Heads Up: London Word Festival

Wrestling with words: the literary festival goes East


What are we talking about?


The self-styled alternative literature and arts festival returns to London's East End for a month of unusual, wordy events. Libraries are a theme.

Elevator pitch

The literary festival gets an injection of geek chic.

The talent

There's plenty. Tim Etchells, founder of theatre company Forced Entertainment has developed a "self-generating" play, while Debbie Pearson – artistic director of Edinburgh's celebrated Forest Fringe – performs her play Like You Were Before. Comedian Robin Ince teams up with Stuart Evers to re-invigorate George Orwell's old "Books vs Cigarettes" debate. Singer-songwriter Emmy the Great and poet/musician Jack Underwood present a "light-hearted lament for the library". Christian Bök, best-selling experimental poet (not an oxymoron, or not in Canada anyway) is supported by Luke Kennard. And artist Paul Granjon, poet Ross Sutherland, and author Nikesh Shukla are part of Man/Machine, a whole evening of robot-themed lexical fun. Phew.

The early buzz

Website Londonist is a long-standing fan: "If we had to rank how much we love the London Word Festival, it would probably be up there with cake, the Shard and ring-tailed lemurs. This annual celebration of words and language always has fresh ideas, interesting venues and fantastic performers, and this year's line-up has us literally – literally – salivating."

Insider knowledge

While the loose library theme has been in the pipeline since last summer, the recent cuts and closure woes have found their way into some performances. Emmy the Great's show The Goodbye Library has taken material from the anti-closure movement and she's been touring libraries for research purposes.

It's great that...

There's no literary festival stuffiness here: the oddest event on the programme – Intergender Wrestling – will see a man (Simon Munnery) wrestling some women (Joanna Neary, Josie Long, and Isy Suttie among others). It's performance art, you know.

It's a shame that...

They might not actually do that much wrestling (the last attempt at staging it, at Tate Modern, had to be cancelled – they didn't have a sporting licence ....)

Hit potential

Despite an increasing enthusiasm for spoken-word events, the LWF is not overburdened with household names. Expect earnestly cool East End arty types though.

The details

Various venues around east London (londonwordfestival.com), 7 April to 5 May.

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