Years ago, Collage Arts (formerly Haringey Arts Council), which runs the Chocolate Factory Studios in Wood Green, had a regular stream of literary activities in its calendar. It promoted local writers and publishers, getting all sorts of people interested in writing who might not otherwise have given it a second thought.
I used to work with Collage Arts when I was the Managing Editor of Ambit Literary Magazine. We were featured in their famous Poetry and Poppadoms series, we did readings at Haringey libraries and we took authors into schools. Then funding was cut, and Collage Arts had no choice but to let go of its literary activities.
I recently moved to Wood Green and approached Manoj Ambasna, the Director of Collage Arts, about restarting their literature output. He was wonderfully open to the idea and pledged to find funding from new sources to pay writers to do some readings to test the water. And so in June 2013, Haringey Literature Live was born.
We started small, with monthly free events of poetry and fiction. We are incredibly lucky to have as our venue the magical and spacious Karamel Restaurant, with its striking art exhibitions, delicious menu, bijou stage and friendly atmosphere. Shortly afterwards we incorporated an open mic session, which is fast growing in popularity: new writers can test their work on an appreciative audience. People mill about buying books, asking the authors about their work, and enjoying drinks and tapas from the bar. They are great events, and we continue to offer them monthly (the first Thursday of each month), with free entry so that they are accessible to everyone – the last thing we want to provide is exclusive literary events, or events that are so full of hipsters that only people from the younger generation feel welcome.
We are also lucky to be based in the heart of the Chocolate Factory Studios, surrounded by fantastic artists, craftspeople, designers, musicians, dancers and actors. Making the most of this exciting artistic environment, we ran a Flash Fiction Competition at the Open Studios in November. Visitors were asked to write a complete story in 200 words or fewer, in response to any piece of artwork they saw on their way around the studios. The winning entries are superb and prove that for the people of Haringey, literature is alive and well (read the winning entries on the News page of our website). The competition will run yearly.
I am delighted at how many creative people are living and working in the borough, and thrilled that I can play a small part in helping to promote their work, and in getting more people to join in. We are now launching a series of affordable writing workshops, on Wednesday mornings at Karamel. The first is run by the renowned poet and dramatist Jehane Markham. It starts on the 12th of March and there are still some places left.
In other news, on World Book Day (6th March) we are launching a permanent book exchange at Karamel. All you have to do is contribute one good-quality book, and you will be able to borrow, book by book, hundreds of titles, completely for free. Come along and check it out!
To find out more or to sign up to the writing workshops, go to www.haringeyliteraturelive.com