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Runnymede International Literary Festival

Magna Carta

A very warm welcome to the 2017 Runnymede International Literary Festival.

As in previous years, Royal Holloway, University of London, the Runnymede International Literary Association and Runnymede Borough Council, the principal festival partners, are working together to bring a programme of literary activities to Runnymede.

The international literary festival will begin, on Friday 10 March, in our London base, 11 Bedford Square, with a poetry reading by the American poet Michael Heller and two London poets, Jeff Hilson and Redell Olsen. Over the next two weeks, there will be a series of events on campus, open to staff, students and the general public, including Dr Harry Newman’s Paper Stage; a talk about To Walk Invisible, Sally Wainwright’s recent film about the Bronte sisters by Dr Siv Jansson, the literary adviser to the project; Professor David Herd on the University of Kent project, Refugee Tales; and Dr James Smith on ‘Taking Back Control: Understanding the New Populism’. The festival also includes the launch of the latest anthology of writing from the MA in Creative Writing at Keats’s House Library in Hampstead on March 15.


R:FEST 2017 Programme

FRIDAY, 10th March

7.00-8.45, 11 Bedford Square, London WC1          

Poetry Reading: Michael Heller, Jeff Hilson, Redell Olsen

Michael Heller has, for many decades, been an important American poet and critic. In 1985 he established himself as an expert on the Objectivist poets with his book, Convictions Net of Branches, and he has subsequently published separate works on George Oppen and Carl Rakosi. His critical work has also addressed contemporary avant-garde poetry, Jewish and post-Holocaust poetry and poetics. He published Uncertain Poetries (2005), a collection of essays on twentieth-century poetry. His own poetry has been widely published and collected in Exigent Futures: New and Selected Poems (Salt, 2003) and This Constellation is a Name: Collected Poems 1965-2010 (Nightboat Books, 2012).

Jeff Hilson has been a prominent figure in London poetry since the 1980s. His publications include stretchers (Reality Street, 2006), Bird Bird (Landfill, 2009) and In the Assarts (Veer, 2010). He edited The Reality Street Book of Sonnets (Reality Street, 2008) and runs the reading series Xing the Line. He teaches at the University of Roehampton.

Redell Olsen is a poet and visual artist whose work includes performance, writing and installed texts. Her recent publications include Secure Portable Space (Reality Street, 2004), Punk Faun (Subpress Books, 2012) and Film Poems (Les Figues, 2014). She was, for many years, the editor of the influential online journal HOW2 (How2journal.com), which promotes modernist and contemporary innovative poetry by women. She was Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Cambridge for 2013-14, and she is Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Royal Holloway.

This event is FREE to attend.


TUESDAY, 14th March

7.00 – 9.00, Moore Lecture Theatre  

Paper Stage: The Booke of Sir Thomas More

Paper Stage is a public play-reading project established by Dr Harry Newman, Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature at Royal Holloway.

The text chosen for the Runnymede Festival is ‘The Booke of Sir Thomas More’. The play is about the Tudor lawyer, Sir Thomas More, who was put to death for refusing to recognise Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church. The play was first written by Anthony Munday and, after it failed to pass the Elizabethan censor, was subsequently revised by Shakespeare and three other playwrights. The manuscript of the play is famous as the only surviving playscript to contain Shakespeare’s handwriting. The extract by Shakespeare describes the May Day Riots of 1517 whose 500th anniversary makes this a particularly apt play for this year’s festival.

This event is FREE to attend.


WEDNESDAY, 15th March

6.00 p.m. Keats’s House Library, Keats Grove NW3    

Anthology Launch and Reading: Students from the MA in Creative Writing

The MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway was established by Professor Sir Andrew Motion. Over the last ten years, it has made a name for itself as one the leading Creative Writing MAs in the country through the success of its students. Graduates of the Royal Holloway writing programme include Tahmima Anam, whose novel, The Golden Age, was short-listed for the Orange Prize; Sophie Robinson; Adam Riordan; Sarah Perry and many more

Since it was founded, the MA has published an annual anthology of work by students, Bedford Square. The launch of this year’s anthology is an opportunity to hear work by writers from the MA’s three strands – Poetry, Fiction and Poetic Practice.

This event is FREE to attend.


THURSDAY, 16th March

6.30-8.30, Moore Lecture Theatre  

To Walk Invisible

Dr Siv Jansson, who is a former student at Royal Holloway and a specialist on the Bronte sisters, was literary adviser for Sally Wainwright’s recent film, To Walk Invisible. The film depicted the Bronte sisters rise to fame and their brother’s decline into alcoholism. Dr Jansson will talk about the film and her involvement in the film-making process.

This event is FREE to attend.


WEDNESDAY 22nd March

7.00-9.00, Moore Lecture Theatre  

Refugee Tales

Professor David Herd (University of Kent) will talk about and present the University of Kent’s project, Refugees Tales. In the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer famously produced his Canterbury Tales, a series of stories told by fictional pilgrims en route from London to Canterbury. In June 2015 and July 2016, the project organised a walk from Dover to Crawley along the North Downs Way. Authors including Ali Smith, Chris Cleave and Marina Lewyska were invited to write tales for a modern version of the Canterbury Tales by working with refugees in Britain and to read their tales at a series of public events during the walk. The walk is an integral part of the project and offers participants the opportunity to reflect on the long and dangerous journeys that many refugees make in fleeing from war and persecution. In recognition of the importance of Magna Carta for English law and human rights, this year’s July walk will begin in Runnymede and end in Westminster.    

This event is FREE to attend.


THURSDAY, 23rd March

6.30-8.00, Moore Lecture Theatre  

James Smith: ‘Taking Back Control: Understanding the New Populism’

Dr James Smith is a distinguished scholar of eighteenth-century literature who also writes regularly on contemporary politics. Tonight he will be talking about the ‘new populism’ which was manifested in the Brexit vote and, more recently, in the American election.

This event is FREE to attend.

For details of previous festivals, visit the R:Fest page of our Showcase section.



Watch the video below for a taster of the festival in 2013:








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