The Birmingham Book Festival is a Writing West Midlands project, which ran from 4 – 13 October. The aim of the Festival was to promote excellent writing, and events included conversations, book readings, book launches, performances, poetry slams, quizzes, writing workshops, reading days and much more. From 2013, the Birmingham Book Festival will partner with the Library of Birmingham.
On Tuesday 9 October, Caitlin Moran and Stuart Maconie took part in an event supported by the Library of Birmingham. The CBSO Centre had ensured that they both felt at home by setting up the stage in the style of a bar, where they could help themselves to wine, liqueurs and crisps while setting the world to rights.
Stuart Maconie is a TV and radio presenter, journalist and columnist, a patron of Writing West Midlands, and author of Hope and Glory: A People’s History of Modern Britain and Pies & Prejudice. He is also proud to be a resident of Birmingham. Caitlin Moran grew up in Wolverhampton. Her feminist handbook for modern times, How To Be A Woman, won the Galaxy Book of the Year Award 2011. Her new collection of writing, Moranthology, covers ‘The Big Society’, Big Hair, The Welfare State, caravans, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, library closures and poverty. Faced with such a wide range of topics to cover and the freedom to talk about whatever they felt like, Caitlin began the evening by recounting her unfortunate run-in with Samantha Cameron on her train journey up to Birmingham
This took the discussion on to class and politics. Caitlin and Stuart both spoke about their lives growing up in council estates, how they began their careers in journalism and the pressures they felt because of their backgrounds. They had written for rival music magazines Melody Maker and NME and argued about which had been the better of the two magazines, but agreed that they had both felt they had to write in a certain way – Caitlin began her journalism career writing in the style of ‘an outraged English gentleman’, rather than the outspoken, opinionated tone she has become well known for.
When the conversation turned to libraries, Stuart explained that he and Caitlin are “both very keen on libraries”, and they both have memories of visiting libraries from a young age. Caitlin shared fond memories of visiting Birmingham Central Library as a teenager, along with five other libraries that she was a member of. Interested to find out the audience’s thoughts on the Library of Birmingham, they asked the room for a show of hands and were met with an enthusiastic cheer for the new library; the majority of the packed room were excited about the opening of the library in 2013, and felt that it was going to be a good thing for Birmingham.
As the event continued, the conversation moved fairly randomly from the music industry, to being a teenager, Jeremy Clarkson, Elizabeth Burton’s diamond ring, page three models and socialism, to Caitlin having The Killers turn up to her book launch party, bonding with Clare Balding over gin and Stuart’s realisation that he made finally made it when he found himself dancing on a podium between Sophie Dahl and one of the Chuckle Brothers. They concluded the event (grabbing some crisps for the road), with some questions from the audience and a book signing.