Bran Nicol

6 March 2020

Professor Bran Nicol is Head of the School of Literature and Languages at the University of Surrey. He believes the Surrey New Writers Festival has an important role to play not just at the University, but in the local community too.

Q: What is the purpose of the Festival?

A: Firstly, the Festival allows writers to showcase their work at different stages. But I think it also offers a really valuable opportunity for networking. A writer’s life can be rather solitary and yet it’s so important for writers to collaborate with editors, agents, publishers and other writers – and meet their potential readers too. This is an opportunity to do all these things.

Secondly the Festival is for anyone who is interested in literature and new writing, students and members of the local community alike. We are also pleased to involve local booksellers like Appleseed and Waterstones, who are on hand to sell books and chat to those attending the festival.

More generally, this festival offers a chance for us at the University to engage with the broader community. It’s really important that our Literature and Language school connects with those who live around us, who share our interests in literature and culture. This is why we are so pleased that we’ve been able to continue hosting the Surrey New Writers Festival at G-Live, a great venue in the heart of the city.

Q: What can people expect from the Festival this year?

A: Like previous years, the Surrey New Writers Festival has been put together to offer the right blend of intimacy, interaction, information and entertainment. It’s an event where those attending have the opportunity to network and meet people, but also to sit back and enjoy the talks and readings at the Festival.

Festival Director Dr Liz Bahs took over last year and introduced the idea of a new theme each year to relate current writing to pressing contemporary issues. Last year it was women’s writing and dystopia. This year it’s fact and fiction – investigating the boundary between the two, and exploring how writers incorporate their own experiences into their work. It doesn’t mean every session is geared towards this theme, but adds an interesting new perspective each year.

The masterclasses are also a new idea pioneered by Liz: they proved to be very popular last year and so we’re continuing with them this year. These are intensive but enjoyable classes which add an element of practical learning to the proceedings.  

Of course, the event is a great opportunity for agents and publishers to see the new talent that’s emerging in the Guildford area, which is why it’s known as the Surrey New Writers Festival. They’ll be joined by University staff:  Dr Carl Thompson, the Programme Leader for the MA in Creative Writing will be there along with other members of staff from the faculty to answer questions about the work that goes on here at the School of Literature and Languages at Surrey. It promises to be a really exciting and rewarding day for anyone who has an interest in writing and reading.

Interview conducted by Alison Cooper.