29 Nov 2011

Bridport Open Book Festival Part 1

Last week was Bridport’s Open Book Festival, culminating in the 2011 Bridport Prize award ceremony. Myself and fellow storyslinger member, Simon, went to two events and met two of our favourite authors: Adam Marek and Joe Dunthorne*.

In travelling the roads of Dorset from North to South through picturesque countryside and chocolate-box villages, one might wonder at how an internationally prestigious short story competition can have its roots in such a provincial location.

Though rural, Bridport certainly isn’t insular. Settling into our seats on Tuesday waiting for Joe Dunthorne’s reading, I looked up and saw a familiar face in the seat in front of Simon. It was none other than twice Mercury Prize winning singer-songwriter, PJ Harvey; one of my all time favourite musicians. More striking than her mere presence, was the scent of expensive and powerful rose-cinnamon perfume. I’m tempted to email her to ask where she buys it from.

Greta Stoddart read four or so of her poems, elegant and original with a strong voice and honeyed fluidity. She read some beautiful poems from her book Salvation Jane, shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award in 2008.

Joe Dunthorne read a passage from Submarine, his debut novel that was adapted into film by Richard Ayoade (I.T Crowd, The Mighty Boosh). He then read a few poems, scrawled into what looked like a dog-eared school exercise book. His poems were sharp, lyrical and, sadly, a little pretentious in places. He raised enough laughs from the audience, and I very much enjoyed his readings. He ended with an excerpt from his new book, Wild Abandon, set in a Welsh commune. I bought a copy of this book and got Dunthorne to deface it with his signature. I am half way through reading it. Submarine is much better. I’ll save my full review for later.

He read this poem, the banter beforehand pretty much word for word identical:

And here is a trailer for the film adaptation of Submarine 

Overall, an inspiring evening that has confirmed my faith in Dorset’s capacity as a hub for the arts and literature, despite not having a single city or motorway within its borders.

Part 2 of this report wherein we return to Bridport, buy cheap shoelaces, and chat to Adam Marek, will follow soon.

*actually, hard-to-please Simon doesn’t particularly like Joe Dunthorne, but Adam Marek is a definite favourite. Read Part 2 of this report to find out about Adam Marek.

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