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First guests announced for Rochdale’s literature festival

06 August 2018

Simon Armitage. Photo credit: Wolfgang Webster.

The first 4 names on the line-up for this year's Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival have been revealed.

The 8-day festival in October will feature internationally acclaimed poet Simon Armitage CBE, television presenter and triathlete Louise Minchin, actress, author and presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE and women's rights activist Dr Helen Pankhurst.

Simon Armitage CBE will make a welcome return, after performing a sold-out show at the first Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival back in 2013. The BAFTA award winner will be reading extracts from his most recent poems – 'The Unaccompanied' documents a world on the brink, full of his dead-pan wit you can expect an insightful and bold new piece of work from one of the UK' greatest living poets. He'll also be reading some of his words from 'The Flit' and talking about his writing for radio, film, television and the stage. Simon has also been awarded an Ivor Novello Award for song-writing, the prestigious Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry, and a CBE for services to poetry.

Louise Minchin. Photo credit: Tony Blake.

Louise Minchin will be talking about her life and new book Dare to Tri – the story of her journey from the BBC Breakfast sofa to representing Great Britain at the World Triathlon Championships. It promises to be an entertaining and inspiring evening in the company of one of the UK's best known broadcasters.

Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE.

Multi-talented Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE is known to millions for appearing in the BBC television series Play School and Play Away. She's also a successful businesswoman, writer and award winning producer. Her successful book 'Coming to England' charts her challenging experiences in Britain. A former Chancellor of the University of Exeter, she was elevated to the peerage in 2010 and her mission is to make the world a better place for children, recently winning a battle in the House of Lords to enable OFCOM to force much greater investment in UK-made children's programmes.

'Amazing writers, thinkers and well known personalities'


Dr Helen Pankhurst. Photo credit: Virginie Naudillon.In the centenary of one of the most significant steps forward for women which saw those with property gain the vote for the first time, Dr Helen Pankhurst will look at how women's lives have changed over the last century and offer a new way forward. Combining historical insight with inspiring argument, her book 'Deeds not Words' reveals how far women have come, how far they have to go and how they might get there. Great granddaughter of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, Helen is a women's rights activist and senior advisor to CARE International, based in the UK and Ethiopia. 

This year's spectacular literary showcase will run from Monday, 15 to Monday, 22 October 2018 and we're promising exciting arts for all ages.

Events will cover drama, comedy, poetry, spoken word, visual arts and children's shows. For young people aged 14 to 25, another 'Generation Z' programme is being put together.

Councillor Janet Emsley, our Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Community and Culture, said:

"We are pleased to announce some of the first amazing writers, thinkers and well known personalities who will be coming to join us in Rochdale this October. The team have been working hard to put together another inspiring programme and together with our sponsor we will be delivering another fabulous festival".

The festival is aimed at celebrating and promoting the Maskew Collection of classic literature and philosophy at Rochdale Central Library, encouraging people to engage with books and ideas. Annie and Frank Maskew, a Rochdale couple who shared a passion for reading and thinking, met in Rochdale Library in the 1950s and left a sum of money to be used on resources and events related to literature and philosophy to ensure classic works are available for future generations.

Further details of the programme will be announced soon and tickets go on sale from 10am on Monday, 13 August 2018. Keep an eye on the festival's website for the latest news

The festival is organised by Rochdale Borough Council, supported by the Maskew Bequest and sponsored by creative digital media company JGM Agency.

Photo credits: Wolfgang Webster (Simon Armitage), Tony Blake (Louise Minchin) and Virginie Naudillon (Helen Pankhurst).