L-R: Peter Adkins, Joel Tennant, Pape Gueye

Ahead of the Full English Festival next week, Chairwoman, Natalie Tipping caught up with the founders of this brand new event to find out what it’s all about and how students can get involved…

InQuire: Just quickly introduce yourselves, your positions within the societies etc.

Hello, my name is Pape Gueye and I’m the 2013/14 President of the Creative Writing Society.

I’m Joel Tennant and I’m the President of the English Language and Linguistics Society. I like Piña Coladas and being caught in the rain.

I’m Peter Adkins, a third year English Literature and Creative Writing student, and I’m on the committee of the UKC Literature Society.

IQ: So, what do we need to know about the Full English Festival?

Peter: The Full English will include everything from creative writing workshops, to undergraduate conferences, to talks from renowned writers and academics. It’s a joint venture between the English Language and Linguistics Society, the Creative Writing Society and the Literature Society, as well as other participants – such as the VOX Conference that is being organised by Sam O’Hana – which will comprise part of the week.

2014 marks the first time the event will be held. We’ve been quite ambitious with what we want to achieve, but we’re quietly confident that it’s going to be a very special week.

Joel: The festival starts on the 2nd of June and runs until the 7th of June, with a stack of literary and English language-themed events throughout the week. It came together as the result of three separate societies all envisioning a weeklong festival to celebrate the English language in all its glory and peculiarity – and then meeting up and discovering that we’d all had the same idea! From there on we knew we wanted to create something that hadn’t been attempted before at the university by student-run societies and so for the past several months, we’ve not stopped relentlessly trying to organise the most interesting and exciting festival possible.

IQ: With the festival being a first of its kind, what do you want to achieve by running the event?

Joel: We want to reignite the passion for English language among both students and the public, for the literature it creates, and for the words that create it.

Pape: I would like to see everyone (students, staff, etc.) experience or re-experience the art of literature and its impact on the world in a comfortable setting.

Peter: Coming at the very end of the academic year and after the stress of exams, the festival will hopefully be a fun and engaging way to conclude the year. It will be a week of stimulating, interesting and entertaining events about language and literature which everyone can enjoy.

There’s also going to be lots of social events (including a free BBQ one day, a free drinks reception another day) so it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for people to have one last knees up before retreating home for the summer or, for some people, leaving Canterbury for good.

IQ: With the festival promoting English, does this mean it’s only for English students or is there something for everyone?

Pape: Of course there’s something for everyone! There seems to be a misconception that only English students are ‘allowed’ to appreciate literature. I beg to differ. There will be varied discussions throughout the week that will go beyond the texts, and creative writing workshops to expand everyone’s writing and reciting abilities.

Joel: There is definitely something for everyone – even the conferences scheduled as part of the festival cater to people who aren’t expressly experienced in the subject. For example, we have Alex Preston, an award winning novelist, giving a reading from his most recent book that is sure to appeal to everyone and anyone.

Peter: One of the imperatives that the Full English committee has followed since day one is making sure our programme is entertaining and interesting for all students – not just linguistics or literature students! I would imagine that our headline talk from Newsnight journalist Gavin Esler will be appealing to everyone, from aspiring journalists to politic students. Plus, all of our talks will be addressing themes that we can all relate to – questions of culture and society, of communication and relations, of art and expression. The whole week is open to absolutely everyone and is going to be a very warm, welcoming atmosphere.

IQ: Could you give us a sneak peek of what to expect over the course of the event?

Joel: Our event Feminism and the Language Problem will feature the updates from Professor Jennifer Coates who will recount her experiences of her TES interview being used by the wider mainstream press, garnering her abuse from anti-feminist group. Our second guest is the university’s very own Heidi Conroy, an award winning lecturer, who will be discussing the media’s portrayal of feminism, gender and sexuality.

Our English Language and Linguistics mini-conference will showcase some of the original linguistic research that students have carried out whilst at university and will be closed by two leading experts, Jane Lugea and Dan McIntyre.

Peter: I’ll give a quick snapshot of what the Literature Society has up their sleeves.

We’ve got Bruno Tomasello, who is in the final stages of a PhD in Quantum Physics, coming to speak to us about the great German scientist Werner Heisenberg (the fellow who made the breakthrough with quantum mechanics and nuclear science) and how Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen, which recreates Heisenberg’s moral dilemma during WW2, explores the relationship between physics, ethics and literature. That’s taking place on Wednesday 4th June at 3pm in DLT3.

Then, we’ve got Ben Hickman, a lecturer in modern poetry, coming to talk on World War One poetry, specifically exploring the difference between poetry which is true to its historical context and that which isn’t. This is particularly apt given it’s the centenary year and I think Ben’s approach is going to be a refreshing one – so if you think you “know” WW1 poetry, come along and prepare to be surprised. That’s also taking place on Wednesday 4th June, at 7pm in RLT1 (followed by drinks in a bar somewhere, no doubt).

Then on Friday we’ve got something really special planned. Award winning novelist and lecturer Alex Preston is coming to read from his new novel In Love and War. It is going to be one of the very first public readings that Alex has given of his new book, and he’s also going to be offering advice and answering questions on writing historical fiction! This is taking place on Friday 6th June at 4pm in a marquee outside Rutherford Extension, and will be followed by a free BBQ.

Finally, our headline event (organised by all of the societies) is the guest talk that will be given by BBC presenter and newly-appointed chancellor of University of Kent, Gavin Esler. We’re all very, very excited that Gavin has agreed to come and talk to us, and we’re expecting it to be a busy, lively and enjoyable end to the week. That’s happening on Saturday 7th June at 4pm in KLT1 and will be followed by a free drinks reception, which everyone is very welcome to attend.

Pape: All I will say on the matter is that there will be quite a bit of free food. Also, I would recommend sticking around until the end…

IQ: If the event is a success is it something you’d like to see continued in future years and how can you see it developing?

Joel: This is the first time that anything like this has been organised and we’d love it to continue to grow. Although it has been a lot of hard work building this up from the ground, it’s been an enjoyable and exhilarating experience and we want to share that with future members of the societies and with the people who attend our events. There is no doubt that this could go from strength to strength each year, always inviting only the most interesting guests and hosting the most captivating events.

Pape: Definitely. Hopefully, we’ve laid down the infrastructure for future societies to get in more content, bigger names and, ultimately, collaborations with other universities. This festival has the potential to become so much bigger.

Peter: Yes, certainly. We’ve started ambitiously, and I can foresee the event becoming even bigger in future years! The response we’ve had from students and staff who have heard about the event has been tremendous and I think, after the dust has settled on our first ever festival, people will realise that The Full English has the potential to become an annual event in the university’s calendar – after-all, is there any better way to end the year, than with a big blowout?

IQ: How can people get involved and keep up to date with the festival next week?

Pape: There will be something happening every day so jump in! Our first event will be the launch of the Creative Writing Society’s Illustrated Anthology on Monday 2nd at 7pm. It will be in the English Common Room (located underneath the bridge to Rutherford College). If you wanted to find out about the week, I suggest attending for a slice of pizza/glass of wine to hear about what we have in store! See you then!

Peter: Look out for posters around the campus! The Literature Society has a bunch of flyers for our events in the Undergraduate English Common Room – and you’ll often find one of the committee members in there hanging about, feel free to swing by and say “hi”.

Joel: We also have a Facebook page, which is probably the best way of keeping up to date with when and where certain events and discussions are – https://www.facebook.com/fullenglishfestival?fref=ts