We use cookies on this website to improve how it works and how it’s used. For more information on our cookie policy please read our Privacy Policy

Accept & Continue

Birmingham suburb Kings Heath welcomes a new festival this month, bringing together top names in literature and music with community and children’s events.

Organised by The Heath Bookshop in partnership with the Hare & Hounds pub and How Brave Is The Wren children’s bookshop, The Heath Bookshop Literature & Music Festival features activities for all ages and interests.

The line-up includes national names such as Michel Faber and Daniel Rachel, local writers including Mike Gayle and Catherine O’Flynn, and musicians including Pauline Black and Richard Norris. Workshops, live music, panel discussions and a party finale also feature.

“The festival is about us having a love of literature and music and being in Kings Heath, which is a really creative area,” explains Catherine Gale, co-owner of The Heath Bookshop along with Claire Dawes. “We’re round the corner from children’s bookshop How Brave Is The Wren and really close to the Hare & Hounds - which is a really famous music venue - and we want to celebrate this.

“We wanted to create something which brought literature and music together. So, for example, we have musicians talking about their lives and the books they have written, and we have writers talking about music.

“Then we have music in the bookshop and literature events in a music venue, so we’re bringing audiences something they might not have seen before. There’s a crossover between the two mediums so that they are really integrated.”

The festival kicks off at Queensbridge School with local comedian, presenter & author Robin Ince speaking about his broadcasting and writing.

“Robin came into our stall at Moseley Folk Festival,” says Catherine. “His recent book, Bibliomaniac, is about bookshops, so he said he would come and do an event for us. We’re really excited to have him as part of the festival.”

Another highlight will be White Rabbit Books: Too Much Too Young - The 2 Tone Record Story. Taking place at the Hare & Hounds, it will feature writer Daniel Rachel, whose latest book examines the history of two-tone, and musician Pauline Black of The Selecter.

“That should be really interesting,” says Catherine. “We are really keen on White Rabbit Books, which publish a lot of music books, and this event brings together a great writer and Pauline Black, who is part of that two-tone story.”

Other events include local poet Bradley Taylor setting up his typewriter in New Photo Company, then Seesaw Opticians, to write poetry on demand, and an LGBTQ+ open-mic session, The Big Gay Poetry Night, hosted by Maddie Langham-Walsh.

Also on the programme is DJ General Levy, who will be speaking about his autobiography, Incredible, and playing a set alongside the Leftfoot DJs.

Bringing together music, dance, spoken word and discussion is Black Sound, Song & Soma - Deeping It: A Live Experience. The show has been inspired by local author Adèle Oliver’s book Deeping It: Colonialism, Culture & Criminalisation Of UK Drill. Adèle’s study examines how drill music is used as evidence in criminal prosecutions even when not relevant to the case. A commission for the festival, Deeping It: A Live Experience is written and curated by Adèle and aims to explore the themes of her book in more depth, with new work created by local poets and spoken-word artists, including Casey Bailey and Ryan Dre Sinclair.

“This is quite a central project to our festival because it does encapsulate everything in it,” explains Claire.

“There’s dancing and music and spoken word and art, so it’s a really special event which feels very inclusive and important. It will be bringing together so many people.”

The festival aims to cover a wide range of literature. Thriller fans, for instance, will have the chance to put their questions to a panel of crime writers including Jo Callaghan, Mark Edwards, Rachel McLean and Barbara Copperthwaite, who will be discussing their writing processes and talking about how to get a novel published.

And a series of events for children include story times, performances, author events with Nathanael Lessore and Stewart Foster, and a number of workshops focusing on stories, music and costumes - followed by a children’s parade in Kings Heath’s York Road.

There are also creative-writing workshops with Anna Metcalfe - whose book Chrysalis gained her a place on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list - and bestselling writer Michel Faber, whose most recent title, Listen: On Music, Sound And Us, explores how and why we listen to music. Keen to encourage new voices, The Heath Bookshop has provided a bursary for one young writer to attend Faber’s workshop, with help from Writing West Midlands.

“We’re very much looking to support young and new talent,” says Claire. “We’ve been so well supported here at The Heath Bookshop from the day we opened, and this festival is part of us giving something to the Kings Heath community.”

The festival has received National Lottery funding through Arts Council England - and in order to make the events as accessible as possible, many are free to attend or low cost.

“We didn’t want one ticket for the whole festival,” says Claire. “We want people to be able to dip into what they like because there are so many really different events on offer. We were very keen to include everybody when we were putting the festival together, so we’ve done that with ticket prices; everything is as accessible as it can be pricewise.”

And the festival is aiming to encourage children and adults to experience the written word and music in different ways.

“So many of the events will be something people haven’t seen before, and I hope people will be inspired by them,” says Catherine. “There is something special about having that really close contact with musicians and authors. Listening to authors talking about their process, or when we’ve had musicians in the shop, you feel inspired by them. These events bring you into close contact with writers and musicians, and there’s usually the chance to speak to them afterwards, as we do question & answers and signings.”

The Heath Bookshop Literature & Music Festival takes place from Thursday 18 to Sunday 21 April.

For the full programme, including BSL signed events, and ticket information, visit linktr.ee/theheathbookshop

By Diane Parkes