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New lit fest to hit Bradford and reflect diversity

New lit fest to hit Bradford and reflect diversity

September 25 2014

Diverse range of voices at launch event ahead of actual 2015 festival

By Chitra Mogul and Sailesh Ram

THERE’S little doubt that Yorkshire stirs the literary imagination in one way or another – for many it’s the Bronte sisters or the peculiar and haunting terror brought about by the Yorkshire Ripper.

So, maybe it’s strange that the city doesn’t celebrate its rich literary heritage – until now, that is.

Fellow booklovers and writers Symia Aslam and Irna Qureshi have come together to form Culture Squared, which will curate the first ever Bradford Literature Festival.

There’s a launch event this weekend and the actual festival is slated to take place between May 15-24 next year and has been made possible through the support of Arts Council England with a £15,000 grant and support from Bradford Council.

The festival programme promises to convincingly reinforce the notion that there is much more to Bradford than one (albeit very famous) literary family and a macabre murderer who cast a pall of horror over the city in mind 1970s.

Syima Aslam, co-director of Bradford Literature Festival, said: “We are delighted to unveil the programme for the launch weekend of Bradford Literature Festival. The depth and breadth of the festival programme is a first, not only for Bradford but also the UK.

“This is an exciting time for Bradford and the festival is a key component of both the cultural and economic regeneration of the city.”

One of the highlights of the two-day launch festival is an evening of musical and poetic entertainment that harks back to bygone days when Mughal nobility in South Asia would host courtly cultural soirees in their homes and palaces.

Titled “Spoken word, poetry and music: Lyrical Mehfil“, it will feature, among others, journalist and Urdu poet Atif Tauqeer, multi-instrumentalist Inder Goldfinger, celebrated writer and poet Lemn Sissay, award-winning playwright Atar Hadari and Urdu poet Mehjabeen Ghazal Ansari. The event will be hosted by well-known columnist and comedian Shazia Mirza.

It will culminate in a specially commissioned collaboration between Sissay and Goldfinger who is one of the UK’s most accomplished tabla players.

Author Innes Bowen discusses her book, “Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam“, which examines the network of mosques in the UK and Islamic groups and seeks to profile their idelogical, sectarian and international links and affliations.

Innes Bowen, author 'Media in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam'

An expert panel will discuss and analyse the uprisings in the Middle East in “The Roots of the Conflict in the Middle East“. David Ward, MP, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East and experts will discuss possible outcomes.

Another panel discussion “The Meaning of Identity in Contemporary Britain” will explore what constitutes ‘Britishness’. Panellists include acclaimed poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, Romany filmmaker Damian Le Bas and well-known comedian Shazia Mirza.

Bringing her Faith and Fashion talk series from the London School of Fashion, Professor Reina Lewis will chair a panel discussion, “Writing fashion, styling faith, making communities” with Pradeep Singh Bahra of ‘Singh Street Style’, and fashion bloggers Adviya Khan and Samia Khan from Hijablicious. The chat will be followed by a masterclass, “Getting online in style“.

Irna Qureshi, festival co-director added: “The festival has been programmed to encourage cohesiveness and to promote literacy as well as cultural understanding. We want to celebrate Bradford’s literary heritage and the diversity of the many communities that make up this wonderful city”.

Bronte enthusiast Christa Ackroyd leads a heritage tour exploring the social history that shaped the works of The Brontes.

Meanwhile, author Mark Davis relates the compulsively fascinating stories of real life 19th-century murders in the Victorian courtroom – where the murderers were actually tried. The courtroom has featured on film and TV and was the setting for the Tracy Barlow murder trial in the soap, “Coronation Street”.

The lauch festival events get underway on Friday with two schools initiatives and the festival has a commitment to engaging young people, improving literacy and promoting the benefits of reading writing, among the young.

On Saturday morning, the festival kicks off with former police officer and Bradford Police Museum curator Martin Baines welcoming visitors to the city’s newest museum, ahead of an official opening, and takes them on a tour of “Crime and Punishment” in the city.

Main picture: Adviya Khan and Samia Khan from fashion website will be talking about fashion blogging alongside Professor Lewis and Pradeep Singh Bahra of ‘Singh Street Style’

The full programme is available at

Tickets for the Bradford Literature Festival launch weekend are available from or from festival partners, Waterstones at The Wool Exchange in Bradford.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture

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