BY Alison Bellamy

The brochure for the Bradford Literature Festival was waiting in my letterbox last week, and I devoured it in one sitting; feeling amazed and excited at all the interesting talks, workshops and events taking place.

Admittedly, this is just my sort of thing. Some people might want to go and see One Direction; but I’d rather sit and listen to some wise words about a poem, or hear an artist or writer give a talk!

The festival is a beacon of hope for the city of Bradford, which has been much maligned in recent years, I feel.

This year’s 10-day event is attracting visitors, speakers and performers from across the UK and around the world, and offers a serious underlying message too – a chance for cohesion and taste of diversity with people of all races, religions and ages – including very young children to help hone their literacy skills and develop a love of reading for life.

Bradford Literature Festival 2015. Photo by Tim Smith.
Bradford Literature Festival 2015. Photo by Tim Smith.

In my experience as a mum to two young girls, reading can be the key to success. It is something I had never really thought about until becoming a mother. A bedtime story is so much more than just a way of encouraging blissful sleep.

The skill of reading at an early age undoubtedly helps to opens doors in later life; often setting the level of education and understanding child will be able to reach. It enables an easier learning process and encourages a brighter child, in my opinion.

For those of us united by books, reading and words of wisdom in whatever form, even the electronic version, this festival offers a chance to relish and enjoy the written word without being rushed or distracted.

The festival, running from May 20-29, is now in its second year (after a pilot event in October 2014), and is proving to be a roaring success for the city. It is good news for the place and its people.

I am particularly looking forward to some of the events aimed at children, many of them free workshops in places Like Waterstones and the central library. There are fun events in City Park too, with themed days such as superhero day, fairy tales, Harry Potter and even a Beatrix Potter one. I hope to attend some of the fun events with my daughters aged eight and six. They are so looking forward to it.

One of the popular guests is a woman who is much in demand and in the media spotlight at the moment, Great British Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussain. She will talk about her life before, during and after Bake Off and how her life as a busy Muslim mum has changed since she found fame. Soon, her new TV series ‘The Chronicles of Nadiya’ will begin filming, where she will visit her homeland of Bangladesh to discover more about cooking and food.

Image credit: Tim Smith
Image credit: Tim Smith

Other events which caught my eye include an event about Islam and coffee, an unusual, but interesting combination of topics for me.

Abdul-Rehman Malik’s talk is titled ‘The Muhammadan Bean: The secret history of Islam and coffee’. The journalist and coffee fiend is on a mission to shed light on the Islamic roots of coffee, explaining how we owe Islam a debt of gratitude for cultivating and bringing coffee to the masses.

I’m also looking forward to some talks relating to the Bronte sisters and perhaps a talk titled ‘The Hijab: politics versus fashion’, exploring in detail what has become a somewhat contentious item of clothing in recent times.

The Bradford Literature Festival, in association with Provident Financial Group, has 200 events and 350 special guests including authors, poets and filmmakers. The organisers Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi have pulled off a major success.

They promise a celebration of the arts, history and the world of words, not just in book form but also on the stage and screen, in performance poetry, on the pages of comics and in cultural debates.

Special guests include this year’s Man Booker International Prize, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, socialist Harry Leslie Smith, historian Tom Holland and Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy.

More details can be found at: www.bradfordliteraturefestival.co.uk