A popular Northumberland festival is launching a new chapter with a move online and a wide-ranging programme including Black Lives Matter themes.
A virtual version of Berwick Literary Festival will take place in October and organisers say they are excited about its online potential.
They say that with Berwick hard hit by the economic impact of coronavirus outbreak, and the cancellation of most summer events coming as a further blow, they are keen to help raise its profile with a virtual festival which can attract wider interest.
A spokeswoman said they see its online switch as an “exciting opportunity” to open up the festival to national and international audiences, as well as cater for its local fans, and the upcoming programme is also out to appeal to a mix of ages and reflect current themes such as the Black Lives Matter movement.
On the Northumberland line-up of presenters and performers are the likes of world champion slam poet Harry Baker and A. A Milne biographer Anne Thwaite who was also consultant on the 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin.
The festival, now in its seventh season, is all about celebrating words – written, spoken and performed – and its programme captures themes such as poetry, history, and current affairs.
Its chairman Michael Gallico said: “Since a ‘normal’ festival is not practical this year, it’s vital that we keep Berwick in festival-goers’ minds.
“The overarching aim of the festival is to entertain, engage and provoke debate across age ranges.”
The programme also includes political broadcaster and columnist Steve Richards, author of ‘The Prime Ministers, and Brian Ward, professor of American studies at Northumbria University, who will follow up on last year’s Martin Luther King topic by this time exploring the life of Frederick Douglass, the black slave whose freedom was bought by two Quaker women in Newcastle.
NME media editor Stuart Cosgrove will discusss his book Cassius X and social historian and horticulturist Ursula Buchan, granddaughter of author John Buchan, will talk about gardening history.
Programme co-ordinator Mike Fraser said: “We’re always seeking to attract new audiences and the online festival offers us a chance to reach out to a wider local, national and international population.
“Attracting visitors to Berwick is part of our remit and we’re looking to ensure that online visitors get a taste of our town – we want them to visit in person when that’s possible.”
The festival, which will run from October 15-18, will have plenty interactive entertainment too for audiences who will be able to join the likes of workshops on poetry and creative writing.
For more information about the programme, and further details about the full line-up events, speakers and performers as they are revealed in the run-up to the festival, see here.