It's nearly here - the fifth Stoke Newington Literary Festival takes place all around N16 from 6th to 8th June - that's in just over a week!
The festival is the creation of my wife Liz, and is organised by her, me, and a bunch of die-hard volunteers. It's a charitable venture that aims to improve literacy in the Borough of Hackney. More than that, it's about everyone enjoying ideas, debate, comedy, and brilliant words of all kinds. Last year Irvine Welsh - one of our headliners - described it as "The real London LitFest,"and Time Out said it's "Like Hay-on-Wye, but in Hackney."
With me involved, there's always a strong boozy element - so here are the bits that might be of interest to readers of this blog.
We receive no formal funding for the festival, and we keep ticket prices lower than anywhere else we know to encourage the widest possible access. The support I blag from friends in the drinks industry to run bars at events is therefore what makes the festival viable. If you come, every beer or cider you buy helps a small child to read! Budweiser Budvar are our main sponsor, and last year they introduced the Budvar Marquee - a fantastic, informal bar space where we have a rolling, loose programme of authors, poets, comedians DJs and musicians chatting away while you enjoy a quality pint.
Local favourites the Bikini Beach Band are back to do another set:
and Phill Jupitus will be back with his mate poet Tim Wells to spin some platters that matter and do a bit of dad dancing for your edification.
The marquee is outside Stoke Newington Town Hall and you don't need a ticket for any of the festival events to soak up the buzz and free events. (You do have to pay for the booze though.)
Our other key drinks sponsors are Aspall, who very kindly provide us with top quality cider, and local brewer Redemption who have been with us from the start, supplying a specially brewed festival cask ale that's light, hoppy, and perfect for what will hopefully be a lovely summer weekend. Talking of which...
Name the Festival Beer!
Andy from Redemption is routinely declared the nicest man in brewing. And not just by us.
Each year he brews a special festival cask ale and donates it to us, and since year two of the festival we've run a competition to name the festival beer. It's usually a dreadful pun on one of the acts or strands in the festival. Edgar Allen Poe lived in Stoke Newington, and the year we commemorated this we went for 'Cask of the Red Death'. When Alexei Sayle headlined, 'Alexei's Ale' was an obvious winner.
Get the idea?
OK, this year's programme is more diverse and eclectic than ever before, but it does have a strong music strand running through it. Our closing headliner is Ray Davies. Yes, the real Ray Davies out of the Kinks! If you can think of a beery pun based around Waterloo Sunset, You Really Got Me, All Day And All The Night or any other of the songs this man wrote that changed the face of British music, let us know. We've also got Thurston Moore out of Sonic Youth, because he now lives locally (and drinks Guinness or locally brewed hoppy pale ales). We've got Viv Albertine out of The Slits. We've got Ben Watt out of Everything But The Girl. All talking about books about music. Or check out the rest of the programme and see if anyone else inspires. It doesn't have to be a pun. It just usually turns out that way.
The winner gets free beers and entry to an event of their choice at the festival. Or just the satisfaction of knowing hundreds of people will be saying your pun as a bar call if you can't make it along. Send entries to email@example.com, marked 'beer names'.
Beer and Music Matching - Sunday 8th, 7pm
I've been doing a lot about this recently, and my first event was at this festival two years ago. Now it's back, bigger and better, with added neuroscience and real time experiments. Discover how your senses overlap and often deceive you. Learn how memory 'primes' your appreciation of flavour. And experience the Pavlovian brilliance of Duvel vs. the Pixies. Tickets available here, and the price includes a flight of outstanding beers. The event is on just before Ray Davies starts, in the venue just around the corner from his. Trust me, we will be finishing on time so I can get to see Ray too.
The Craft Cider Revolution - Saturday 7th, 4pm
As part of our food and drink strand, last year I hosted a panel discussion with local brewers. This year I thought I'd do the same with cider - but are there any local cider makers? Well, yes - London Glider make cider with apples foraged inside London - there are more of those than you thought, and the resulting cider is excellent. They'll be joining me on stage along with the somewhat less local Andy Hallett of Hallet's Cider, who will be bringing some of his brilliant ciders up from South Wales to try. (If you live locally but can't make this event, don't miss Andy's Meet The Cider Maker this Saturday, May 31st at the Jolly Butchers). I'll have some special stuff from our sponsors Aspall too. Tickets available here, and the price includes enough cider samples to give you a nice afternoon buzz.
The food and drink venue also has the legendary Claudia Roden being interviewed by Valentine Warner, Julian Baggini talking about the philosophy of food and drink, and the brilliant Gastrosalon - food confessions chaired by Radio 4's Rachel McCormack.
It's going to be our best festival yet. Please join us if you can.