The HeadRead literary festival kicks off

© Kärt Kukkur

The Tallinn HeadRead literary festival kicks off with a preliminary event tonight at 5 pm at the National Library of Estonia, with the Estonian-English poetry evening Spores and Sparks. Festival guest Philip Gross talks about his Estonian roots and reads his poems, while Doris Kareva, one of the best known Estonian poets in the English-speaking world, will read the Estonian translations.

Over the next five days, you can watch and listen to a host of authors, including the renowned British writer Julian Barnes, David Lagercrantz, who successfully continued Stieg Larsson’s Millennium novel series, Mick Herron, who has expanded the spy thriller genre, French-Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani, translator and writer Ian Thomson, who has Estonian ancestry, Armenian-born prose writer Narine Abgaryan,  children’s author Toon Tellegen, playwright and writer Inga Gaile, literary critic Galina Yuzefovich, wolf researcher Elli H. Radinger, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge, storyteller and choreographer Nikky Smedley, writer and literature lecturer Merete Mazzarella, columnist and writer A. N. Wilson, writer and journalist Sheila O’Flanagan, cultural journalist and author Mattias Berg, children’s author Denisa Proškova, humorist and journalist Miska Rantanen, illustrator of the popular Gruffalo series Axel Scheffler, Finnish writer Sirpa Kähkönen, journalist David Patrikarakos, British author Louisa Young and crime writer Emelie Schepp.

The main venue of the festival, the Estonian Writers’ Union, will host conversations between Estonian authors that have now become a tradition. Life and work will be discussed by Tiit Aleksejev and Martin Algus, Mait Vaik and Paavo Matsin, Mudlum and Maarja Kangro, and Leelo Tungal and Tiia Toomet. Good Estonian prose will also be on show at the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre that will host the versatile and beloved writer Andrus Kivirähk and other renowned children’s authors, such as Kertu Sillaste, Kristi Kangilaski, Els Heinsalu, Jaanus Vaiksoo and Wimberg.

A substantial poetry programme has also always been a staple of the festival. On the very first day, 22 May, you can see and listen to the poetry of various generations at Ait (Vene 14), where Eva and Indrek Koff with Sander Udikas and surprise guests will take to the stage. They will pass the baton to the new generation of bright young authors. On Friday, translated poetry and poetry translations will be read by Eda Ahi and Doris Kareva, Paul-Eerik Rummo, Kalju Kruusa, Igor Kotjuh and Aare Pilv.

You can also enjoy the traditional Poetry Disco at the KuKu Club and Poetry Mass at the St Nicholas’ Church.

There are panel discussions on several topical issues, such as the theme of country bumpkins and city slickers in literature, the climate and the written word, and the effect of technology on reading and the written word.

Music has always played an important part in the festival. Stories and songs are brought together by Piret Päär and Meelika Hainsoo, Elina Gerodes, Polina Cherkasova, Mingo Rajandi and Jan Kaus as well as Mari Kalkun and Aleksandra Kremenetski.  

For the first time, the Design and Architecture Gallery (Pärnu mnt 6) has been added to our festival venues, and an exhibition of Dmitri Kotjuh’s photos from previous festivals is on show throughout the festival.

The HeadRead literary festival is held in Tallinn on 22-26 May. Stay up to date via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A selection of recordings of previous festivals is also available online.

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