6 - 20 October 2017

Chapter & Verse BlogChapter & Verse Blog

The Manchester Literature Festival Blog

Meet the MLF Team: Jane Mathieson

MLF board member stands with poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy in a libraryJane Mathieson and Carol Ann Duffy

  • MLF board member stands with poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy in a library

What's your role with the festival?

I have been a board member for as long as the Literature Festival has existed. I became involved with the Manchester Poetry Festival when I moved to a post at Central Library in 1997 and helped with the transition when it became a broader Literature Festival.

My role (I think) was to provide some management support, particularly with the recruitment of the Festival Director. I also provided a link to MCC and specifically to the library service.

In 2002 my work role became a regional one, so that although I am still based in Manchester, I now work with public library authorities across the NW as reader development co-ordinator. The link with the festival has been invaluable to me, in keeping me involved with live literature activity and bringing lots of new writers to my attention. I hope my link with library services has continued to be useful to the Festival and helped with spreading the word about it.

This year will be my last year as a board member, as I have decided that I really have been around long enough and there are plenty of other people now involved. I shall continue to be an advocate for the festival and hope to carry on attending events for many years.

What's the part of the job you most enjoy, and what is the most challenging bit?

As well as being a board member I have also really enjoyed opportunities to help shape a few events over the years. In recent years I have been involved in helping to design a couple of successful Readers’ Days; historical in 2011 and Dickens in 2012. These have “joined up” my work role as reader development co-ordinator for libraries in the region, with the Literature Festival. I have really enjoyed working with Cathy to help create what I hope are stimulating & enjoyable events for festival audiences.

I have also had the pleasure of hosting several festival events — notably the Midland Hotel afternoon teas with Joan Bakewell and Sue McGregor as well as events in Central Library. While always anxious, particularly that Festival audiences receive “good value”, meeting and engaging with writers has to be a high spot of my working life.

The need to generate funds and be creative about how to grow support for the Festival is always challenging. Luckily there have been other board members with the right skills to take this challenge on.

What events are you really looking forward to this year?

I'm looking forward to the Barbara Pym centenary event with Louis de Bernieres. I love events which look back at older writers and appraise their work. It’s always interesting to hear who has inspired currently successful writers and this combination looks like it will be a surprising one. It will also motivate me to read a Barbara Pym book again.

Also, Patrick Ness is a contemporary writer I really like and I know he is a very engaging speaker and enthusiast for reading. I was blown away by his young people’s title The Knife of Never Letting Go some years ago and really enjoyed this year’s new adult title The Crane Wife.

Finally, Owen Sheers & Ian McMillan. This event has come about in response to a project I am heavily involved with, wearing my work hat. Try Reading is a library project being delivered across 30 library authorities in the North West and Yorkshire/Humberside, linked to the Rugby League World Cup 2013 and which will be just about to kick off at the end of October. Try Reading aims to promote reading to sports-loving people in general and rugby league fans in particular. Both these inspirational writers have fulfilled roles as Writers in Residence in sports clubs and will be talking about that role, as well as reading from their own work. Ian McMillan is always hugely entertaining and Owen Sheers is an immensely talented writer across a number of different genres. We are also hosting this in an unusual venue (a sports bar) so are really hoping for a lively and well-attended event.

What would be your dream MLF event?

Hard to say this one, as the dream MLF event for me is one which surprises me. A writer I know nothing about turns out to be one I want to rush out and read for myself.

If I was to plan a dream event, it would have to be writers I know I would like to hear and who aren’t often out and about or in this country. So, any combination of Philp Roth, Annie Proulx, Barbara Kingsolver or Anne Tyler. Or maybe reappraisals of some classic or forgotten writers to entice new readers, e.g. George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Arnold Bennett or John Cowper Powys.

Read any good books lately?

I’ve enjoyed:

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

My job requires me to try to keep up with current titles that are likely to be popular with public-library using audiences. Although I am rarely “face-to-face” with the public these days, I am in the happy position of being able to recommend titles to public library staff across the region. The above are all examples of titles that I really enjoyed and which I am happy to recommend to other readers