New poet laureate set to appear at Todmorden Book Festival

Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage

Todmorden Book Festival has announced the first names on its 2019 line-up. The Festival has booked the best-selling poet Simon Armitage, who was appointed poet laureate this month, to open the Festival on Friday 1 November at Todmorden Hippodrome Theatre.

Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds.

His work draws on the rich vernacular of the north and his sequence of poems In Memory of Water is carved into six stones along the Pennine watershed between Marsden and Ilkley that now form the Stanza Stones Trail.

Read: Suranne Jones: Filming at Anne Lister’s home of Shibden Hall was magical
He has received numerous accolades, including the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2018. He received a CBE for services to poetry in 2010.

In 2015, Armitage was appointed Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford and was elected honorary fellow of Oxford's Trinity College this month.

He has published over a dozen collections of poetry and is the author of two novels and three non-fiction bestsellers. His acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has sold over 100,000 copies, and his work features regularly on the national curriculum. His new collection Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic was published this month.

Speaking after his appointment was approved by the Queen, the poet said, “The poetry of these islands is one of our greatest achievements, and, as well as being proud of its traditions, I want poetry to feel confident and at home in the contemporary world.”

The Festival has also confirmed that Sally Wainwright, who was due to appear at Todmorden Book Festival last November, will now appear at this year's Festival.

The BAFTA winner will discuss her 30-year writing career with Michelle Hodgson, director of Huddersfield Literature Festival on Friday 8 November at Todmorden Hippodrome Theatre.

Sally Wainwright’s credits include the critically acclaimed Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax.

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Her latest drama for the BBC, Gentleman Jack, was filmed in Yorkshire and portrays the life of 19th-century lesbian diarist and wealthy Yorkshire landowner Anne Lister, nicknamed ‘Gentleman Jack’ because of her penchant for dark, masculine clothing.

The eight-part series will hit TV screens this Sunday with a cast led by Suranne Jones, Sophie Rundle and Timothy West. Lister came from one of the most prominent families in Halifax and her estate, Shibden Hall, dating from the 15th century, is now a tourist attraction.

Commenting on her new TV series, Wainwright said, “Anne Lister is a gift to a dramatist. She is one of the most exuberant, thrilling and brilliant women in British history. To bring Anne Lister to life on screen is the fulfilment of an ambition I’ve had for 20 years".

Tickets for both events will be available from 1 July from www.todmordenbookfestival.co.uk and in person from Todmorden Information Centre.

Todmorden Book Festival, which ran for the first time in November 2018, was a resounding success.

The programme included fiction, non-fiction and poetry events for adults, young adults and children, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the region and exploring individual and collective stories.

Further details of this year's programme will be released soon.

Read: Telling the story of Anne Lister was a 20-year passion project for writer Sally Wainwright