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New York Times bestseller and The Girl With the Louding Voice author Abi Daré guest speaker as Essex Book Festival returns to Harlow




Bookworms feeling bereft now that the excellent Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature has finished for another year should be aware that the Essex Book Festival is returning to Harlow on March 21.

The festival’s theme this year is Brave New Worlds, which festival director Ros Green said gave the new town renewed reason to be a part of the county-wide celebration of literature.

The annual festival, which kicked off on February 28 and runs throughout March, will spend its fourth Saturday in Harlow with a special day of international storytelling for all ages, including many free events.

Award-winning The Girl With Louding Voice author Abi Daré will be speaking at Harlow Museum (30374753)
Award-winning The Girl With Louding Voice author Abi Daré will be speaking at Harlow Museum (30374753)

"We are delighted to be hosting a special day of events, Other Worlds, in Harlow as part of this year's Essex Book Festival, which we hope will attract people over the border from Bishop’s Stortford,” said Ros.

“Particular treats include bold new storyteller and award-winning author Abi Daré, who will be speaking in Harlow Museum about her fearless debut The Girl With the Louding Voice, a celebration of girls who dare to dream, and for our younger audiences, 'Oh, The Places We'll Go', a complimentary feast of traditional African storytelling and percussion, Bollywood dancing, Chinese calligraphy and more in Harlow Playhouse.”

Daré, whose book was released in the UK on March 5 after a February release in the US, is already a New York Times bestseller and was selected as one of the best 10 debut novelists by The Guardian. The Girl with the Louding Voice was snapped up in a fierce five-way auction after Daré won the acclaimed Bath Novel award.

Efua Sey will be making some noise for African storytelling with drums at the Playhouse (30374760)
Efua Sey will be making some noise for African storytelling with drums at the Playhouse (30374760)

Its success owes much to Adunni, the novel’s bold 14-year old protagonist, who grabs you by the heartstrings and pulls you into the novel. A housemaid to a wealthy Nigerian family, Adunni’s voice took shape when Daré’s daughter turned eight – an age where she could have been working for nothing for a household like the one in which Daré grew up.

Adunni strives for one thing above all others: an education. She speaks in broken English, a deliberate character choice.

“English is not a measure of intelligence,” says Daré. “Adunni is able to express herself more eloquently than those with a better command of English, which after all is just a language.”

Encouraged by a tutor on the Birkbeck University of London MA, Daré wrote a first draft in just eight months, snatching whatever burst of time she could manage whilst studying at evening classes, working full time and raising a young family.

Artist collective Peeling Onions With Granny will perform Arrival Lounge at the Playhouse in the evening (30374757)
Artist collective Peeling Onions With Granny will perform Arrival Lounge at the Playhouse in the evening (30374757)

Her advice to aspiring writers is “not to give up” and to “read, read, read”. Seek out supportive writing groups, such as the monthly Bishop’s Stortford Writers’ Club and Stortford Scribblers.

“It’s so important to have a group to share your thoughts.” The town is also lucky to have lots of coffee shops to work in: “I love Bishop’s Stortford,” she said.

Daré will be speaking at Harlow Museum, also hosting a workshop with best-selling Essex author Syd Moore earlier in the day. The 'Writing the Archive' session is designed so participants can take inspiration from the historic artefacts to create their own unique Harlow-inspired story.

Meanwhile, as part of the BBC’s ‘Novels That Shaped Our World Project’, Harlow library will be hosting illustrator Tom Armstrong and sound artist Chris Adam, who are both running workshops based on HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds. This iconic work of science fiction depicts a catastrophic conflict between humans and Martians. The workshop is designed for 14 years and above.

In a third venue and on the theme of journeys, adventures and cultures from around the world, Harlow Playhouse is hosting a fun-packed afternoon of storytelling and activities.

Children’s author Sade Fadipe will be keeping the storytelling armchair warm, while Efua Sey will be making some noise for African storytelling with drums.

In the evening, the artist collective Peeling Onions With Granny will perform Arrival Lounge, a performance devised at Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, incorporating themes of migration, forced displacement and wartime evacuation.

Following the performance, audience members will be able to join in to share their own stories – which might be of interest to members of Bishop’s Stortford’s English O’Clock conversation exchange, set up recently to welcome newcomers to the town.

Events at the library and the Playhouse are free, but all require booking. For more information go to www.essexbookfestival.org.uk.


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