What on Earth is the ‘StokeyLitFest’?

Stoke newington BusThe Stoke Newington Literary Festival, or as it’s more affectionately known, the StokeyLitFest, is quite possibly the coolest lit fest on the planet. And it’s getting bigger year by year. If you live in London, you’ve probably heard of it. But living Down Under, I hadn’t — until this big UK trip of mine.

It’s a short bus ride for me from my mind-boggingly ‘compact’ accommodation near King’s Cross Railway Station. I arrived in London a few days ago, and the Festival is my first, full-on writing event. It’s where I’ve been spending my day today. It’s a two-day festival, in its sixth year, and here’s what I chose to see…

Tracy Thorn

Tracey Thorn

Tracey Thorn

The wonderful Tracey Thorn, from Everything But the Girl fame, was a special highlight of the day. She was at the festival to promote her second memoir, Naked at the Albert Hall. Amongst many things, she talked in detail about her very real stage fright, leading her to make the decision not to perform live as a singer again.

She also recounted many funny anecdotes, such as the challenge — as a well known and highly regarded singer — of singing ‘Wheels on the bus’ in play groups. Would she somehow be expected to perform the song far better than the other parents? Should she try to? Or maybe she should be doing the opposite?

She also talked about her love of the X-Factor TV show, to everyone’s surprise!

Mark Ellen (Q mag, NME, Live Aid…)

Mark Ellen (right)

Mark Ellen (right) with Danny Kelly

Mark Ellen was at the festival to talk about his very exciting-looking book (well, to me), called Rock Stars Stole My Life! It’s all about his experiences working for some of the greatest UK music publications Q, NME and many others, and commentating for Live AID (which I watched the telecast of from start to finish on the other side of the world, while living in Canberra, Australia).

Both Mark and Danny spoke at breathless speed, trying to fit in as many of their amazing experiences as they could. It was both overwhelming and mind-blowing. My favourite quote: ‘But it wasn’t all laughs and drugs and stuff,’ — when talking about the screaming matches that could occur between different music staff.

While I attended numerous other sessions, I’ll tell you about one more, because — in truth, I only have the energy to tell you about one more (I’m keen to head off to bed!)…

Richard King

Richard King (left)

Richard King (left)

Richard King worked for years in Bristol’s notoriously ‘independent’ record store Revolver, and has written about his experiences in Original Rockers, especially about the store’s aloof manager who refused to sell customers records by bands he didn’t approve of, even if the store stocked them. Or, the reverse, treating his customers with great disdain for their lack of good taste and refusing to sell them albums by the likes of Tim Buckley if he didn’t believe the customer looked worthy enough. Classic independent record shop stuff taken to its absolute level.

As you can see, I chose to attend rather a lot of music-related events. Such is the person I am. I leave you with two more pictures from the day…

Tracey Thorn again (and why not?)

Mark Ellen and me

You can check out the festival’s website here.