European Literature Night 2018

Meet Jan Carson, Belfast based author, who will take part in the 2018 European Literature Nights in Leeuwarden and Amsterdam.

“Jan, thank you for the time speaking with me today! First of all, I wanted to ask you a few questions about the literary festival that you were running last week. Can you tell us a little more about the festival and its objectives? How did it go?”

“So last week was the first edition of the Hillsborough Literary Festival, which is organised by the John Hewitt Society. The John Hewitt Society promotes literature, arts and culture inspired by the ideals and ideas of the poet John Hewitt [1907-1987, born in Belfast, poet, art historian and collector, and political activist], which includes activities that promote a more social society. The festival takes place in Hillsborough, a village just outside Belfast and home to the official residence in Northern Ireland of the Queen.”

“The festival takes place in various buildings across the village and includes talks, lectures, music, walks, gardens and family events. Tickets are either free or only cost £5 and one of the festival’s main aims is to be inclusive and create a social community by bringing people together in a variety of formats and locations. A big draw is also the access to the different buildings as we hold events in cafes, churches, and other alternative venues.”

“This year we probably had about 400 guests and next year we may even get access to the Queen’s palace, so we are already looking forward to the second edition.”

“Looking ahead to next week’s event, when you will be speaking at the European Literature Nights held in this year’s Capital of Culture, Leeuwarden (Netherlands) and Amsterdam, do you read any non-English literature? If so, what is your favourite non-English writer/book?”

“In translation I am a big fan of Françoise Sagan and the magic realism of Gabriel García Márquez. I also enjoy Günter Grass. And I really appreciate new suggestions.”

“And can you tell us a little more about your personal connection with the Netherlands?”

“I spent four years in Portland, Oregon, where I met a whole bunch of people who all decided to move to Amsterdam because of its similarity, both being places which welcome creatives and in particular graphic design. As a result, some of my best friends live in the city and visiting them I have got to know the city quite well. Some of my favourite spots include the teahouse in the Vondelpark (“Blauwe Theehuis”), and the movie theatre Tuschinski because of its Art Deco. I like the city because of its easy set-up, being sensible, laid-back and serious at the same time. I sometimes stay with friends who live close to the Central Station and have a little attic room for guests – one of the most inspiring locations to hide away as a writer!”

“Lastly, can you give us a glimpse of your (short) talk at the European Literature Nights?”

“I will be talking about “memory” and the loss that comes with the passing of time. I do a lot of community work with older people as I feel it enhances my creativity. Where dementia may lead to gaps in people’s memory, I like to step in and fill the blank spaces.”

Find out more about the 2018 European Literature Nights on Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 May.