North London Book Fest 2024 | Review

North London Book Fest 2024 | Review

Going to Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace) always elicits feelings of significant nostalgia for me. As I child, during many weekends and school holidays I would run with one of my best friends, Stephen,  through the trees, playing kick can, hide and seek and generally exploring. It was heaven. 

There’s something about taking your own children to places of so much emotional value so when we were invited to the North London Book Festival we jumped at the chance. 

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North London Book Fest 2024 | Review
Photo Credit: Kate Cuthbertson

This is a new festival in UK literary calendar and what a setting. Sitting in Alexandra Palaces’ theatre felt grand and epically fitting for authors, poets and speakers to interact with the audience. Alexandra Palace celebrated 150 years in 2023 and this festival felt like an extension of these celebrations. The Palaces’ diverse history is incredibly interesting, when in the year 1900 an Act of Parliament placed the Park and Palace in public ownership, so it could remain ‘a place of public resort and recreation’ forever and the North London Book Fest continues this legacy. 

We went to see the literary legend himself, Michael Rosen (aka ‘The Meme guy’ ‘The Nice guy’ and ‘Nice grandad’, IYKYK) with our two children, Dylan (6) and Cecilia (2). My husband and I have read Michael’s books since we were children and it has been wonderful watching our son in particular fully embrace Michael’s unique style and passion for poetry and story telling. 

North London Book Fest 2024 | Review
Photo Credit: Kate Cuthbertson

Michael’s love and enthusiasm for life comes across in every breath and this may be partly due to Illness and the recovery process since 2020, when he was hospitalised, including 7 weeks in an induced coma (a period he coins as his 40 days and 40 nights). In his emotional discussion at the North London Book Fest, he opened up about his relationship with his speech and language therapist and some techniques she taught in order for him to regain his speech and we as the audience were invited to try. Like a true creative and academic, overcoming is a strength of Michael’s, as seen in his previous works, and his near death experience has now become part of his published and discussed work. From a human perspective, this is probably part of his reflection and processing of his experiences and for us as the reader / listener this is an insight into the realities of his mind and why talking about impactful experiences (both positive and negative) are so important. 

With a packed out audience made up 50/50 of adults and children, everyone was engrossed, engaged and humbled by the wonderful experience. Michael read two books with the audience, the beautiful ‘The Big Dreaming’ and the energetic ‘I am Wriggly’ which we and our children loved. 

Michael also discussed influence from the late Benjamin Zephaniah including a conversation about how Benjamin wrote his poetry, in which he disclosed he wrote them in his head while running and by the end of the run, new the piece by heart. Michael and Benjamin shared a passion for writing and talking about topics that many shy away from and ‘nudging people into seeing the world’ from different perspectives.

Michael Rosen celebrates 50 years since becoming a published author this year (2024) and what a truly incredible 50 years it’s been, with over 200 books written and it certainly doesn’t feel like he has got any intention of stopping soon! 

Dates have not yet been announce for The North London Book Fest 2025 but keep an eye out and we would highly recommend this as an accessible event for all the family in a truly iconic location. 

Kate Cuthbertson
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