Live Literature returns for Autumn 2018!

2017-18 was another fantastic year of Live Literature performances in Bolton Library’s majestic theatre space.

In the Autumn, Kayo Chingonyi wowed us with his Dylan Thomas-winning collection of poems Kumakanda; Simon Holloway and novelist Sarah Bradley talked fiction writing process and creating believable characters; Eoghan Walls impressed with his poetic imagination and craic with the crowd, while the Bolton Poetry Competition winners‘ reading showed that Bolton’s literary talent is thriving, with poets scooping prizes in student, public, and sixth form and college categories.

In the Spring, we were treated to masterful novelist Susan Barker discussing her most recent novel The Incarnations, taking in 1,000 years of Chinese history; a special Poetry Book Society event showcasing prize-winning poets Karen McCarthy Woolf and Michael Symmons Roberts, and the launch of our every own Ben Wilkinson‘s Way More Than Luck, a debut collection that has already received a commendation in the Forward Prizes and been critically lauded in The Poetry Review. We also witnessed the launch of Writing Bolton (www.writingbolton.com), a digital writing map for the town, with star turns from Boltonian poet and playwright Clare Pollard and celebrated performance poet Hollie McNish.

This Autumn 2018, English and Creative Writing at Bolton are proud to again partner with Bolton Library and Museum Services for a new season of literary events.

In November, we will be joined by young novelist Glen James Brown in conversation with our very own Evan Jones, talking about Brown’s new publication Ironopolis, “a tapestry of working class life in all its glory and pain”. This will be followed in December by a celebration of this year’s Bolton Poetry Competition winners (launching soon), who will have an opportunity to perform their winning poetry alongside T.S. Eliot-shortlisted literary star Caroline Bird.

First up, though, our very own Ed Jones will be showcasing previously unseen scenes from his new play, The Political History of Smack and Crack which, as many of you will know, has already garnered huge critical praise from The Guardian, The Independent and The Stage after successful runs in Edinburgh and London.

Join us at Bolton Central Library, Tuesday 9 October, 6.30pm, for a fab night of Live Literature. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Lecturer highly commended in prestigious Forward Prizes

BW, WMTL Forward Book of Poetry 2019

Dr Ben Wilkinson, lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of the Arts, has been highly commended in what The Telegraph describes as ‘the poetry Oscars’.

Wilkinson launched his debut book of poems Way More Than Luck (Seren, 2018) at a busy Live Literature event in Bolton Central Library’s lecture theatre in February of this year. Described as a “beautifully serious debut by a more-than-promising young author”, the book explores mental health, distance running, the social fabric of football and the writing life in “artfully invisible poetic forms”.

BW, WMTL WaterstonesPoems included in the collection have already garnered the author a Northern Writers’ Award and an Arts Council England writer’s grant. But now Wilkinson’s work has been highly commended in The Forward Prizes 2019, described by jury chair Bidisha as ‘invaluable in finding the most essential, exciting voices, highlighting the contemporary poets who are at the top of their game and whose words will travel far and reach many readers’. The author was able to complete the collection with support from the University of Bolton’s Jenkinson Awards scheme for research excellence.

Following the recognition, Wilkinson’s work has just been published in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019, which “brings together the best contemporary poetry published in the British Isles over the past year”. The judging panel – including chair Bidisha, Niall Campbell, Mimi Khalvati, Chris McCabe and Jen Campbell – considered new poetry and the best poems from magazines and competitions before arriving at their selection.

The winners of the Forward Prizes for Best Collection, Best First Collection and Best Poem of the Year will be announced at a prize-giving ceremony held at London’s Southbank Centre on Tuesday 18th September. Wilkinson will be reading as part of Manchester’s premier reading series Poetry & Players on Saturday 15th September (Whitworth Art Gallery, 2.30-4pm), and later in the year at the Shrewsbury Literature Festival on Sunday 25th November.



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Lecturer’s play a triumph at the Edinburgh Fringe

Described by The Stage as ‘a riotously entertaining and deeply moving drama-cum-documentary’ and possibly the ‘best thing’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018, University of Bolton lecturer and playwright Ed Edwards’s gripping new play explores the history of heroin use in Manchester.

Political History of Smack and Crack (1)

Eve Steele and Neil Bell in The Political History of Smack and Crack

The Political History of Smack and Crack crackles with anger, humour and authenticity as it chronicles the fallout for communities crushed by the heroin epidemic at the height of Thatcherism.

Shot through with home truths about the road to recovery, this is an epic love song to a lost generation. This urgent two-hander traces a pair of star-crossed lovers from the epicentre of the working class riots in 1981 on Moss Side – an uprising which spread to London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and many other communities – to their eventual struggles on the streets of Manchester.

Political History of Smack and Crack (2)The script was one of five finalists in 2017’s Theatre503’s Play Writing Award out of over 1600 entries from 58 countries. The play has already received rave reviews in the Independent and the Guardian, the latter proclaiming it ‘an unsparing portrait of addiction’ in their four-star review. It is now showing to audiences at the Fringe in the Summerhall, Edinburgh, until 26 August.

Later this year, The Political History of Smack and Crack will move to the city from which it was born, Manchester, and be part of Mayor Andy Burnham’s inaugural International Arts and Homelessness Summit and Festival, curated with One Voice and supported by Manchester City Council. The play will be at the Mustard Tree, a local refuge providing care for people trapped by homelessness, dependency and poverty since 1994.

Creative Writing students at the University of Bolton will be given an inspiring opportunity to see their lecturer’s acclaimed play performed in November.


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Creative Writing graduates celebrate their success

English and CW graduates 2018

Staff and students celebrate graduation success

Creative Writing and English students celebrated their graduation in style on 17 July 2018, at a ceremony held at the majestic Albert Halls. Creative Writing boasted two graduates who received First Class BAs with honours, Shirley-Anne Kennedy and Aidan Matear, while Jeni Mills and Matthew Robinson both received First Class joint honours degrees in English and Creative Writing.

Aidan Matear’s story even featured in the Bolton News, as his path to success has been traversed against the odds. Aidan has choreoathetoid cerebral palsy and his achievement is all the more impressive as he is confined to a wheelchair and has extremely limited movement in his upper limbs. He also had to take a year out of his course as he underwent major surgery.

Aidan Matear, graduation

Aidan Matear receives his First Class honours degree

Speaking to the Bolton News, Aidan commented that “The course was challenging, exciting, hard work and extremely rewarding”, and that he had been supported by a team of “very enthusiastic and supportive staff”. “Going to University is the best thing I have ever done”. We wish Aidan, and all of our successful graduates, all the very best for their creative and professional futures.



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‘Witty, emotive and lyrical’: Live Literature with Wilkinson and Evans – our correspondent Katie Wolstencroft reports

Bolton Library’s Live Literature event returned on the 27th February by welcoming performances from two inspiring Sheffield-based poets. From the apocalyptic wonderings of the award-winning poet, Suzannah Evans, to the celebration of Ben Wilkinson’s debut collection, Way More Than Luck, audience members were treated to an evening of witty, emotive and lyrical poetry.

Live Literature, 27 Feb 2018

The ‘Beast from the East’ snow storm did not stand in the way for the two poets, with determined members of the public battling Bolton’s freezing weather in order to fill the room. Sufficiently warmed with wine and biscuits, audience members were able to fully appreciate the humorous yet troubling themes that took centre stage without focusing too much upon their numb toes.

Suzannah Evans, winner of the 2011 Book and Pamphlet Competition chosen by Carol Ann Duffy, for her pamphlet, Confusion Species, took to the stage first and entertained the audience with witty anecdotes that form the basis of her poetry. With stories of robotic bees failing to complete their programmed missions, to the government’s questionable decision to cut down trees in her home town of Sheffield, Evans was able to provide the audience with some invaluable context behind her powerful verses.

SE, WMTL launchDrawing on the future of humanity, Evans’ poetry focuses upon an impending apocalypse, in which she described as an ‘awkward handover’ between humans and robots. ‘The Handover’, one of her readings from the night, harmoniously encapsulated these key themes, through its exploration of artificial intelligence physically replacing humanity. Evans’ subtle use of repetitive diction in the poem, namely the word ‘killing’, provided her stance on the topic without so obviously stating it. This was arguably mirrored in Evans’ calm and subdued performance of her poetry; her light-hearted demeanour towards such an intense topic drew the audience in like a robotic bee to pollen.

After more than twelve years in the making, audience members were treated to a one-day preview of Ben Wilkinson’s debut poetry collection, Way More Than Luck, before it was published by Seren Books. The collection explores the sensitive topic of depression, the redemptive qualities of long distance running and the art and beauty of the well-loved sport, football. Wilkinson’s approach to the highly stigmatized topic of depression, in particular, has to be applauded for its lyrical urgency. Drawing on Churchill’s well-known ‘black dog’ metaphor for depression, ‘Hound’, one of the many readings from the evening, portrays a sense of hopefulness in dealing with the ‘faithful pet / it pretends to be’. This beautifully crafted poem not only provides a doorway into understanding how important the collection is to Wilkinson himself, but how it could impact others that struggle with mental health.

BW, WMTL launchThe focus upon the complexities of football further on in the collection, with several poems dedicated to the ‘greats’ of Liverpool Football Club, such as John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish (who features on the cover), delivers an element of light-hearted relief. Wilkinson’s subtle humour throughout this section of the collection appeal to not only those who already have an interest within the sport, but those who do not follow it at all.

It is safe to say that Bolton Library’s Live Literature has kicked off to a fantastic start for 2018.


Katie Wolstencroft is a second-year English and Creative Writing student at the University of Bolton.

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Way More Than Luck

Yet again we get to celebrate the success of one of our own…only this time, instead of it being one of our students going on to great things (as they do!), it’s one of our staff.

We’re delighted to say that on a cold, snowy night, to a packed room, our very own Ben Wilkinson gave us a sneaky one-day advance on his new book, Way More Than Luck.Long overdue, this new collection has been described by the Poetry Book Society as “‘weighty and cinematic, and [Ben’s] gift for finding the poetry in football terraces as well as crafting lyrical intrigue demonstrate his range and place as an up-and coming voice on the UK poetry scene.” And who are we to argue?

Twelve years in the making. Twelve long, sometimes painful years; the opening section of the book matches the experiences of depression against the redemptive power of art and (distance) running, before combining meditations on the simple complexities of football’s beauty and social urgency with tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds. It’s an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue.

Way More Than Luck is a book that shows how pain comes to define our happiness, how we keep on in a world of chance, uncertainty and change. As a full collection it demonstrates the skill, persistence and charm of a writer who knows how to voice his concerns so that we can all hear.

Way More Than Luck
Ben Wilkinson
ISBN: 9781781724255
28 February 2018


‘Ben Wilkinson is one to watch. A fine poet with a deft ear and a nice sense of how the external world presses on the inner one.’ – Nick Laird

‘The beautiful game inspires some beautiful poems in Ben Wilkinson’s terrific debut collection Way More Than Luck, but there’s far more than football to focus on here. For Jung, Liverpool was the pool of life and this book is full of life too; politically astute, well-made and formally experimental poems celebrate even its sadness in fresh language, natural rhythms and subtle music.’ – Ian Duhig

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Live Literature returns for Spring 2018

Autumn 2017 brought a bumper showcase of new voices and performances to Bolton Library’s majestic theatre space.  From the warm, witty and wise lyric acrobatics of Kayo Chingonyi to the fascinating conversation between our own Simon Holloway and the novelist Sarah Bradley, audiences were treated to three excellent monthly events across the season. Eoghan Walls impressed with his poetic imagination and craic with the crowd, while the Bolton Poetry Competition winners’ reading showed that Bolton’s literary talent is thriving, with poets scooping prizes in student, public, and sixth form and college categories.

English and Creative Writing at Bolton are proud to again partner with Bolton Library and Museum Services for a new season of literary events. Spring 2018 will bring masterful novelist Susan Barker to Bolton in March, for an interview on writing practice and her most recent novel The Incarnations, taking in 1,000 years of Chinese history.

Then in April we’ll have a special event held in conjunction with the Poetry Book Society, founded at the turn of the last century by T. S. Eliot. Karen McCarthy Woolf will be joining us, reading from her collection, Seasonal Disturbances, alongside Michael Symmons Roberts, whose latest book, Mancunia, has just been shortlisted for the prestigious T. S. Eliot Prize.

First up, though, our very own Ben Wilkinson will be launching his debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, alongside the talented Suzannah Evans, a regular writing workshop leader who our third-year students will remember well for her eco-poetry of apocalypse and disaster!

Join us at Bolton Central Library, Tuesday 27 February, 6.30pm, for a fab night of Live Literature. We look forward to seeing you there!