Like all fledgling festivals which manage to continue to flap their wings for more than a few years, Headingley’s annual literature festival is soaring to new heights.
It is now five years old and judging by the success of this year’s event, there’s no reason why it can’t reach double figures.
What began as a fairly low-key event in a quiet corner of the student enclave is fast becoming a must-attend niche affair – still ‘fringey’ enough to remain personal and familial and yet with enough gravitas to attract the likes of renowned Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan, who appeared as part of the line up in March this year.
What goes in the month-long festival’s favour is not just the fact it is spread over a number of weeks but that it embraces the Headingley community as a whole, using more than a dozen venues for a wide variety of events.
The festival was created in 2008 and operates under the wing of Headingley Network, a community organisation which works to improve the environment and facilities for the local community.
LitFest founder, former journalist and retired teacher Richard Wilcocks, said he was proud of what it had become.
“I went to Ilkley literature festival and one in Morley and I thought if they can do it so can we.
“We involve the local community and we are proud of the links Headingley has with literary figures.
“We were pleasantly surprised after the first one because we attracted people from a broad demographic.”
In its brief history, the LitFest has attracted the likes of Dame Beryl Bainbridge, David Peace, Anthony Clavane and last year’s included an adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. It is hoped Kay Mellor will headline next year.
Headingley has links with Arthur Ransome (born in Headingley), J R R Tolkien (lived in St Mark’s Terrace and also at 2 Darnley Road, West Park when he was reader in English Language at the University of Leeds 1920- 25), Alan Bennett (lived over a butcher’s shop opposite the Three Horseshoes, now Royale Dry Cleaners), George Orwell (used to stay in Estcourt Terrace with his stepsister and her husband Humpy Dakin), T S Eliot (his mother-in-law lived in Weetwood Lane) to name but a few.
“We like to involve the community, they came to us really, so we went to them, so we stage events in local cafes, like Cafe Lento and Cafe Mint, we have contributions from local playwright Peter Spafford and performance group Trio Literati.
“Some of the events are even held in people’s houses, they are very intimate, it doesn’t have to be a big house either.”
LitFest treasurer Mary Francis said they were proud of the contribution they had made to the area.
“We hope it’s had a positive effect on the area. It started in a small way and it’s grown into something much bigger.”
Organisers of the festival can be contacted via email: email@example.com, or by logging onto their blog at www.headingleylitfest.blogspot.co.uk.