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The world meets at Greenwich Book Festival this bank holiday

ATTENDEE: Alex Wheatle

BRIXTON-BASED novelist Alex Wheatle, storyteller Wendy Shearer, African publishing house Bahati Books and a tribute to the great novelist Buchi Emecheta are just some of the treats lined up at the Greenwich Book Festival this coming bank holiday weekend.

Greenwich is one of London’s youngest, friendliest book festivals with two packed days for children and adults, down at the University of Greenwich’s riverside campus next to the Cutty Sark, indoor market and DLR.

Friday 26 May is Schools Day, sponsored by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, when local primary children meet authors, make books and tell stories with skilled performers such as Wendy Shearer, formerly of CBBC.

Children’s events are open to the general public from 4.30pm with two after-school sessions, and run through Saturday 27 May. OKIDO of CBeebies fame returns with hands-on workshops for mini scientists, Alia Alzougbi tells tales from ancient Persia and children can bring their teddy to Michelle Robinson’s A Beginner’s Guide to Bearspotting.

Free drop-in creative workshops run throughout Saturday when children can colour in London, draw Manga, and contribute to an online ‘book of life’.

Award-winning Alex Wheatle discusses his new young adult novel, Straight Outta Crongton, and the fictional London estate South Crongton which is the literary backdrop to a trilogy including the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize-winning Crongton Knights. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave (A Girl of Ink and Stars) and Peter Bunzl (Cogheart) are among other authors with new books to share with older children and young adults.

A highlight of the adult programme is ‘Publishing New African Voices’ with Barbara Njau and Kudakwashe Kamupira from digital publishing house Bahati Books. They are joined by Botswanan poet, Trans* ARTivist, musician and theatre producer Katlego Kol-Kes.

The great British-Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta, who died in January, left a legacy of 20 pioneering books including acclaimed novel Second Class Citizen, exploring the UK immigrant/diaspora experience. Speakers at this tribute include her publisher, Margaret Busby, her son, Sylvester Onwordi and fiction enthusiast Diane Abbott MP. The event is chaired by playwright and producer Ade Solanke, Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Greenwich.

Award-winning, Deptford-based poet Sabrina Mahfouz introduces the anthology: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, while Galley Beggar Press celebrates 70 years of Indian independence with Siddhartha Bose, exploring his extraordinary new play – No Dogs, No Indians – with Preti Taneja whose novel, We that are young, is a virtuoso retelling of King Lear set in modern-day India.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Harmless Like You) celebrates contemporary women’s writing with Sarah Perry (The Essex Serpent), Lisa McInerney (The Glorious Heresies) and Laura Barnett (The Versions of Us) at Friday night’s Pool Party. Architectural writer Chris Rogers leads a walk round Greenwich, Korean violinist Min Kym talks about her stolen Stradivarius, and historical writer Wendy Moore discusses science and superstition in Victorian London.

Lovers of detective fiction, ‘Grip-Lit’, and memoirs are treated to some very special author events while aspiring writers have a masterclass and ‘open surgery’ sessions. There are readings of short stories and poetry, panel discussions, a full-bodied journey through ‘Empire of Booze: A British history of alcoholic drinks’, and a Literary London quiz.

Food stalls, face-painting and roaming book characters add to the festival vibe on the Old Royal Naval College lawns.

Head to Greenwich Theatre’s new pop-up space for new drama by university students and rehearsed readings of European plays.

The festival, co-directed by novelist Alex Pheby (Playthings) who leads creative writing at Greenwich, and author and journalist Patricia Nicol, is in its third year.

Patricia, who was Deputy Arts Editor at the Sunday Times for many years says: “This young London festival reflects the best of the city in being inclusive, welcoming and diverse.”

For the full programme and tickets go to www.greenwichbookfest.com

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