26’s writers in residence at Bloomsbury Festival 2023

Our participation in the Bloomsbury Festival this year goes beyond the much-lauded WordStock event and 26 Plants—in fact, for half a decade at least, 26’s members have been haunting the festival every day it runs live events. I am, of course, talking about our writers in residence. 

What does it mean to be a writer in residence? Quite simply, the writer gets to soak up everything the festival offers that day. They go to around 3-4 events of their choice, and wander the area taking in the free exhibitions and the buzz in the streets. Then, by 10pm that very same day, they need to write a response to what they’ve seen. The format of that response is totally up to the writer; it could be a review, a poem, an essay, a reflection, a series of pieces. It could be related to the day as a whole, or to a specific thing that they’ve seen. It could even have nothing to do with the events themselves, but something they saw on the street as they wandered around. Their piece, along with their bio, is then uploaded to the Bloomsbury Festival’s website, where it lives for posterity as a reminder of that year’s events. 

This year, eight writers—two of them coming in at late notice due to cancellations—created on the spot and really showcased the breadth of talent within the 26 membership. We even had a new member fly all the way from Minnesota to take part!

I highly recommend reading these:

  • Day 1 (Fri 13 Oct): Lauren McMenemy – read here
  • Day 2 (Sat 14 Oct): Suchandrika Chakrabarti – read here
  • Day 3 (Sun 15 Oct): Nicolas Laborie – read here
  • Mon & Tues – no events (exhibitions only)
  • Day 6 (Wed 18 Oct): Suzie Inman – read here
  • Day 7 (Thurs 19 Oct): Margaret Kenna – read here
  • Day 8 (Fri 20 Oct): Molly Ovenden – read here
  • Day 9 (Sat 21 Oct): Nicky Cassidy – read here
  • Day 10 (Sun 22 Oct): Olivia Sprinkel – read here

And if you want to dig in further, you can read previous years’ works at these links:

We run the writers in residence programme every year for Bloomsbury. If it sounds like something you’d like to experience, email  me, the writer-in-residence-wrangler, via admin@26.org.uk, and I’ll keep you posted on details next year. 

– Lauren McMenemy 

Image: Molly Ovenden and Chris Foster, posing with the Beatles, in situ – Friday 20 October 2023 – London – Bloomsbury Festival

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