Buy your tickets for the launch!

Tickets are now on sale via Spike Island for the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival launch party on Friday 16 March.

Step back in time to 1920s Paris, where women from across America and Europe came together to form a community of writers, publishers and artists, and act as one another’s muses.

The evening begins with a screening of Greta Schiller’s documentary film Paris was a Woman (1996, 80mins) which explores the lives of these remarkable women, from Gertrude Stein and Colette, to Sylvia Beach and Janet Flanner, followed by short readings of their work.

If you would like to volunteer to read at the event, please get in touch via sianm[dot]norris[at]gmail[dot]com

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Bristol Women’s Literature Festival 2018: we’ve launched!

Happy New Year women’s literature lovers! What better way to kick off 2018 with the launch of our March programme!

We are absolutely thrilled to be working in partnership with Bristol Festival of Ideas, Bristol Women’s Voice, Watershed, and Spike Island to bring you some of the UK and US’s best writers over three days in March.

We kick off with a journey back in time to 1920s Paris on Friday 16 March. Then on the following two days you’ll discover the best contemporary women writers. Discuss feminist activism in the 100 years since UK suffrage. Meet your favourite YA writers. Celebrate women who lived solo, and give yourself chills re-discovering your love of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

You’ll have the chance to hear from speakers as diverse as Louise Doughty, Meena Kandasamy, Patrice Lawrence, Samira Ahmed, Sheila Rowbotham and many, many more. Together we will celebrate women’s creativity and artistic achievements, counter the male dominance of cultural line-ups, and explore women’s literary history.

View the full programme

Tickets will be on sale by the end of January. We can’t wait to see you in March!

The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival is presented in partnership with Bristol Festival of Ideas, Watershed, and Bristol Women’s Voice.

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Launch of Anon with Hurst St Press

Join Hurst St Press and Bristol Women’s Literature Festival at Spike Island for the launch of ANON: a new series of publications from Hurst Street Press. ANON is a series of pamphlets that celebrates the work of undervalued women writers, republishing their work alongside commissioned responses from new writers, academics and artists.

The launch of the series includes three editions, showcasing the work of three early twentieth century authors: Charlotte Mew, Elizabeth Bibesco, and Mary Butts.

Book your place

This event features readings from the works of Mew, Bibesco and Butts by the poet and writer Camille Ralphs, as well as an introduction to the ANON series by Hurst Street Press co-founder Beth Sparks. A panel discussion (including writers and artists included in the pamphlets and chaired by literary producer Lily Green) focusses on the works of the three writers, from initial reactions to artistic response, in addition to wider debates about the reputation of women writers and the interaction between literature and art.

You may also purchase a copy of the works and see a selection of artworks from the books at the launch.

Launch schedule

More information about the new editions

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2018: we’re doing it

So, here we go again.

Thanks to a new partnership with Bristol Festival of Ideas, March 2018 will see the return of the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival to Watershed.

We’ll be updating the website soon with details of times, dates, speakers and more.

But for now just to say… you can expect brilliant contemporary women’s writers who’ll discuss their work as poets, novelists, short-story writers, and creators of genre-defying non-fiction. You’ll hear from feminist writers who are changing the world, 100 years on from us winning the vote in the UK. You’ll discover more about our gothic foremother Mary Shelley, meet the best talent in young adult fiction, and get to chat books with the Read Women team.

It’s going to be two days of bookish joy and I for one can’t wait. We’ll pack Bristol with literary lovers, as we celebrate the brilliant creativity of women writers throughout history.

And, of course, you’ll get to buy books and meet the writers too.

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Let the planning commence…!

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Winnie M Li’s Bristol book launch

This is a guest post on behalf of Winnie M Li. This is not a BWLF event. 

Winnie M Li will be in Bristol this Thursday, July 13th for a special launch event for my novel DARK CHAPTER at the Abbots Leigh Village Hall.
Here are all the details
It’s free to attend, and feel free to bring friends and spread the word, too.  (Though unfortunately, we can only accept cash payment for books at the event.)
Here’s a review of DARK CHAPTER from Wasafiri magazine

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A tribute to Helen Dunmore

I’m writing this crying over my laptop, having just heard the news that the wonderful Helen Dunmore has died of cancer at the age of 64.

It’s hard to know what to say when we hear news like this. But I wanted to write something. Helen took part in the first Bristol Women’s Literature Festival in 2013. I remember her generosity and her kindness, her warmth and her enthusiasm. She spoke so wonderfully about her own work, the writing process, and I remember especially her wise words about the different attitudes women and men have to calling themselves a writer.

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Helen Dunmore listens to Salma Dabbagh at the 2013 festival 

At a time when, suffice to say I didn’t really know what I was doing events wise, Helen’s enthusiasm for the project and the need to promote women’s writing meant a huge amount to me. The support of her (and the other speakers) made the whole venture feel so much more achievable.

Helen Dunmore was an exceptional writer. A poet, novelist and short story writer, she wrote with a sense of wonder. Her novels were often frightening and chilling, connecting with survival and the complexity of human relationships. From The Siege to Your Blue Eyed Boy she was not afraid to look into the darkness. Reading The Siege, you feel the rawness of the cold, hunger, and desperation. Her novels span genres – historic, horror, thriller, contemporary fiction.

I recently read Helen’s last novel, Birdcage Walk. It really is an extraordinary novel that deals with motherhood, male violence, revolution and the city we both lived in, Bristol. I wrote to tell her how much I enjoyed it and I’ll treasure Helen’s reply.

I feel very lucky that I had the chance to work with this wonderful woman. That our paths crossed. I am so so sad to hear that she has died and my thoughts are with her family and friends.

Thank you Helen. We will miss you.

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Helen Dunmore talks to Bidisha at the 2013 festival. 

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Two brilliant feminist events to book

This is a guest post on behalf of the Bristol Festival of Ideas. 

Out of the Backstreet: 50 Years of the Abortion Act

Sat 27 May 2017, 19:30-20:45



The 1967 Abortion Act is marked as an historic victory for the pro-choice movement and an important part of Britain’s social history. The Act took abortion out of the backstreet, particularly for poor and working class women, and introduced safe, legal abortion. Now 50 years on more people than ever before support a women’s right to choose and make their own reproductive decisions in Britain.

Kerry Abel (Abortion Rights Chair), journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge, Sally Sheldon (Professor of Law, University of Kent) and sociologist Jackie West discuss the Act, from examining how it was won and commemorating the activists to exploring current barriers to abortion access.

In partnership with Abortion Rights.

Abortion Rights is the national pro-choice campaign. They are campaigning to defend and extend women’s rights and access to safe, legal abortion.

Kerry Abel is the Chair of Abortion Rights, the only national pro-choice campaign in Britain. She has promoted the campaign in the media, including appearing on BBC’s Newsnight and in the Observer. Follow her on Twitter @kerryabel

Reni Eddo-Lodge is an award-winning journalist. Her work can be found at the New York Times, Voice, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Stylist, Inside Housing, Pool, Dazed and Confused and the New Humanist. She is the winner of an MHP 30 to Watch Award and was chosen as one of the 30 Most Exciting People Under 30 in Digital Media by the Guardian in 2014. She has been listed in Elle’s 100 Inspirational Women list and The Roof’s 30 Black Viral Voices Under 30. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4’sWoman’s Hour and was a panellist for Woman’s Hour’s 2014 Power List. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is her first book. Follow her on Twitter @renireni

Sally Sheldon is a Professor of Law at the University of Kent. She has published widely in health care law and the legal regulation of gender, including books on abortion law, feminist perspectives on health care law, fatherhood, and fathers’ rights activism.  She is currently working on large project funded by the AHRC, entitled ‘The Abortion Act (1967): A Biography’. She is a founder member of Lawyers for Choice and a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Jackie West is a sociologist who worked at the University of Bristol. Campaigns for employment equality and reproductive rights inspired her teaching and research. Particular interests included work, the family and sexuality. She was vice chair of the Brook Advisory Centre in Bristol for many years and undertook  research for the Health Authority on young people and sexual health. She is currently involved in an EU project on sex work and prostitution policy.

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Michèle Roberts

The Walworth Beauty

Wed 31 May 2017, 19:00-20:00



Author and poet Michèle Roberts discusses her work, in particular her new book The Walworth Beauty, a sensuous and evocative novel exploring prostitution and poverty in Victorian London.

2011: When Madeleine loses her job, she decides to leave her riverside flat in the heart of the city, where history never feels far away, and move to Apricot Place. Yet here too, in this quiet south London cul-de-sac, she senses the past encroaching, a shifting in the atmosphere.

1851: Joseph Benson has been employed by Henry Mayhew to research his articles on the working classes (which will be published asLondon Labour and the London Poor). A family man with mouths to feed, Joseph is tasked with coaxing testimony from prostitutes. Roaming the Southwark streets, tempted by the brothels’ promises of pleasure, he struggles with his assignment – and seeks help in Apricot Place, where the enigmatic Mrs Dulcimer resides. As these two stories unfold, they begin to entwine, and the ghosts of the city’s past erupt in the present.

Michèle Roberts is the author of 13 highly acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House, which won the WHSmith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her novel Ignorance was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2013 and her memoir Paper Houses was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud-Stories of Sex and Love. She is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.  The Walworth Beauty is her latest novel.

In association with Bristol Women’s Literature Festival.

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