Festival review: Bradford Literature Festival

Shabnam Khan singing sufi poetry at Kala Sangam arts centre as part of the Bradford Literature Festival 2015.
Shabnam Khan singing sufi poetry at Kala Sangam arts centre as part of the Bradford Literature Festival 2015.
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A ten day celebration of words and wordsmithery has ended on a spiritual high.

Thousands of visitors from across West Yorkshire flocked to the inaugural Bradford Literature Festival, and were treated to a feast of soul food.

Poet Sukina Owen-Douglas whirls herself into a trance-like state as part of the  Bradford Literature Festival 2015.

Poet Sukina Owen-Douglas whirls herself into a trance-like state as part of the Bradford Literature Festival 2015.

The packed bill celebrated the written and spoken word in all its forms, with 150 events covering arts, film, theatre and music, and appearances from many renowned speakers and writers.

It also featured influences from all of the world’s major faiths.

The festival ended with some chilled out performances and seminars over the weekend.

These included a celebration of Islamic sufi mystical poetry, in a session which also examined the influence of the likes of the Persian poet Rumi and narrator Nasrudin on classical English literature like Chaucer. The event, which featured renowned Liverpudlian poet Brian Patten, ended with a ‘whirling Dervish’ dance routine.

Also proving popular was a recital of Indian and Pakistani devotional music and sufi sounds from classically trained singer Shabnam Khan and her company of musicians. Held at the Kala Sangam arts centre in a mocked up Asian ‘haveli’ courtyard, the performance had the audience enthralled from start to finish.

The festival, which was introduced with a launch weekend last year, was organised by author and oral historian Irna Qureshi and blogger Syima Aslam. The pair are now hoping to make the event an annual fixture.

Reflecting on the successful 10 day programme, Syima said: “It’s been amazing. It’s the first full festival after the launch weekend last year, which had just 24 events. We’ve had 150 events this time. So it’s been an absolutely amazing experience.

“We’ve had some wonderful events and some wonderful audiences.

“Overall the attendances have been pretty good.

“The whole idea of doing the programme this way was to try and bring different people together in spaces that they wouldn’t necessarily come together in otherwise.

“And we have actually seen that at most of the events. It’s been a really lovely mix and that’s the most wonderful thing about it.”

Next year’s Bradford Literature Festival will run from May 20 to 29.

On the move: Men taking part in the original Jarrow March in 1936. (JPress).

When worlds collide - the Jarrow March and modern Britain