Festival Fever (Sunderland Creative Writing Festival 2018)

Sunderland Creative Writing Festival 2018

It’s been non stop in Parkinson Palace this week. I had a couple of freelance blogs to finish, I’d committed to doing my Winter Olympics blogs and I’ve finally begun to get my half marathon training back on track. Most exciting of all, the tickets went live for the Sunderland Creative Writing Festival on Sunday evening. Add that to the fact that it’s bin day today and you can imagine how excited I am.

The Sunderland Creative Writing Festival is the brainchild of Iain Rowan, founder of Holmeside Writers, and this year he has asked me to help out as Festival Coordinator.

Iain has done all the hard work in gaining funding and getting some great authors, comedians and poets to appear and I’m here to make sure that it all runs smoothly along with the expert guidance and support from Sunderland Culture’s Hannah Matterson and Kristian Foreman.

I spent fifteen years in the software industry with a background in testing so I am well versed in checking that things work correctly and I spend half of my life editing so I should have a good eye for detail but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t worried come 7pm on Sunday evening.

When I sent that Tweet out saying that tickets were live, I was expecting a deluge of messages telling me that people had tried to book onto the Jake Campbell’s Walkshop but the link took them to my blog on pub etiquette (or worse), or that the dates were wrong, or that the author we had booked on a particular session didn’t exist and was just a character from one of my books.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead we saw a steady take up of tickets with the first event sold out in three hours and over one hundred tickets gone in the first day. We passed the two hundred mark yesterday and whilst we knew it would be popular, it has taken us a little by surprise.

Why is the Sunderland Creative Writing Festival so popular?

First of all, it’s free. There’s no charge for any event in the schedule no matter how big the author or how much they would normally charge for such sessions. The aim of the festival is to be accessible to everyone and we didn’t want it to be limited only to those who could afford it. Funding from the Arts Council and the National Lottery Fund has made this possible.

It is aimed at anyone with an interest in writing. You don’t have to be published, well known, part of a writing group or have qualifications in creative writing. If you want to write and you want to learn about writing, come along.

Unlike other writing festivals, it is spread throughout the whole month rather than crammed into one weekend. We hope that people can find time to attend at least one or two sessions without having to commit a whole weekend of their lives.

It covers the whole range of creative writing from poetry to writing for stage, from audio drama to writing young adult fiction, from editing to comedy and much, much more. There should be something for everybody’s tastes.

The Highlights

It’s difficult to single out any one session as they are all great but there’s a couple that stand out.

Want to meet a record breaking author? Yeah, me too. Sally Green’s Half Bad broke the Guinness World Record for ‘Most Translated Book by a Debut Author, Pre-publication’, with 45 different translations before its publication. She is appearing on March 17th along with Matthew Crow to discuss Writing Young Adult Fiction.

Half Bad Sally Green

Like comedy? Would you like to know how it is written? The highlight of the 2016 festival for me was the closing night where a panel of comedians discussed their craft before giving hilarious stand up performances. It was informal, insightful and very, very funny. This year’s promises to be the same on March 29th with comedians including Amy Gledhill, David Callaghan and Joby Magheean.

Comedy Night Eventbrite2.png

The full schedule can be seen here.

And bios on all of our speakers and authors can be found here.

I hope you can join us for what will be a fantastic festival. Tickets are going fast but there’s still some available for most sessions. For those that are sold out, we have a waitlist and will contact you if any more tickets become available.

If you enjoy the festival and the fantastic authors, comedians and performers we have on board, thank Iain.


If it all goes horribly wrong and you are directed to Sunderland in a different country or turn up a month late for an event, blame me.

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