The Milim Literary Festival launches this month with a whole host of events across Leeds.
They were the brains behind From ‘The Leylands to Leeds 17’, a book that illustrated 150 years of Leeds Jewish history, and now its best-selling authors Diane Saunders and Philippa Lester are launching the city’s first Jewish Literary Festival this March.
The idea of a Leeds Jewish Literary Festival has been around for some time and ‘milim’, which means ‘words’ in Hebrew, is all about Jewish words and literature.
It is designed to provide innovative and high-profile events to support and showcase both established and new emerging writers, as well as offering the opportunity to attend workshops and masterclasses, all under the banner of ‘Jewish Words for All’.
“Whilst we were writing our book, Diane and I felt there was an interest out there in literature, literacy and the whole literary world, and that more could be done about Jewish writing on all levels,” explained Philippa.
What really prompted the writers was when people queried why ‘From The Leylands…’ wasn’t co-ordinated to London’s Jewish Book Week. There were already local Leeds Jewish authors around at that time who had just published, including the Leslie Silver biography ‘Painting the Town Silver’. But it seemed the movers and shakers in London did not show much interest in what was being published or read regionally.
“We were a bit miffed about London, but when we looked at their programme it was very London-based and full of heavy-weight and well-established writers,” added Diane. “So we decided on a very different approach for Leeds which is a bit more varied and mixed, and of course much smaller in its first year.”
Milim’s first outing, in association with Makor Jewish Culture and Resources Office, offers an exciting calendar of events with something for everyone. There are sessions that include writing as well as literature and even a section on poetry and prose.
And there is much for the young to be involved in. Pupils from nursery to high school will enjoy a day of special activities including storytelling, producing their own books and newspapers and there will be a special exhibition at The Zone.
The Milim group has included a trip to the British Library in Boston Spa with a talk by Ilana Tahan, lead curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies, discussing the Hebrew collection.
Also in the line-up is World Book Day and an appearance by Ruth Corman, a London-based photographer and art curator, talking about ‘Israel Through My Lens’ and Wes Brown, writer and critic, will who present a ‘Skills for Creative Writing’ workshop at MAZCC.
Furthermore, actor and playwright Vanessa Rosenthal will be talking about writing for radio at Leeds Library and a poetry cafe led by local poet James Nash at Donisthorpe Hall.
The month-long event, whose main current sponsor is Manning Stainton, culminates with an evening with Man Booker prize-winning author Howard Jacobson at Reuben Vincent Hall, who will invite readers to discuss his new book ‘Shylock is My Name’ on March 31st, commemorating 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. Howard brings his singular brilliance to his modern re-imagining of Shylock, one of Shakespeare’s most controversial characters.
Diane and Philippa are hoping the project will become part of the Leeds cultural activities programme and so far everyone who has been approached to contribute, in whatever way possible, have all shown dedication, commitment and enthusiasm for the project.
“We hope the community will get involved to facilitate even more events and innovative programmes in the future.” said Philippa.
For further information visit Milim.org.uk. Tickets for the Howard Jacobson evening are available from Sheila 0113 217 1886 or Carol 0795 169 6986.