Preview: Words take on another meaning

The London Word Festival, Various venues, London
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The Independent Culture

Set in the East End, the inaugural London Word Festival is the latest arts event gladly to smudge literary boundaries: from poetry and blistering prose to comedy mayhem, the festival promises the unexpected and takes its cue from the surging popularity of live literature, which has carved a genre-defying niche and breathed new life into the music festival circuit.

"It spans a whole number of art forms," says Tom Chivers, who has produced the festival alongside Sam Hawkins and Marie McPartlin. "We were looking for people who were strong performers; that's a given with some of the musicians and comics, but also from the literary side of things, being a strong performer, having a certain level of engagement with the audience and also work of genuine quality was important."

Among those making their words count over 14 dates are the comedians Richard Herring, Simon Munnery, Robin Ince and Josie Long. The hip-hop legend and performance poet Saul Williams jets in to share a bill with electro-pop wordsmith Scroobius Pip, whose lyrical takes on the modern world find their perfect match in the beats of Dan Le Sac. Elsewhere, Joshua Ferris reads from his lauded satire Then We Came to the End, the Ventriloquist Band meld strange tales with broken beats, and a tie-in with Jewish Book Week, The East End Then and Now, features such luminaries as Monica Ali and Arnold Wesker, and cements the festival's sense of place.

"There's a really vibrant arts scene in the area," says Chivers, "and it does have quite a history for literature, particularly going back to the old Jewish East End. There are loads of great venues here as well. We hope that people experience something they may not even consider as literature; they could go to a night which is predominantly comedy, or predominantly music, and end up seeing a play. It's the experience of going to a seemingly conventional event and seeing it twisted."

20 February to 14 March (