Skip to main content

Sage Gateshead

 →  Media Room  →  Fane Productions Announces First Writers and Artists for Inaugural WORDS WEEKEND Festival Here in December

Fane Productions Announces First Writers and Artists for Inaugural WORDS WEEKEND Festival Here in December

Posted on 27 June 2019


Fane Productions announces first writers and artists for inaugural WORDS WEEKEND festival taking place at SAGE GATESHEAD on 6-8 December 2019. 

  • Authors include Grayson Perry, Marian Keyes, Ben Okri, Stacey Dooley, Nadiya Hussain, Candice Carty-Williams, Cash Carraway, Tracy Chevalier, Elizabeth Day, Bernardine Evaristo, Salena Godden, Kerry Hudson, Val McDermid, Michael Morpurgo, Philippa Perry, Jay Rayner and Elif Shafak

  • More authors to be announced 
  • Words Weekend partners will be Open Clasp Theatre Company, Sage Gateshead’s CoMusica Arches Academy Alternative Curriculum, Forum Books, New Writing North, and City of Dreams. 
  • Over 25% of events are free and all events are fully accessible and BSL interpreted. 
  • All authors will be paid according to a favoured nations fee structure 
  • Click HERE to download images


Fane Productions today announces the first names for brand new festival WORDS WEEKEND which runs at Sage Gateshead from 6 – 8 December 2019. The festival, programmed by leading literary event producers Fane Productions will feature an exceptional international line-up whilst also championing diversity, accessibility and the rich talent and culture of the North East.


Working closely with Fane Productions to deliver this vision are Words Weekend ambassadors: writer, film maker and broadcaster David Olusoga (who is himself from Gateshead), literary agent Karolina Sutton, and curator, audio producer, filmmaker and editor-in-chief of Gal-dem Magazine Liv Little. In an unprecedented move for the literary events industry, all authors will be paid according to a completely transparent Favoured Nations Fee Structure. Additional Words Weekend festivals are planned for 2020 at the Lowry in Salford and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.


Highlights announced today include Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry making his Gateshead debut. Turkey’s most widely read female writer novelist Elif Shafak on the power of words and stories to unite communities. Author, playwright and performer Cash Carraway (SKINT ESTATE) in conversation with Kerry Hudson (Lowborn) on poverty, motherhood and survival in austerity Britain. Kerry Hudson will also be the closing keynote of the festival on Sunday evening. Candice Carty-Williams talks to Liv Little about her extraordinary debut novel Queenie and there is a rare opportunity to hear Booker Prize winning Nigerian author Ben Okri read his poetry and discuss his most recent novel The Freedom Artist.


Over fifty events and workshops will take place across five different spaces of the iconic Gateshead venue, with diversity and accessibility at the heart of the programming. Over 25% of events are free and all are fully accessible and BSL interpreted, with a roaming interpreter facilitating conversations throughout the venue. For more information about accessibility at Words Weekend please see


Other programme highlights include Bernardine Evaristo in conversation with David Olusoga about her new book Girl, Woman, Other and what it means to be British today; in her first North East appearance Stacey Dooley discusses her remarkable career, and themes ranging from gender equality, to sex trafficking and sexual identity. Nadiya Hussain considers her roles as mother, Muslim, working woman and celebrity and questions the barriers which many women must cross to be accepted or heard. Broadcaster and psychotherapist Philippa Perry shares thoughts from her Sunday Times Bestseller The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did); her daughter Flo Perry teaches us How To Have Feminist Sex, Elizabeth Day gives an insightful celebration of failure inspired by her popular podcast and book How To Fail;  and novelist and performance poet Carmen Marcus (How Saints Die) explains how we can use magical realism and folktales to tackle real-life problems.


Spoken word trailblazers Apples and Snakes have curated Born Lippy which features an incredible line-up of Zambian-born Newcastle-raised actor, rapper, singer Kema Kay (I, Daniel Blake and one-man show Shine which has recently opened to sell-out audiences), one of Britain’s foremost poets Salena Godden and record-breaking beatboxer, hip-hop MC, poet, beatboxer and theatre maker Testament. OneTrackMinds is a cross between Desert Island Discs, The Moth Radio Hour and TED Talks as a vibrant selection of writers, thinkers and poets tell a story about how music has changed their lives.


Newcastle-based Open Clasp Theatre Company, a Words Weekend charitable partner, is a leading force in the north of England working with women and girls on the margins of society. Words Weekend will host a screening of their filmed play Rattle Snake based on real life stories of women who have faced and survived domestic abuse. The event will feature a Q+A with writer, director and cast, as a culmination event to the UN’S 16 days of action tackling domestic abuse and coercive control. Catrina McHugh MBE from Open Clasp Theatre saidWe’re so excited to be part of the incredible line up at the first ever Words Weekend, and it’s a real honour to be a charitable partner for the festival – we’re both so passionate about sharing real life stories and it’s a fantastic opportunity to share Rattle Snake with a wider audience and raise awareness of coercive control.”


Tracy Chevalier talks about her new novel A Single Thread, there’s Michael Morpurgo’s Best Christmas Present in Concert, Jay Rayner discusses his new book My Last Supper and Marian Keyes in conversation with a very special guest. And there’s more with Horrible Histories Roadshow with Terry Deary, Supergroup The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers: Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville, Luca Veste and Doug Johnstone in a panel followed by a gig, a second chance to see a screening of the sell-out Margaret Atwood Live celebrating the publication of Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments; Mari Hannah, Fiona Cummins, Trevor Wood and Amer Anwar tell us about writing the perfect crime novel and Language Party is a free public participation storytelling event that celebrates bilingualism in the ‘International Year of Indigenous Languages’.


Scientific strands at Words Weekend include ocean expert and scientific advisor for BBC’s Blue Planet II Dr Jon Copley discussing the mysteries of the deep and Professor Trevor Cox exploring the phenomenon of the human voice using scientific analysis and musical interludes. There will be a number of free Industry Insight panels and masterclasses with Society of Authors and Creative Access and a spotlight on one of the most exciting indie publishers in the UK Galley Beggar whose award-winning novels and non-fiction include works by writers Preti Taneja, Alex Pheby, Paul Ewen and Toby Litt, who will all come together for this special one-off event.


Words Weekend partners will include previously mentioned Newcastle-based award-winning Open Clasp Theatre Company, award-winning Northumberland-based independent bookshop Forum Books and education partner Arches Academy and Sage Gateshead’s CoMusica Arches Project: a space for alternative education and engagement programmes based around contemporary culture. Sandy Duff, from Sage Gateshead’s CoMusica Arches Project said: “CoMusica Arches at Sage Gateshead is excited to be involved with Words Weekend, an event whose inclusive ethos reflects our own. Young people from diverse backgrounds find creative expression in our unique spaces – it will be fantastic to work with a festival who are keen to make connections with North East communities and find out what they want to say.”


Other partners include New Writing North who support writing and reading in the North of England; and Aikuma Project, whose mission is to strengthen minority languages in urban centres. Words Weekend is an Unlimited Ally, part of network of over 200 UK and international arts venues, festivals and organisations working with and championing disabled artists and Unlimited commissioned work; is also part of the City of Dreams network which partners with arts organisations in Newcastle and Gateshead to engage under 25s in the arts to address challenges of poverty, falling educational attainment and a lack of career aspirations in the city and partnering with CREATIVE ACCESS working to fill the gap in the current creative landscape by helping young people from black, Asian and other non-white minority ethnic backgrounds, as well as those with a lower socioeconomic status, to secure both jobs and paid training opportunities in creative companies.


Click HERE to download images


Press Enquiries: Laura Myers:; Tel 020 7831 7657


For updates:

Twitter: @WordsWeekend

Facebook: @WordsWeekendFestival

Instagram: @WordsWeekend


Listings Information


Words Weekend

Sage Gateshead, 6 – 8 December 2019

Full details and bookings:



Friday 6 December

Nadiya Hussain, Hall Two, 8pm, Tickets £20/£15

Join the TV presenter, chef and bestselling author celebrating her memoir Finding My Voice, as she considers her roles as mother, Muslim, working woman and celebrity and questions the barriers which many women must cross to be accepted or heard. In her own warm, honest and humorous way, Nadiya highlights how, at the core of it all, we are essentially tackling the same issues despite our cultural, social and religious differences.


Unexplained Podcast Live, 6pm, NRFH, Free

Join us as we welcome Richard MacLean Smith – the originator of Unexplained – which has been described as “the world’s spookiest podcast” for a live recording of the show. In his haunting and unsettling bi-weekly podcast, Richard discusses strange and mysterious real life events that continue to evade explanation. This is a story-based show, mixing narrative, history and ideas – often to terrifying effect – that explores the space between what we think of as real and what is not; where sometimes belief can be as concrete as ‘reality,’ whatever that is… When something is inexplicable, that mystery in itself can become the story. In many ways, it is often the lure of the mystery that keeps us coming back for more… Maybe, ultimately, some things are just better left unexplained…


Bernardine Evaristo and David Olusoga In Conversation, NRFH, 8pm, Tickets £7.50

Bernardine Evaristo’s new novel Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different people. Aged 19 to 93, they span a variety of ages, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, classes and occupations as they tell the stories of themselves, their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Join the award-winning writer in conversation with historian and Words Weekend ambassador David Olusoga discussing Evaristo’s eighth book, and what it means to be British today.


Margaret Atwood: Live In Cinemas, Barbour Room 8pm, Tickets £12.50

Following a sell-out Sage One event, a second chance to see the screening of ‘In Conversation with Margaret Atwood’, the Canadian novelist, poet, literary critic and inventor.

Filmed on stage at the National Theatre, Atwood will be interviewed by broadcaster and author Samira Ahmed in a conversation spanning the length of Atwood’s remarkable career, her diverse range of works including her latest novel The Testaments, and why she has returned to her seminal handmaid story, 34 years later.


Saturday 7 December

Marian Keyes in conversation with a Very Special Guest, Hall One, 1pm, Tickets from £10

For over twenty years Marian Keyes has been writing hilarious, internationally bestselling fiction about modern women in the modern world. Her books deal variously with contemporary issues, including addiction, depression, domestic violence and the glass ceiling, but are always written with compassion, hope and her trademark Irish humour. Hear Marian discuss her love of books, how she came to write, her opinions on the changing attitudes towards women in Ireland, and her obsession with Strictly Come Dancing. We are delighted to welcome such a beloved household name to our first Words Weekend where she will be in conversation with VERY special guest (to be announced).


Horrible Histories Roadshow with Terry Deary, Hall Two, 1pm, Tickets £12.50/£10

A horrible history of the past 2000 years of North East England – told through anecdotes, songs, poems, jokes and role-play. Join the world’s most popular children’s author in this funny and thought-provoking, entertaining and educational family show.


Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers: Murdering Songs For Fun, Hall Two, 8:30pm, Tickets from £12.50

What happens when six bestselling crime writers all discover that they are really tortured musicians masquerading as authors? Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers is the result! Join Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste – still reeling from their Glastonbury appearance in June – as they join us to first talk about their crime writing and their astonishing array of bestselling novels – and then take to the stage to murder some songs for fun. A rare chance to catch the crimewriting super group and sure to be a criminally good evening.


Elif Shafak: How Stories Make a Difference, Hall Two, 3pm, Tickets £15/£12.50

Join the two-time Ted Global speaker (both times to a standing ovation) in a discussion of her latest novel, and an exploration the core theme of Words Weekend; the power of words and stories to unite communities.


Born Lippy Showcase: Kema Kay, Salena Godden, Testament with Apples & Snakes, Hall Two, 5:30pm, Tickets £7.50

Spoken word trailblazers Apples and Snakes and Newcastle poetry collective Born Lippy present an incredible line-up, featuring Zambian-born Newcastle-raised actor, rapper, singer Kema Kay (I, Daniel Blake and his one-man show Shine), one of Britain’s foremost poets Salena Godden and record-breaking beatboxer, hip-hop MC, poet, and theatre maker Testament. Expect a high energy event celebrating spoken word in all its forms, poetry, comedy, slam battle, and rap. Hosted by Apples and Snakes producer Kirsten Luckins and Born Lippy frontman Don Jenkins, our Newcastle crew Amy Wardley, John Turner, Tom C and Ellen Moran will compete in a poetry slam judged by Testament, Salena Godden and Kema Kay. – and you, the audience!


Tracy Chevalier: A Single Thread, NRFH, 3pm, Tickets £10

Tracy Chevalier is the author of ten novels, including At the Edge of the Orchard, Remarkable Creatures and Girl with a Pearl Earring, an international bestseller that has sold over five million copies and won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award. Join Tracy Chevalier in an unusually intimate setting, discussing her new novel A Single Thread and her fascinating career so far.


OneTrackMinds, NRFH, 8pm, Tickets £12.50

Everyone has a story about the song that changed their lives. An entertaining cross between Desert Island Discs, The Moth Radio Hour & TED Talks, OneTrackMinds is a live storytelling event which explores the transformative power of music. Join a vibrant selection of writers, thinkers and poets each presenting a thought-provoking story about how music inspires the way we live our lives.


Trevor Cox: Now You’re Talking, 11am, NRFH, Free

Join Professor Trevor Cox as he explores the most exquisite acoustic source: the human voice. Mixing scientific analysis with musical interludes, the talk will explore the workings of the voice and how it adapts to different styles drawing on Trevor’s latest popular science book, Now You’re Talking.


Cash Carraway: SKINT ESTATE, In conversation with Kerry Hudson, 1pm, NRFH, Free

Skint Estate is Cash Carraway’s hard-hitting, blunt, dignified and brutally revealing debut memoir about impoverishment, loneliness and violence in austerity Britain. Cash will be in conversation with prize winning (and proudly working class) novelist Kerry Hudson to discuss if can you ever escape the sense of being ‘Lowborn’ no matter how far you’ve come.


Spotlight on Indie Publishers: Galley Beggar, 7:30pm, Barbour Room, Free

Galley Beggar Press, run by Eloise Millar and Sam Jordison, has released numerous award-winning novels and works of non-fiction such as Preti Taneja’s Desmond Elliott Prize-winning We That Are Young and Alex Pheby’s Republic Of Consciousness prize-winning Lucia. This year Galley Beggar publish Patience by Toby Litt and Mordew by Alex Pheby. Join all of these names in a showcase shining a spotlight on one of the most exciting indies in the UK.


Dr Jon Copley: Ask an Ocean Explorer, Barbour Room, 3:30pm, Tickets £5

How deep do sharks swim? Have more people been into space than the deep ocean? And what effect are we having on the health of our seas? Meet Jon Copley, ocean expert and scientific advisor for BBC’s Blue Planet II series, and hear the answers to these questions and more.


Industry Insight: How to Make a Living as a Poet with Society of Authors, 11am, Barbour Room, Free

Poets Jo Bell and Tara Bergin, in conversation with Theo Jones from the Society of Authors, will discuss what their writing life looks like and how they effectively engage with publishers, readers and new audiences to make a living from their work.

Professional Skills for Poets – Masterclass with Theo Jones (Society of Authors Masterclass), 1pm, Meeting Pod 3, Free


The Perfect Crime Panel, 3:30pm, Barbour Room, Tickets £10

Mari Hannah, Fiona Cummins, Trevor Wood, Amer Anwar

Join four leaders of the genre to discuss the secrets of writing the Perfect Crime novel…


Sunday 8 December

Stacey Dooley, Hall One, 3:30pm, Tickets from £10

Stacey Dooley has firmly established herself as one of BBC3’s most celebrated presenters through her hugely popular investigative series, covering a wide-range of topics from sex trafficking in Cambodia, to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria.

In her first book, On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey drew on her encounters with so many brave and wonderful women, using their experiences as a vehicle to explore issues at the centre of female experience. At Words Weekend, Stacey talks about her remarkable career so far, and explores the themes of her books and programmes, discussing everything from gender equality, to sex trafficking and sexual identity, weaving these global strands together in an exploration of what it is to be women in the world today.


Grayson Perry In Conversation, Hall One, 6pm, Tickets from £10

Grayson Perry, winner of the Turner Prize in 2003, is one of Britain’s best-known contemporary artists. His works reference his childhood and life as a transvestite while also engaging with wider social issues – including class and politics, sex and religion. Perry has written and broadcast widely on the contemporary arts scene, Britain’s obsession with class and taste, and the shifting role of gender in the 21st Century. Join Grayson on Sunday evening at his Gateshead debut as he dissects the nations ”prejudices, fashions, and foibles”.


Michael Morpurgo’s Best Christmas Concert, Hall One, 11am, Tickets £25/£17.50

Join us as Michael Morpurgo – one of Britain’s most well-known and best loved children’s authors – reads from his spellbinding book The Best Christmas Present in the World. The former Children’s Laureate and author of War Horse revisits the trenches to tell the haunting and true story of Christmas 1914 when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons and suspended hostilities in honour of Christmas Day. Michael will be joined on stage by award winning actress Virginia McKenna and a choir singing carols in English, German, French and Flemish. An unmissable and thoroughly festive festival highlight!


Jay Rayner: My Last Supper, Hall Two, 1:30pm, Tickets £17.50/£15

In this barnstorming new show, based on his new book, Rayner investigates our fascination with last suppers and tells the stories of the killer dishes that would end up on his table. Plus, he’ll get the audience to design their own last meal. My Last Supper follows the success of his sell out shows, My Dining Hell and The Ten Food Commandments, which have taken audiences by storm across the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail Live, Hall Two, 6pm, Tickets £15/12.50

Join the award-winning author and journalist, and a very special guest (to be announced), for an uplifting and reassuring evening about growing from our mistakes and not being afraid. Plus there’s the opportunity to ask Elizabeth your own questions: is ‘success’ a myth? How can we turn crisis into clarity? Learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better. And everyone needs a bit of that.

Philippa Perry In Conversation, Hall Two, 11am, Tickets £12.50/£10

Philippa will share thoughts from her latest book, the Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did, on how strong and loving bonds can be made with your children, and how such attachments give a better chance of good mental health, in childhood and beyond.


Ben Okri: The Freedom Artist, Hall Two, 4pm, Tickets £15/£12.50

Booker Prize-winning Nigerian author and poet Ben Okri (The Famished Road) joins us to discuss his latest novel The Freedom Artist. Hailed as “an impassioned plea for justice” this is both a penetrating examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society, and a powerful and haunting call to arms.


Kerry Hudson: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns, Hall Two, 8pm, Tickets £12.50/£10

As the closing keynote speaker of the festival, award-winning novelist Kerry Hudson will explore some of the key themes of the inaugural Words Weekend, including sense of place and identity, poverty, social activism and modern Britain. These themes are very prevalent in LOWBORN, Kerry’s 2019 exploration of where she came from, the towns she grew up in to discover what being poor really means in Britain today and whether anything has really changed.


Open Clasp Theatre Company: Rattle Snake Film Screening with Introduction from Director and Q+A, NRFH, 8pm, Free

An Open Clasp Theatre and Live Theatre co-production, Rattle Snake is an epic tale based on real-life stories of women who have faced and survived coercive controlling domestic abuse.

Age Recommendation: 15+


Candice Carty-Williams: Queenie, in conversation with Liv Little, NRFH, 6pm, £7.50

In 2016, best-selling author Jojo Moyes offered the use of her rural cottage to a wannabe novelist trying to finish a book; she selected Candice Carty-Williams from more than 600 applicants and the result was Queenie, a darkly comic and unflinchingly raw depiction of a young woman trying to navigate her way in the world. Candice Carty-Williams talks to Words Weekend ambassador and founder of Gal-dem magazine, Liv Little, about her extraordinarily successful debut, identity, independence and carving your own path.


Carmen Marcus’ Sea Rescue: How myths of the sea provide a language for surviving perilous mental states, NRFH, 4pm, Free

Carmen Marcus (author of How Saints Die) will show how she uses sea-lore to create imagined worlds where trauma can be resolved. She will lead you deep under the myth of the Selkie to show how it provides a blueprint to understand how we fall for and escape from coercive control.


Thrillers Panel, Barbour Room, 7:30pm, Tickets £10

An evening with three of the best psychological thriller writers in the country. Harriet Tyce’s debut Blood Orange is a heart pounding legal drama that became an instant word of mouth success. Fiona Barton followed her successful debut The Widow with The Child and more recently The Suspect – all have topped the bestseller charts for weeks on end. Linda Green has written nine best sellers in this genre, her most recent being The Last Thing She Told Me. Just what is it about twisty psychological plot lines that has made the genre so popular in the last few years? And what is the key to creating a true “didn’t see that coming!” ending?


Language Party, Barbour Room, 5pm, Free

A celebration of bilingualism and International Year of Indigenous Languages: a storytelling event where a personal story is told in a mother language followed by the same individual interpreting it into English.


Fane Productions work with a diverse range of artists at the top of their respective professions, for whom live work adds an exciting dimension to their principal careers. An innovative and collaborative company, we work alongside agents, publishers and producers with a focus on creating dynamic live platforms to present and promote both the client and their work; be that a book, TV series, podcast or other venture.

Over 450,000 tickets were sold in the first two years through events with artists including John le Carré, Margaret Atwood, Nigella Lawson, Dolly Alderton, Stacey Dooley, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Grayson Perry.


The programming team produce the Sunday nights at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the Bridge Theatre, as well as programming over 700 shows per year at central London venue, Crazy Coqs. Other programming collaborations include Authors on Stage at the National Theatre in August and September 2019.


Upcoming highlights include Margaret Atwood live in over 1500 cinemas across the globe, Armistead Maupin’s first theatre UK tour and Nadiya Hussain touring her biography.

David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and film-maker. His most recent TV series include Black and British: A Forgotten History (BBC 2), The World’s War (BBC 2), A House Through Time (BBC 2) and the BAFTA winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners (BBC 2). David is also the author of Black & British: A Forgotten History which was awarded both the Longman-History Today Trustees Award and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize. He writes for The Guardian and is a columnist for The Observer and BBC History Magazine. He is also one of the three presenters on the BBC’s landmark Arts series Civilizations.


Karolina Sutton is a literary agent at Curtis Brown. She represents a wide-ranging list of fiction and non-fiction clients, from Malala Yousafzai to Margaret Atwood. She started her career as an agent in the Book and Film Departments of an American agency ICM, now ICM Partners.

Liv Little is a curator, audio producer, filmmaker and the editor-in-chief of gal-dem, a fledgling media empire ran exclusively by women of colour. Born and raised in South East London, Little has written for the Guardian, Wonderland Magazine and gal-dem on a range of topics – from women seeking asylum in the UK, to interviews with women breaking down barriers in politics and the arts.


Sage Gateshead is an international music centre and renowned conference and event venue located in the North East of England. It is for artists, for audiences and for the North. Every year it welcomes more than two million visitors. The iconic building, designed by renowned architects Foster + Partners, is home to Royal Northern Sinfonia and is a place where emerging artists are nurtured through programmes and festivals. As a charity, the support it receives helps to ensure everyone in the community can experience the joys of music.