Award-winning poet Joelle Taylor offers staged reading for Brighton Festival

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Award-winning poet Joelle Taylor is performing a staged reading from her debut novel The Night Alphabet for the Brighton Festival.

It will be directed by theatre maker Neil Bartlett, running on Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25 in Brighton Dome Studio Theatre.

In the book, which came out this February, it’s Hackney, 2233: a woman walks into a tattoo parlour. Her body is covered all over with tattoos, but she wants to add one final inking to her gallery – a thin line connecting the haunting images of her body art together. But if you followed this strand, what narrative would these images tell you?

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Joelle sets her book across geographies and timespans, promising a furious, gripping, dazzlingly original novel and a deep investigation into violence, resilience and women’s stories.

Joelle Taylor. Credit Roman ManfrediJoelle Taylor. Credit Roman Manfredi
Joelle Taylor. Credit Roman Manfredi

“It was released in February and we had a big launch in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and we have followed that with seven or eight big events around the UK. The response has been phenomenal partly because of the work that Neil Bartlett has done on it. I started writing it in 2018 and it’s just really the story of a heavily-tattooed woman and the story of each of her tattoos. I worked on the ideas and generally the story started to emerge. It is a bit sci-fi and a bit magic realist and it's set in various futures and pasts. It's atemporal.

“I think with story-telling you are always interested in the various ways that we tell stories and as a writer you are fascinated by the perspectives. I thought it would be interesting to tell all the perspectives. The idea is that you are everybody. It's pure fiction but that's a reason why it is suited to talking about the status of women globally and what is happening with women at the moment. You think that we're in times where freedom is spreading but rights are being rolled back in the west and in much, much worse ways in other countries. But I've tried to be more imaginative and I've set everything in Britain.”

As for Neil's involvement: “What Neil has done is that we got together and went to a studio for three or four days with an animator and an illustrator and he pulled the essence out of three or four stories. The way we do it now is much more like what Charles Dickens did in his day. You're not just standing there and reading for six minutes. It much more embodied and it's much more about becoming the characters.”

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After the live reading, Joelle will be in conversation about the process of writing and performing her debut novel:

On Friday, May 24, with Paul Burston, author of six novels and five non-fiction books including his new memoir We Can Be Heroes, and host of the award-winning LGBTQ+ literary salon Polari.

On Saturday, May 25, with theatre maker Neil Bartlett. His most recent work with performers includes stagings of Derek Jarman’s Blue and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, starring Emma Corrin as well as The Night Alphabet with Joelle Taylor.

Tickets from Brighton Festival