Aspects Irish Literature Festival Launches

Authors prepare for a week of words in Bangor

The Aspects Irish Literature Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Traditionally it is the china anniversary, but, as usual, Aspects would rather give than receive.

Launched on The Barge at Belfast's Lanyon Quay – the weather is lovely, the lull of the waves slightly disconcerting – the 2011 Aspects programme has an encouraging heft to it. As one guest remarks, ‘It is thicker than most poetry collections.’

The schedule is packed. There are writers, artists, and talks on everything from history to politics.

Bangor’s own patron crime writer, Colin Bateman is used to being the centre of attention, but this year he gets to indulge his own inner fan-boy. On September 22 he will be interviewing Ian Rankin, author of the award-winning ‘Inspector Rebus’ novels and the UK’s best-selling crime-writer. Criminals beware, this is not a night for you.

For those who prefer their knives to be slicing bread, there are two prestigious foodie authors at the festival. On September 22 Stephen Jeffers, owner of Jeffers at the Marina and the recently opened Jeffers at Blackwood, will be talking about his new book Jeffers Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner. He will also give a behind-the-scenes cookery demonstration. Perhaps a few lucky audience members will get a morsel or two to taste?

On September 23 it is best-selling cookery author and celebrity chef, Jenny Bristow who will be cooking up a storm in the Festival Marquee. Bristow is passionate about affordable local ingredients and healthy food, so this is one not to miss for foodies, or those who would like to be foodies.

There is something for the little readers too. This year the Bloomfield Young Aspects Programme brings together Colin Bateman (with his children’s author hat on), story-teller Liz Weir, Spirit of the Titanic author Nicola Pierce and, excitingly, Irish Children’s Laureate, Siobhan Parkinson.

The authors will be presenting prizes, running workshops and answering questions for groups of children ranging from five to 15.

Meanwhile, Marie-Louise Muir of BBC’s Arts Xtra will be interviewing the redoubtable Jennifer Johnston. An author who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, according to Muir, who once shared a taxi with her, Johnston is a veteran of Aspects. She was a guest at the very first Aspects festival and is now back, 20 years down the line.

Another familiar Aspects face is poet Moyra Donaldson (listen to the poem she read at the launch above). Donaldson, author of recently published poetry collection Miracle Fruit, will join Rooney Prize winning author, Kevin Barry and a selection of readers brave enough to get up out of the audience at the Vin Café on September 25.

Other acts include the ever-popular Duke Special (September 24), last seen at the Belfast Book Festival, comedian Colin Murphy (September 23) and a joint reading by memoirist Blake Morrison and New York University Professor, Nick Laird.

The 2011 Aspects Irish Literature Festival takes place in various venues throughout Bangor from September 21-25. Download the festival programme via the link below.