John Craven OBE, Konnie Huq, Milly Johnson, Olivia Lomenech Gill, Jules Evans, Fiona Shaw and Hanna Jameson. 

Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, community and culture, who introduced some events, said the 7th festival was a success: 

"We've had an eclectic mix of well-known names, prolific writers, local talent and also some less celebrated acts and big audiences all week. It was another really broad programme, covering such a mix of subjects that have stimulated so many interesting conversations. So many people have told me how lucky we are to have this festival in Rochdale and feedback from our visitors and guests so far has been superb. I would like to thank the team responsible for delivering the festival, all the volunteers, our sponsors JGM Agency, The Royal Toby Hotel and Rochdale Sixth Form College."

The festival began with a special launch event at Touchstones, featuring award-wining author and renowned philosopher Will Hussey. The evening also saw the debut of a specially-commissioned graphic novel by Helen Bate telling the story of Rochdale couple Annie and Frank Maskew whose generosity has made the festival possible, followed by a blue plaque to celebrate the pair being unveiled by Val Perkin, a lifelong friend of Annie Maskew and the Mayor of Rochdale.

During the 8-day festival autistic blogger and activist Erin Ekins spoke about autism, disability and LGBTQIA+ issues at Rochdale Sixth Form College Theatre.

Milly Jihnson on stage with Councillor Janet Emsley.

Best-selling author Milly Johnson hosted afternoon tea at Rochdale Town Hall, talking about her latest novel 'The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew.'

Hanna Jameson, author of number one bestseller 'The Last' was joined by acclaimed author Fiona Shaw to talk about the rise of women-driven dystopian fiction.

The art deco setting of The Royal Toby Hotel was a perfect location for three sold out sessions, including 'Agatha Christie, Poirot and Me' with Sophie Hannah talking about her life and work, as well as what it's like to be Agatha Christie's continuation novel writer.

John Craven on stage with Helen Nugent.

Friday evening saw the eagerly awaited visit of legendary broadcaster John Craven, in conversation with journalist Helen Nugent at a packed Rochdale Sixth Form College Theatre.  He chatted candidly for an hour about Newsround, Countryfile and his fascinating life story, 'Headlines and Hedgerows' published earlier this year, before signing books and meeting guests.

The festival always promises lots of laughter and Reverend Kate Bottley certainly didn't disappoint.  The popular star of Gogglebox and numerous other radio and television programmes spoke for over 2 hours at Rochdale Parish Church about her career, faith and hilarious journey, from her time as a teacher to reality television, her memorable stint on Celebrity Masterchef and her life away from the spotlight.

Anne Fine.

There were lots of fun activities for families, the former Children's Laureate Anne Fine, author of the classic 'Madame Doubtfire' talked about her work and career, before a special showing of the blockbuster film starring Robin Williams.

Renowned illustrator and painter Olivia Lomenech Gill, famous for bringing JK Rowling's 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' to life spoke about how her amazing creatures are created and where she gets her inspiration from.

Hannah Lee hosted a very lively session at Rochdale Library, with craft, story-telling and a lot of fun, based around her heart-warming book 'My Hair'.

Konnie Huq presenting her show.

Former Blue Peter star, delivered a sparking science show introducing her new character Cookie Haque, followed by the chance to take part in real experiments with a team from the Rochdale Science Initiative.

A Different Story of Rochdale being performed.

On the evening of Monday, 21 October 2019, the festival was brought to a close with the world premiere of 'A Different Story of Rochdale' a play by Rochdale's Riz Ali, performed by The M6 Theatre Company. Riz won the Different Story of Rochdale playwriting competition held earlier in 2019 to find a promising young talent to be mentored by TV and stage scriptwriter Nicola Schofield. 

The festival was organised by Rochdale Borough Council, supported by the Maskew Bequest and sponsored by creative digital media company JGM Agency, The Royal Toby and Rochdale Sixth Form College.