The Festival of Belonging

We want to thank those of you who attended the first ever NCLA Festival of Belonging. It was a fantastic weekend which has received outstanding feedback, including a great review on The Guardian’s Northerner blog. Before the main Festival kicked off on Friday, 4 May, Trashed Organ provided four exciting evenings of music, writers, and art at The Bridge in Newcastle and The Central in Gateshead. These events, which provided audience members with interesting opportunities, including sending postcards to strangers and writing post-it note ‘tweets’, encouraged alternative thought and entertained with their diverse array of participants. Writer in residence, Helen Oyeyemi, who hosted a writing workshop and took part in a discussion during the Festival, had this to share about her experience at the Festival of Belonging:

‘Modern technology plays a part in shaping the contemporary attitude towards belonging – we travel, we stay connected to our friends and families by email and Skype and cross-continent text messages; scholars consult e-texts from universities thousands of miles away – communities broaden and we sometimes forget the size of the world. This festival has offered a forum for the discussion and consideration of ideas surrounding home, community, identity – in terms of nationality and otherwise. It’s fitting that Bloodaxe’s Out of Bounds, a poetry collection re-mapping Britain through the voices of black and Asian writers, was launched at this festival. And other flagrant stylistic and formal boundary crossers spoke and read here in Newcastle – Bernardine Evaristo, Daljit Nagra, Hari Kunzru, Jackie Kay, and Sapphire.

Here are other highlights of the festival for me: first there’s the feeling of kinship that connects those who attend any festival that has a real interest in books and the people who read and write them at its heart. Some may go to readings and deny experiencing any such feeling, but you may be sure that if reading was banned tomorrow, these are the people who’d raise hell (or be driven underground, to begin a warren-like network of civil disobedience, complete with codewords and insignia). At this particular festival I brought pages of text from my favourite writers to the workshop table and we had a word picnic, fourteen thoughtful, curious literary folks and me, looking at different ways of narrating our place in the worlds of others, and the place that other people hold in our own worlds. It’s just struck me that none of the writers whose work we discussed are currently living. Pushkin and Dickinson have been dead for a couple of centuries. But of course they were with us, so much with us that it wasn’t easy to isolate what era all of the stories had been written in.

The sharing of stories continued in other ways, whether it happened as part of informal conversations (recognising my younger self when Helen Limon mentioned learning Englishness through Enid Blyton stories), but I’ve also been part of an audience that Sapphire thrilled with her integrity, her loyalty to the characters she’s created and the social and psychological realities they live through. Hearing her in conversation with Jackie Kay, and hearing how calm both writers were about the complicated manoeuvres they pull off in their writing, only highlighted their sheer intellectual gutsiness. In Sapphire’s case, we’re talking about bringing some of the characteristics of the slave narrative into synthesis with contemporary feminism, holding contemporary America in a radical gaze at the same time as occasionally riffing off Dostoyevsky. There is that side of belonging that demands that we challenge the context we live in.’

Overall, the Festival of Belonging was thought-provoking, stimulating, and entertaining, bringing together a diverse group of writers, speakers, artists, musicians, and a wonderful audience for a week of literary and cultural events. We hope to see you all again soon at future NCLA events, and appreciate your support and interest for the Festival of Belonging.

Festival of Belonging starts tomorrow!

Tonight is sadly the last evening of Trashed Organ’s fantastic Fringe Festival, but on a happier note, tomorrow evening sees the start of the NCLA Festival of Belonging Weekend Literary Extravaganza. Be sure to come down to the Tyneside Cinema for 8pm on Friday night for what is sure to be an entertaining discussion between acclaimed author Sapphire and Jackie Kay, followed by a screening of Precious, based on the novel Push. The weekend continues on Saturday morning with creative writing workshops followed by literary readings and then on Sunday with additional workshops, a screening of I Am Nasrine and a broadcast of Iranian Voices Radio Plays.

It is a full weekend of literary events to look forward to, and luckily your wait isn’t much longer! Tickets are still available through the NCLA website and will be available for purchase at the door. Remember you can view our full weekend programme on the Event Schedule page, here.

FRICTION Magazine.

Now up on FRICTION Magazine are flash essays themed around ‘belonging’ that are definitely worth checking out – and don’t forget that if you’d like to be involved in Issue #5, get your submissions in for 13 May 2012. The issue theme is Belonging, so take some inspiration from your visit to the Festival and submit poetry, fiction, flash-fiction, or a memoir, essay, or a piece of life-writing.

Social media.

Our Facebook page is up and running smoothly now – go ahead and ‘like’ us so you can keep up to date with Festival news! More features, photos, and links will be added soon, but for the moment we want to garner as many followers as possible so the word is spread around a bit more.

You can also connect with us at our main Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts page, as well as our main Twitter account @NCLA_tweets.


Welcome to the blog and web space of The NCLA Festival of Belonging! Here you will find our event schedule, our confirmed writers and guest speakers, contact details, and anything else you need to know about the week-long Festival. Should you need to get in touch with us, just head to the Contact page where you’ll find website links, our telephone number, and an email address.
We’ll also be highlighting information about our participating writers and speakers so you can keep up to date with what they’re doing before the Festival and be reminded of new releases as they happen!