Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Small Wonder Festival – Full schedule inside!

The festival takes place each September (Friday 24 – Sunday 26) and features a mix of home-grown and international authors, poets and artists, stimulating renewed interest in the history and contemporary impact of the short form through stories, poems, letters, song and much more.

Speakers for the 2021 edition include Ben Okri, Carol Ann Duffy, Joanne Harris, plus many more. We’ve outlined the full schedule for you below:

Friday 24 September

4pm – Prousts Short Stories: ‘The Mysterious Correspondent’

Discovered in 1950, 28 years after the novelists death, these nine new short stories by the titan of literature were only released for publication in France in 2019. Earlier this year they were published in English.

Literary and cultural critic Jaqueline Rose, and writer Robert McCrum explore Prousts collection The Mysterious Correspondent and uncover how the young author, later famed for the length of his work, used the short story form to explore a darkness, and complex and melancholic longing to reveal himself to an unforgiving world.

6pm – Rob Cowen: ‘The Heeding’

Writer Rob Cowens discusses his moving new collection of poetry The Heeding which is accompanied by evocative woodcut illustrations by Nick Hayes and reflect on our relationship with the natural world through four seasons of a global pandemic. 

8pm – Crick Crack Club Presents: ‘Meet me at the Corner of Strange Street’

Masters of contemporary performance storytelling, the Crick Crack Club bring their wild haven of grown-up fairytale, myth and epic to Small Wonder. Enter a landscape littered with bizarre transformations, strange births, unlikely love, time warps, gleeful deceit, and eerie anarchy. Dark, surreal, comedic, and occasionally downright rude.

Saturday 25 September

12pm – BBC National Short Story Award: In conversation with the shortlisted writers

The annual event celebrating the yet-to-be-announced shortlisted writers for the BBC National Short Story Award. The shortlisted writers are joined in conversation by former winner Ingrid Persaud and judge Di Speirs (Books Editor, BBC Radio).  

2pm – Lavinia Greenlaw: ‘Some Answers Without Questions’

Join novelist and poet Lavinia Greenlaw in conversation to find out about what she discovered when she dived headfirst into finding out the limits and freedoms of wanting to speak up, particularly as an artist and woman. Part memoir, part manifesto, Some Answers Without Questions is a rigorous and lyrical new work of self-investigation.

4pm – From the Margins to Centre Stage

Join novelist Neil Bartlett, writer / broadcasters Bidisha and Gaylene Gould, plus poet Nathan Evans for a panel discussion about Mainstream – a new anthology of works which bring 30 authors in from the margins to occupy the centre page. Representing queer storytellers, working class wordsmiths and writers of colour each with their own unique perspective on the world. 

6pm – Martin Rowson, Steve Bell, Grizelda: Parodies Lost

Join three of the great political cartoonists – Grizelda, Martin Rowson and Steve Bell – as they share with how they make text and illustration work together to make great gags and stinging political commentary. 

8pm – Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson: ‘Empty Nest’

Former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy joins forces with the talented multi-instrumentalist John Sampson for an evening of poetry and music exploring the countless joys and challenges of the deep bond between parent and child. Sharing selected modern and classic poems from Empty Nest; a new collection edited by Duffy, this event will celebrate and reflect on the powerful and unique relationship that parents have with their children from birth to when they flee the nest. 

Sunday 26 September

12pm – ‘Refugee Tales’

Join Bidisha, writer, film maker, artist and novelist Rachel Seiffert as they discuss the themes of Refugee Tales, a collection capturing the stories of those who have fled their countries and sought asylum in the UK, only to be detained and threatened in a place they thought they could finally properly call home. 

2pm – Raymond Antrobus: ‘All The Names Given’

Join award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus in conversation with Nina Mingya Powles about his anticipated second collection, All The Names Given. The book explores and investigates language, miscommunication, place and memory, drawing on Antrobus’ own childhood; the intimate and the brutal, silence and the sound, conflicting racial and cultural identities, to create poems that are evocatively vivid and complex.  

4pm – Ben Okri: ‘Every Leaf a Hallelujah’

Ben Okri discusses his upcoming book Every Leaf a Hallelujah: an environmental fairytale made for our times with both adults and children in mind. Together with illustrator Diana Ejaita, Okri has create a world full of magic and mystery, beauty and enchantment that reminds us of the extraordinariness of our natural world. 

6pm – Joanne Harris and Leone Ross: Reality and the Fantastical

Acclaimed writers, Joanne Harris (The Gospel of Loki; Chocolat) and Leone Ross (All the Blood is Red; Orange Laughter) come together with chair Alex Preston to explore the fantastical worlds theyve created in their new books Honeycomb and The One Sky Day. Interlaced with enchantment, magic and beguiling characters, they look at how augmented and altered versions of Earth can help us understand and question our own reality. 


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