Burnley Literary Festival

burnleyLiterary Festival

A weekend of exciting events, performances and
workshops for all ages happening across the town centre. 

[Warning: May Contain Books]

Welcome to this year’s Burnley Literary Festival.
This year’s programme is as big and exciting as before.
We have scheduled central hubs of activities so that you can see as many events as possible in one weekend!

Festival highlights

Jackie in the Library

Our poet and comic in residence, Jackie Hagan, will be chatting and writing in Burnley Library all day Friday 4th  and Saturday 5th. Why not go and meet her between workshops and shows?”

Jonny Fluffypunk

We’re kicking off the festival with Jonny Fluffypunk’s chaotic and hilarious one man live show “How I Came To Be Where I Never Was” on Friday 4th, 7.30pm The Shift Cafe.  

Flash in the Van

In a hurry but want to see something? Look out for Blythe the Caravan in the town centre, the home of our Flash Fiction authors!

Writing Squad

The writing squad will be capturing the people and stories of Burnley Market all day on Saturday 5th. Pop in to find out more or tell your own tale.


The Scallywags will be taking over Burnley town centre with a storytelling adventure for young and old alike! Check the website to find out where to start your adventure!


A feat of engineering, creativity and a little bit of magic. Head to Burnley Market to have a go on the one and only ‘Poemomatic!’

Gallery 0282

Don’t know where “That 0282 place” is? Head upstairs at the library and turn right for workshops and events such as:

  • Little Stars Children’s Workshop
  • FanZine Workshop
  • Graphics Novel and Comic Writing Workshop
  • Text Based Video Games
  • How to Write a Book in 90 minutes Workshop
  • Local Writers Afternoon

This year the majority of our events are ‘Pay What You Decide’. We want our activities to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, so we’re trying out something different. Instead of paying for tickets, we will ask you to pay at the end of the show/event as you leave. That way you can decide what you think the event was worth and it keeps the festival affordable to everybody. 

Programme of Events

As with all festivals, some events are subject to change and we will continue to add more exciting performances, workshops and happenings right up to the festival.

There’s no need to book places for the majority of our events in advance, but in some cases, places may need to be allocated on a first come first served basis. You can reserve a spot in advance for events via the links.

Over Coffee Writers Exhibition

Venue: Rhode Island Coffee

All Weekend – free

Pop in to Rhode Island Coffee at any point over the festival to take a look, or should we say read, of some fantastic work from local writers. Short stories, poetry and musings all around the theme of ‘Conversations Over Coffee.’

Friday 4th October

Jackie Hagan in Residence at the Library

Venue: Burnley Central Library

Times: Drop-In anytime between 11am and 4pm

Drop In – Free

Drop into Burnley Library any time on Friday or Saturday for a chat with stand up comic, and spoken word artist, Jackie Hagan.

Jackie Hagan is a dyslexic, working-class amputee with a ‘cob on’, she drinks cut-price lager from her false leg and tours internationally. She is a stand-up comedian, playwright and poet. She’s also dead nice and loves talking to real, proper, people about their lives and experiences.

She has worked as a consultant to the British Council and talked at Arts Council conferences about class. She has won Saboteur Awards ‘Best Spoken Word Show’ in both 2016 and 2018, received a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship and loads of other posh awards. She prefers people who smell of a pasty to awards. She has done over two thousand workshops in prisons, psych wards, SEN schools and has run a not-for-profit organisation for the last 12 years bringing writing workshops to people who otherwise may not feel welcome at them. She is fiercely protective, loving, unapologetic and determined to change the world.

“A TV show in waiting.” The Herald

“Fabulous subtlety and wit” – Emma Thompson, actor.

“Hilarious” – The Skinny

“Psychologically astute” – Sabotage reviews

Book on Facebook

Parenting Books – Essential or Ridiculous?

Venue: Snowdrop Doula Hub, 47 Parker Lane

Time: 12:30pm

Books & Writing – Pay What You Decide

An informal discussion looking at different types of books for pregnancy and parenting. Discussing whether they are useful, patronising, nonsense, contradictory or all of this.

There will be lunch provided from 12:30pm for a 1pm start.

Ideal for parents and parents to be, babies welcome.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash donation after the talk of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth. You can reserve a place in advance online for this talk through Eventbrite.

Arts Council Session

Venue: Burnley Mechanics, The Loft

Time: 2pm

Industry Session – Free – sign up in advance

A session aimed at artists, companies and projects wanting to find out more about Arts Council Funding.

Join us and the Arts Council for a short talk giving top tips such as thinking about digital (and other media besides print), innovation, R&D, showcasing and engaging with the public. Followed by some dedicated sessions for more detailed advice. A great chance to network. One to one sessions are available but will need to be booked in advance.

Book via Eventbrite

Jonny Fluffypunk ‘How I Came To Be Where I Never Was’

Venue: The Shift Cafe

Time: 7:30pm

Comedy/Show – Pay What You Decide on the night, secure your place by booking online

Jonny Fluffypunk grew up in suburban nowhere. This is a story about trying to find yourself when you find yourself somewhere you don’t belong. It’s about unrequited love, John Peel and the importance of a good record shop. If that’s not enough then there’s also stuff about trains and memory and letting go. This is a new show for anyone who has ever loved, owned a vinyl record or just been alive.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash donation after the show of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth. You can reserve a place in advance online for this show through Eventbrite.

This show has been supported by INN CROWD. INN CROWD supports pubs to host exciting and inspiring spoken word, poetry and storytelling performances, helping to reinforce pubs as central to vibrant, community life.

ACCESS: Please note this venue is only accessible via a flight of stairs

Book via Eventbrite

Looking for something to inspire the whole family? Across the weekend we have plenty of exciting storytelling shows, writing workshops, and even a Moon Landing exhibition that will keep old and young alike entertained, and prepare their imagination for blast off! Check the website to find out more about how to join the Scallywags on a storytelling adventure, information on our workshops, and age range suitability for all of our events.

Saturday 5th October

Flash in the Van

Venue: Blythe the Vintage Caravan, Town Centre

Time: 1pm – 4pm

Show: Pay What You Decide

Head to our vintage caravan and take ten minutes out of your day to enjoy some flash fiction. Short stories are written and performed by six different authors. Perfect if you’ve only got ten minutes to spare in whilst ticking off your to-do list or stay for longer and enjoy a more leisurely Saturday. Simply queue outside the caravan for your ten-minute fix of fiction, and if you like it, you can go round again with a different writer.

In Flash In The Van, a small audience of six people at a time will experience ten minutes of live ultra-compact, hyper-condensed storytelling in the flash fiction mode delivered by six experts in the field. Join Fat Roland, Michael Conely, Tania Hershman, Kate Feld, David Gaffney and Sarah-Clare Conlon for this unique live experience, in the intimate and homely setting of a tiny vintage caravan.

There is no advanced booking available for this event. Places will be given on a first-come-first-served basis. Find the caravan on James Street on the day to wait your turn, or put your name down for a specific time. This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the show of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Authors include:

some of our authors

David Gaffney is the author of the novels Never Never (2008) and All The Places I’ve Ever Lived  (2017) plus short story collections Sawn-Off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), The Half-Life of Songs (2010) and More Sawn-Off Tales(2013).  David’s graphic novel with Dan Berry, The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head was published in 2018 with Top Shelf and his next graphic novel, Rivers, will be out in 2020. See www.davidgaffney.org

Tania Hershman’s third short story collection, Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, was published by Unthank Books in May 2017, and her debut poetry collection, Terms & Conditions, by Nine Arches Press in July. Her poetry pamphlet, How High Did She Fly, is one of the winners of Live Canon’s 2019 Poetry Pamphlet Competition. She has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics. Find out more here: www.taniahershman.com

Kate Feld writes short fiction, essays, poetry and work that sits between forms. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including The Letters Page, The Stinging Fly, The Lonely Crowd, Train and Hotel. She lectures in journalism at The University of Salford, hosts Manchester literary events and leads workshops on creative writing. Find out more at katefeld.com

some more of our authors

Fat Roland is a story-mangling comic and champion of Literary Death Match Manchester, and he co-runs Bad Language, voted the UK’s best spoken word night two years in a row. His third solo show, Seven Inch, was commissioned by The Lowry and was adapted for the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe.

Sarah-Clare Conlon is Literature Editor of Creative Tourist and Writer-in-Residence at Manchester’s Victoria Baths. Her creative writing has been published by Centre for New Writing, Comma, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Flash, Reflex Fiction, Salt, Spelk, Stand and The Other Room, and in new Arachne anthology Story Cities.

Mike Conley is a writer based in Manchester. His poetry has been published by Flarestack and has been Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. His latest work is a collection of short stories and flash fiction, Flare and Falter, which was published by Splice and longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. He runs the literary night “The Other” with Eli Regan.

Little Star Children’s Workshop

Age: Under 8s

Venue: 0282 – Upstairs at the Library

Time: 11am – 11.45am

Family/Workshop – Pay What You Decide

‘Little Star – A story about a newborn star trying to find her place in the world.’

Join us for a reading of the story and activity session. Let’s celebrate what makes us all special.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the show of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Book Market

Venue: Market Hall

Time: All Day

Drop In / Books & Writing

We’ve invited independent Northern publishers and local writers to set up stalls in Burnley market for the day. Pop by to browse their collections and pick up a new book, or three, to add to your ‘to be read’ pile.

Authors Stage

Venue: Market Hall

Time: All Day

Drop In / Books & Writing: Pay What You Decide

We’ve invited published authors from across the North (and even beyond) to our Authors stage in the market. From poems about Pendle to Burnley legends immortalised in print, come along to hear these authors talk about their books, what inspires them, and the process of being published.

We will be publishing full details of the Author line up soon so you can plan your visit meticulously or pop by any time throughout the day.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the talk of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Winston Plowes ‘Poemomatic’

Venue: Market Hall TBC

Time: 10.30am – 11.15am, 12.30pm – 1.15pm, 3pm – 3.45pm

Family/Books & Writing: Pay What You Decide

The Poem-O-Matic is an interactive art installation and poem generator which produces text from pure electricity with a little help from its operator and inventor, Winston H. Plowes. Following a test of hand-eye coordination and nerve, participants young and old will stare in wonder as words flow from their fingers and poems grow before their very eyes.

Jackie Hagan Writers Workshop

Venue: Burnley Central Library

Time: 12.30pm – 2pm

Drop In: Pay What You Decide

Join award-winning writer and comic, Jackie Hagan for an afternoon writers workshop where Jackie will encourage you to find your voice and tell your story. Absolutely, without a doubt suitable for all big kids and grown ups even if you don’t know which end of a pen to use (the pointy end). Come, drink tea, don’t worry about spelling, and Jackie will help you to express yourself with simple, fun writing exercises because you definitely have things to say – you have lived a life and you are important. It won’t be like school.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the talk of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Book via Eventbrite


Age range: Suitable for all, but particularly good for those under 10 and their grown-ups.

Venue: Town Centre – meeting point

Time: 11.30am and 2pm

Pay What You Decide

Join the Scallywags on a storytelling town centre adventure! Help our hero fall in love with reading again as you are led around Burnley centre and meet a host of characters along the way.

A mixture of treasure hunt, storytelling, puppetry and theatre, a quest that will be fun for all the family, but particularly those under 10.

The storytelling trail will involve short walks in between stops. These will be guided and we will take it at a pace suitable for the whole group. Wherever the route requires you to go upstairs there will also be an accessible lift.

Meeting point, route details and timings will be released soon!

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the show of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Portraits of Burnley Market with the Writing Squad

Venue: Burnley Market

Time: All day

Drop In /Books & Writing – Free

The Writing Squad will be working with four young writers from Burnley to capture the stories and the people of Burnley market. Drop by during the day to share your tale, and see the digital archive as it is built.

The Writing Squad provides workshops, 1-1 support and investment for young writers from the North.

Find out more about The Writing Squad here: http://www.writingsquad.com

Interested in being one of our four Burnley writers then contact Stephie stephie@culturapedia.co for more information.

Fanzine Workshop

Venue: 0282 – upstairs at the Library

Time: 12.30pm – 2.00pm

Workshop: Pay What You Decide

The first in a series of sessions about how to create your own Fanzine.

A fanzine is a magazine you have created yourself around a specific theme or subject, for example, a particular pop group or football team. Fanzines are written by people who are fans themselves, rather than by professional journalists and can be about anything you want.

In these sessions, you’ll learn how to put your stuff together, create the layout, then get your fanzine out for others to read.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the workshop of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Graphic Novel Workshop

Venue: 0282 – upstairs at the Library

Time: 2.15pm – 3.45pm

Workshop: Pay What You Decide

Learn how to create and even self publish your own graphic novel or comic. It’s easier than you think!

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the workshop of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Text-Based Video Games Session

Venue: 0282 – upstairs at the Library

Time: 4pm – 5.30pm

Workshop: Pay What You Decide

Open the door to a new way of gaming in this drop in text-based video games session.

This is not a safe space

Jackie Hagan ‘This is Not A Safe Space’

Age range: 14+

Venue: Burnley Library

Time: 7.30pm

Show: Pay What You Decide

Jackie Hagan was dead annoyed about how the working classes and disabled were being portrayed in daft programmes like Benefits Street, so she went around and interviewed 80 people on disability benefits and uses the audio in this award-winning show, interwoven with her own experiences.

“Very funny” – The Guardian

“Politically urgent” – The Stage

“Fiercely loving” – London Theatre 1

“A perfect antidote to programmes like Benefits Street” – Disability Arts Online

“Passionate, provocative and affecting” – Disability Today

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the show of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth or how much you can afford. Cash contributions will be anonymous.

Book via Eventbrite

Love hearing from authors? Looking to add more books to your ‘To Be Read’ pile? Head to Burnley Market on Saturday 5th October where there’s the central authors stage and book market. You can hear a whole range of writers talk about their work and read from their books, and if you like what you hear, you’ll be able to pick up a copy for yourself from our book market! A whole programme of who will be talking and when, will be available online in the run up to the festival.

Sunday 6th October

Let’s Get Arty Farty – Storytelling and Crafts session

Venue: Burnley Central Library

Time: 11am – 4pm

Age: Fun for all ages, but best for under 10’s

Tickets : Pay What You Decide

Type: Family, Drop In

Join Mary and Ilaria in Burnley Library and help them build a sky full of stars and listen to stories that will get your imagination ready for blast off. Mary and Ilaria will be in the library all day so you can pop by anytime and stay for as long as you like.

How To Write a Book in 90 Minutes with Winston Plowes

Venue: 0282 – Upstairs at the Library

Time: 11 am – 12.30pm

Age: All ages – a great activity for the family to do together

Tickets: Pay What You Decide – Prebook a place online

Type: Family, Books & Writing

In a world of screens and Google, Winston Powles sometimes worries we could become disconnected from the physical book and he doesn’t want that to happen. Winston invites you to celebrate ‘The Book’ in all its glory, get stuck in and achieve the seemingly impossible by making a complete finished book together at Burnley Literary Festival in this engaging and fast-paced workshop aimed at both beginners and experienced writers.

In just 90 minutes we will not only physically make a book each by cutting and folding a single sheet of A4 paper but we will populate all of its eight pages. We will discuss the essence of our materials and why we make the marks we do. Using accessible prompts to set free our imaginations, we will write both a form poem and a prose piece and even illustrate a full page before dedicating and signing it too.

Prepare to have fun and be inspired by the poetry of Neruda and Hardy and take home something in your hands and your head that is both new and exciting.

All materials are supplied; just bring yourself, a smile and a willingness to take part as a young or old word artist of any level of experience.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the workshop of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth.

Songwriting Workshop

Venue: The Shift Cafe

Time: 2pm – 4pm

Tickets: Pay What You Decide

Type: Music, Workshops

Join us at The Shift Cafe above the Swan Inn, for a friendly workshop based on writing your own songs – whether you have one in your head you can’t quite finish or you want to learn the basics, all are welcome.

Blast Off To The Moon

Venue: Library

Time: Various – more details released soon

Age: Perfect for astronauts and space enthusiasts of all ages

Tickets: Pay What You Decide

Type: Family, Books & Writing

UCLAN publishing are preparing for launch…

‘Blast Off To The Moon’ is based on Neil Armstrong’s original space manual & exclusive material from NASA, this book is all about man’s first journey to walk on the moon. Fully illustrated throughout with exclusive NASA photography, it contains material such as Neil Armstrong’s space menus & instructions on how to put on a spacesuit as well as an exclusive introduction written by Helen Sherman, the first woman to visit the Mir Space Station. Capturing the excitement of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, how it happened, why it happened, what the team discovered and what followed when the mission returned to Earth. It’s an accessible book for children that will inspire and encourage a love of learning about science and space. Published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Join us for an afternoon of space-themed activities.

Pendle Social Cinema Screening of 120 BPM (Beats per Minute)

Venue: Cafe One Sixty

Time: 12.30pm doors open, film starts at 1pm

Age: Certificate 15

Tickets: Pay What You Decide

Type: Film

The early 1990s. With AIDS having already claimed countless lives for nearly ten years, Act up-Paris activists multiply actions to fight general indifference. Nathan, a newcomer to the group, has his world shaken up by Sean, a radical militant, who throws his last bits of strength into the struggle.

French film with subtitles.

This event is ‘Pay What You Decide.’ Entrance to this event is free but we will be asking you to make a cash contribution after the film of how much you think your ticket to this event was worth. Space at this event is very limited so we recommend booking your place in advance.

Book on Eventbrite

Jeff Nuttall – Lancashire’s Leonardo of the Counterculture 

Venue: Cafe One Sixty

Time: 5pm – 6.45pm (please note this event starts later than advertised in the brochure)

Tickets: Free

Age: 16+

Type: Books & Writing

Clitheroe-born Nuttall was a polymath extraordinaire. Anarchist artist, poet, critic, musician, actor, teacher and provocateur, he was the axis around which British counterculture turned. He documented all this in the explosive Bomb Culture, published in 1968 and now re-issued in a new edition. During the 60s he also co-curated Better Books happenings, co-founded avant-garde theatre group The People Show and edited My Own Mag, with regular contributors including the great William Burroughs. Too long overlooked, his influence was profound and far-reaching. Researcher Bruce Wilkinson and Douglas Field, editor of the recent edition, discuss his work and impact, bringing the life of this Bond villain and Poetry Society chair to a new audience.

A Pendle Radicals event organised by Mid Pennine Arts.

Open to all and no prior knowledge necessary. Space limited so booking essential!160 is

licensed and drinks will be available, but not the regular food menu.

NB. Much of Nuttall’s material was rude and sexually explicit. Please avoid if this is likely to offend.

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The Great Cabaret Safari

Venue: The Burnley Mechanics

Time: 7 pm

Age: 14+

Tickets: £12

Type: Show, Comedy

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your top hats, the “effortlessly funny” ShooShooBaby are coming to Burnley!

Expect water-tight harmonising on a wonderful array of original cabaret songs with music from composers including Verdi, Ed Sheeran, The Proclaimers and Ennio Morricone. The musical saw, the zither, the Indian harmonium and the kazoo are just a few of the instruments that feature in this eclectic and witty show. ShooShooBaby have earned a reputation for their excellent singing and musicianship and their show been appreciated all over the world.

 “What sets ShooShooBaby apart is their musical wit and superb harmony… A sheer delight. tight, clever and totally enjoyable”. The Scotsman

Book via Burnley Mechanics

Poetry and Spoken Word evening

Venue: Illuminati, 18 Hammerton St, Burnley BB11 1NA

Time: 7pm

Age: Suitable for 18 + (the venue is licenced) 

Tickets: free

Type: Spoken word, Poetry

A Poetry and Spoken Word open-mic event hosted by award winning Ribble Valley Stanza group.

The evening will begin with their cabaret of the spoken word about poetry in jazz, water and local watering holes. 

Later the floor will be open for performers from the audience to take the stage. A chance for seasoned and new talent to share their poetry in a relaxed atmosphere. Just turn up on the evening to enjoy some amazing readings or share your own work. Poets and audience alike will have an enjoyable and entertaining evening of poetry and spoken word.

Are you an avid writer? We have a range of activities to help you perfect your craft. Looking to find out more about applying for Arts Council funding? Come along to our Industry Session on Friday 4th October. Want to meet with other writers, find out about self publishing, learn how to create your own Fanzine? That 0282 Place (upstairs at the Library) is where you’ll want to be! From poetry workshops, how to get published guides and peer to peer support groups, check burnleyliteraryfestival.co.uk for more details.

Extra Fest

You can start the festival early in Padiham or keep the bookish enthusiasm going with Gawthorpe Hall. Here’s a small selection of ‘extra fest’ events for you real enthusiasts!

Open Mic Spoken Word Night

Venue: The Shift Cafe above The Swan

Date: Wednesday 2nd October

Time: 7pm

Type: Show, Books & Writing

Join the Shift Cafe for the launch of their new WEEKLY Spoken Word Open Mic Night. A chance to express yourself; share your music, your moments or your stories!  

Regular Jam Night

Venue: The Shift Cafe

Date: Thursday 3rd October

Time: 7pm

Type: Music

The Shift Cafe host their regular jam night. Join local musicians playing original music. Bring your instrument and join in or come along and watch.

Comedy Night Part 4 – Funny Words

Venue: The Lawrence Hotel, Padiham

Date: Thursday 3rd October

Time: 7pm

Type: Show, Comedy

The Lawrence Hotel in Padiham hosts their regular Comedy Night on Thursday 3rd October.

Book tickets

Spoken Word Event

Venue: The Lawrence Hotel, Padiham

Date: Friday 4th October

Time: 7pm

Type: Show, Books & Writing

A night of literature and spoken word where authors and poets will read from their work and do Q and As.

Book tickets

The Familiars at Gawthorpe Hall

Venue: Gawthorpe Hall

Date: Sunday 13th October

Time: 12- 4.30pm

Age: all

Type: Books and Writing

This event is a must for every fan of the bestselling novel The Familiars, set at Gawthorpe Hall in the early 17thcentury.  Discover the real 17th-century Gawthorpe brought to life by costumed reenactors showing what everyday life was like for women and men of the period. Plus during the afternoon Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars, will be talking about her inspiration for the novel and its characters, how important Lancashire is as the setting for the story and what she is writing next.  Stacey will also be available for book signings – bring your own or you can buy the newly published paperback version in the shop.

Tickets: Included in normal admission (£6 adults, £4 concessions, children free).

Keep your eyes peeled

We’ll be organising an extra special event after the festival to celebrate all the local talent who enter our Writers Competition. More details about the event and the competition released soon.

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