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NI Festival of Writing Goes Online With 2020 Winter Programme

Following on from the successful inaugural event in 2019 the NI Festival of Writing is launching an online programme of content to once again encourage and support writers who want to start or develop their skills.

Throughout November and December the free online content will include interviews with local writers and content creators, panel events, workshops and masterclasses.

Director of the festival, James Murphy, said that the festival intends to become even more successful in encouraging local talent.

“While we cannot repeat last year we have worked hard to make sure we have a rich programme that aims to help develop participant’s confidence,” he said.

“We hope that what we have planned will educate, empower and improve literacy and communications skills.”

The 2020 NI Festival of Writing which has been developed in partnership with Belfast City Council, has launched a Crowdfunding campaign.

“Whilst the events will be free, in order to increase the number and variety of events held throughout the remainder of the year, Belfast City Council have kindly offered to match-fund us to a maximum of £5,000 if we undertake a crowdfunding campaign,” James explained.

“We have designed a range of opportunities from donations from as little as £5 through to sponsorship opportunities from £100. We have currently raised just over £1,000 and we hope to double that by the end of the crowdfunder this week.

“We know that what we will be providing will make a real impact on participant’s lives through participation, learning and even the opportunity to showcase their work.”

The 2020 programme will include in-depth interviews with local, national and international writers; a range of practical writing and creative writing workshops, online book club and reading recommendations; panel discussions; and, a regular online writing retreat.

This year the festival has joined forces with local public service television channel NVTV to make the festival more accessible to people across the country.

Simon Wood, Chairperson at NVTV said: “Northern Visions is excited to be a partner in the Northern Ireland Festival of Writing this year. One of the pleasures for many of us during these challenging times, especially during lockdown, has been being able to get lost in a book and become acquainted with books we have forgotten we actually own.

“What’s so interesting about the Festival of Writing is that it is writing in all its forms so this is a real voyage of discovery.”

Fans of the festival can see the main NVTV broadcast on Friday November 27 broadcasting on Freeview 7 (greater Belfast) and Virgin Media 159 (across Northern Ireland).

The festival will also be streaming sessions on Facebook and running a series of online workshop sessions as well as a range of other interactive events throughout November and December.

“In addition we will launch NI Festival of Writing’s very own podcast as well as interactive advice sessions with writers, agents and publishers,” said Festival co-founder Tina Calder.

“With the support of all including our festival partners NVTV, Oranga Creative, BAM magazine, The Secret Bookshelf and my own company Excalibur Press we will make this a success and look forward to having a further programme planned for the time when safer social gatherings can take place.”

To help support the festival the Crowd Funder page can be found here:

To find out more at

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The Arts

Are You Ready to Be a Bonafide Bookworm?

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the MAC and Libraries NI have come together to encourage bona fide bookworms, families and occasional readers, to settle down, curl up and enjoy this year’s World Book Night celebrations; the annual celebration of reading campaign by The Reading Agency on Friday 23rd April 2021.

To mark the occasion, the Arts Council and the MAC will be gifting 160 free copies of East Belfast-author Glenn Patterson’s latest novel, Where Are We Now?  to community groups, book clubs and members of the public. In addition Libraries NI will have copies of the book available in its branches across Northern Ireland for readers to borrow through its Book and Collect service.

One of 22 books chosen to be part of this year’s official UK World Book Night reading list, Where Are we Now?  is a moving, funny and topical story about lost love and growing older, set against a backdrop of modern day Belfast.

Keep an eye on this page for details of competitions and news on World Book Night events and activities.

Listen to U105 for your chance to win a copy of Where Are We Now?

Tune into U105 every day from Monday 19th April to Friday 23rd April for your chance to win a copy of Glenn Patterson’s Where Are We Now?

Two books will be given away each day. Listen out for U105 Lunch’s Bistro Challenge feature (12-1pm) and U105’s Drive’s Minute to Win it feature (3-4pm) for more information.

Facebook Giveaway

We are giving five lucky readers the chance to win a copy of Glenn Patterson’s novel, Where Are We Now?, courtesy of The Reading Agency.

To enter, visit the Arts Council’s Facebook page and tell us what book you will be reading on World Book Night.

The competition will open on Monday 12th April and will close at 10am on Friday 23rd April. Five winners will be selected at random and announced on Facebook.

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The Arts

World Book Night’s 10th Anniversary

World Book Night, the annual celebration of reading, will take place on Friday 23rd April 2021. This year’s theme, “Books To Make You Smile” is a response to the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, highlighting the proven power of reading and the benefits it brings to well-being. This also coincides with the launch of “Stories to Make You Smile” – a new collection of short stories compiled by The Reading Agency together with Specsavers.

To mark its 10th anniversary this year World Book Night will be hosting a number of virtual events, book giveaways, online activities, exclusive releases and promotions, calling for the whole nation to celebrate reading for pleasure. Over the last ten years, The Reading Agency has distributed over 2,800,000 books to help spread the joy of reading, with 245 titles by 205 authors distributed by over 90,000 volunteers and organisations across the UK. As lockdown gradually eases, The Reading Agency encourages everyone to share the pleasure of reading whether virtually or safely in person, as bookshops and libraries are due to re-open from Monday 12th April, and book clubs will be able to meet again outdoors.

Celebrations on World Book Night itself will be marked by a livestreamed event in partnership with The British Library, hosted by World Book Night Ambassador Sandi Toksvig and featuring best-selling authors David Nicholls and Bolu Babalola, and World Book Night founder and Canongate CEO Jamie Byng (8-9pm).

Prior to the event, The Reading Agency is inviting the whole nation to join the #ReadingHour (7-8pm), when everyone is encouraged to spend time with a good book, alone or with others, reading in any format they want and wherever they like. Last year, the estimated social media reach of #WorldBookNight and #ReadingHour was 14.3 million.

Celebrations on the night itself will also include a virtual event hosted by The British Library, featuring Nobel Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation with Kate Mosse, bestselling author of The City of Tears and founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (6-7pm). Ishiguro, who was a World Book Night author in 2012, will be discussing his new novel Klara and the Sun as well as the wider impact of his writing on readers.

Books To Make You Smile

Sandi Toksvig, World Book Night 2021 Ambassador, said:

“I am so excited to be the lead ambassador for The Reading Agency’s World Book Night 2021 campaign, bringing the nation together to celebrate the power of books and reading on Friday 23rd April. This year marks the campaign’s 10th anniversary, and it feels more important than ever to celebrate the power of reading to inspire, entertain and challenge. We all could do with some light relief from reality which is why this year’s theme “Books to Make You Smile” is so perfect. It’s great to have the support of Specsavers on this vital campaign, who have teamed up with The Reading Agency as they pursue their mission to improve lives through reading.”

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said:

“We’re hugely excited to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of World Book Night with such a fantastic array of events. Given the challenges of the past year, our theme feels particularly resonant, and we’re immensely grateful for the support from authors, publishers, bookshops and libraries to help spread the proven power of reading. We plan for this year’s World Book Night to be the biggest and best yet, and look forward to celebrating the Reading Hour with people across the country, ahead of what we’re sure will be a brilliant livestreamed event at The British Library – which is sure to make us all smile!”

As well as online activities, The Reading Agency has commissioned a new collection of short stories exclusively for World Book Night 2021, Stories to Make You Smile (published by Simon & Schuster). The commissioned book is edited by writer, former Costa Book Award judge and Quick Reads editor Fanny Blake, and featuring contributions from high-profile comedians and authors Richard Madeley, Jenny Éclair, Helen Lederer, Mark Watson, Eva Verde, Vaseem Khan and more.

Now available for pre-order in various formats, Stories to Make You Smile will be released on World Book Night, with 3,000 copies of the book being given out to customers through Specsavers competitions and giveaways, a free e-book version available to download on the day, and the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Notting Hill), Adjoa Andoh (Bridgerton, Doctor Who) and Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey, James Bond) available for pre-order now ahead of release on World Book Night.

Dame Mary Perkins, Co-founder of Specsavers, said:

“Reading is such a popular past-time with so many people and is certainly a passion of mine. This year, more than ever, being able to escape with a good book has been a lifeline and having something to smile about, particularly during these challenging times, is essential. Which is why Specsavers is delighted to be working with The Reading Agency to help make that possible by bringing you, not only good vision, but Stories to Make You Smile.”

On World Book Night, The Reading Agency will be giving away 100,000 books in various formats – twice as many as last year. The Reading Agency’s mission is to spread the joy of reading to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books, by distributing books to organisations such as prisons, hospitals, food banks, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups. Organisations receiving books this year include UNISON, Citizens Advice, Women’s Aid, Sanctuary Housing, Home-Start and many more. With a focus on well-being and mental health, the 2021 WBN booklist features Pam Ayres, Stephen King, Jack Monroe, Nina Stibbe, Jane Fallon, gal-dem, Kit de Waal, and many more. In addition to the booklist, The Reading Agency and Canongate will be distributing 10,000 copies of The Midnight Library, by international best-selling author and mental health advocate Matt Haig, to 10 library authorities. 

Prize Giveaways

In addition to print books, The Reading Agency is giving away 6,000 free audiobooks, as part of their efforts to make reading available to the widest possible audience. This year’s audiobooks include Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Tanya Reynolds, BBC Audio’s Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, narrated by David Tennant and Samantha Spiro and Shahroo Izadi’s The Kindness Method. Anyone can apply online to receive an exclusive download code for an audiobook of their choice. 

For World Book Night, The Reading Agency is planning a partnership, with authors sharing their reading recommendations for World Book Night (and beyond) on the online platform supporting independent bookshops. Waterstones will also be partnering up with The Reading Agency, supporting the #ReadingHour on social media and offering prize giveaways.

To find out how the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is celebrating World Book Night 2021, visit here. 

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