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Presenting Medway River Lit

Updated: May 12, 2023

We are excited to celebrate Medway’s long connection with words and writing, in what will be the first Medway-wide literary festival in 25 years.

From the Textus Roffensis at Rochester cathedral, to writers such as Charles Dickens, Ann Pratt, and Rosemary Tonks, to the DIY-ethos of the Medway Poets publishing and designing their own books, Medway has always been a place of where words ebb and flow like the Medway river, and this new festival will celebrate our literary past, our present and our future – in workshops, talks, exhibitions and more.

After months of work, and help and input from many people across Medway and further afield, we are now able to announce the full programme of events. We'd like to thank everyone now whose been a part of developing the festival! Pictured below are about a third of our writers and performers, all of whom we say a big thanks to (pictured and unpictured)!

A montage a people's faces, plus book covers
Some of our writers and performers

We’ve got a little something for everyone at Medway River Lit!

If you like fantasy and sci-fi fiction, we’ve got the authors Sunyi Dean and Mark Stay. Neil Nixon, the founder of the United Kingdom's first full-time higher education course in Professional Writing will also be discussing ‘Why Mystery Matters’.

If you like listening to poetry, we’ve got the award-winning poet Caroline Bird as our Festival Patron, plus Caroline will be performing on our Launch Day. We’ve also got a whole day devoted to poetry at St Margaret’s Church in Rainham (the venue for our amazing Associate Event, The Rainham Poetry Festival in April). There will be a workshop on homing your performance skills and the poets, Sasha Aurora Akhtar, Helen Seymour and award-winning poet John McCullough. If performing poetry is your thing, you may want to take part in one of our three open mic events, one specially for young people aged 14-18 on Friday 2 June at Medway Adult Education in Rochester.

Child-friendly Medway River Lit

Speaking of our younger writers and readers, we have a whole day devoted to children’s literature on Sunday 4 June. Poet Patience Agbabi will be reading from her 'Leap Cycle' of children’s books for readers aged 8-12. Illustrator Martin Impey will be talking about illustrating the ‘Where the Poppies now grow’ series for 7-9-year-olds. Later on, he’ll also be talking about illustrating Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et decorum est’. There will be fun activities for children and families that day from 11AM to 4PM; writing and drawing workshops and the storytelling Nook.

The punk heart of Medway still beats strong

We have not only one, but two punk and alternative legends; Attila the Stockbroker who will be performing industrial and dub poetry and Cosey Fanni Tutti, who will be talking about her book, ‘Re-Sisters’. After Cosey we’ll be hearing music from local experimental sound collective Minimus.

We have writers who are fascinated by the local geography of Kent, in the shape of Patrick Wright who will be talking about his psychogeographic history of the German author Uwe Johnson in Sheppy, and Carol Donaldson, the nature writer and environmental consultant, who walked the Kent marshes.

My Manga Medway

We’ve got a whole day for those who like graphic novels and comics on Friday 9 June. Starting with two workshops suitable for all ages, we’ll find out how to create manga characters and superheroes. Why not visit the exhibition of one of our engagement projects today? 'My Manga Medway' was a project for young people aged 12-26, who have told their Medway stories in manga style.

Our first comics creator is Wallis Eates, who is an autobiographical comic creator who works collaboratively with community groups. She is also a committee member of LDComics, leading in the 'Safe Space for Hard Stories' initiative - an online reflective practice group for autobiographical comic makers.

Sayra Begum, whose graphic novel ‘Mongrel’ is "a magical story and a stunning debut" about a young Muslim woman growing up in modern Britain will talk about her process. Fumio Obata, whose graphic novel ‘Just So Happens’ is a "delicate, intimate graphic novel explores the dead weight of parental expectation and the conflict of belonging".

Not safe for work

We've also got a few things for our older audience, as well as Cosey and Attila, we’ll be hearing from Melissa Todd, who is a dominatrix. Melissa will be talking about her fictionalised autobiography ‘My Body is my Business’ at The Queen Charlotte pub in our over 18s event.

The festival is not just about bringing top authors to Medway, it’s also about celebrating our local writing talent: we’ll be showcasing more than 26 Medway local poets and writers throughout the festival, including in our finale event with the reunion of some of the original Medway Poets, including Billy Childish and Bill Lewis. Local writers will have three opportunities to showcase their words in our spoken word open mics.

Workshops and discussion panels

For those who would also like to learn more about the craft of writing, we have a series of panels and writing workshops. Are you into crime writing or writing from life? We’ve got panels which will try to define what ‘cozy crime’ is, and a panel which will discuss if there is anything you can’t use from your own life when writing. If you fancy a relaxed, meditative workshop session, we’ve got a writing workshop which is taking place on the 5,000-year-old Fenland Black Oak Table at Rochester Cathedral. In association with The Hazelnut Press and Medway Print Festival, we've got a text and art workshop. If you’ve ever wanted to stage your own play – we’ve also got a panel that will give you advice on doing just that, followed by a Starting to write a play workshop.

The play's the thing

If theatre is your thing, we’ve got an amazing double bill of plays. Nina Telegina will be performing ‘Renegades’ her one woman storytelling show, fresh from the West End; and local writer Pauline Holmes will also be performing in her debut play ‘The Lion Queen’, about the precarious Victorian job of teenage lion tamer – spoiler alert – there’s no happy ending!

Writing is not just about books! As well as our brilliant authors, playwrights and poets, we’ve got a film night, where the filmmakers Nadia Perrotta and Mark Hewitt have interpreted poems.

Celebrating our literary heritage

This year the Dickens Summer Weekend will be part of Medway River Lit, and we are delighted to be bringing a variety of Victorian and Dickens themed readings and performances to compliment the variety of outdoors parades and events that will be going on. Charles Dickens’ great-great grandson Gerald Dickens will be performing his version of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ on both Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June. We’ll also be holding an exclusive event at Eastgate House (included with entry ticket to the house), where Gerald will be taking part in a Q+A hosted by Siȃn Thomas aka ‘Spacegirl’. Storytellers Wilfred Lee and Belinda the Steampunk Storyteller will be joining us throughout the weekend. And if you have questions about what ‘Steampunk’ actually is, Great Kentspectations Steampunk group will be hosting a talk and a fashion show to help you find out more about it. Young people from Icon Theatre will be presenting a show about children in Victorian literature and local poet Bridget Nolan, will be reading from her poetry collection, ‘A Walk with Charles Dickens’.

On the Saturday Nick Collins, who was Sky Sports chief reporter for 25 years will be reading from his book ‘Foot Soldiers’, about the Royal Engineers Football Team at the Royal Engineers Museum!

On Saturday evening, Aidan Hehir will be talking about his book ‘Flowers of Srebrenica’ and Cole Moreton will be talking about his book, ‘Everything is Extraordinary’, a series of crafted short stories about encounters with remarkable people.

Reuniting the Medway poets

On Sunday evening, Irina Fridman will talk about her book ‘Foreigners, Aliens, Citizens’, a book that charts the settlement of Jewish people in Medway. In the final event on the Sunday, we’ve managed to reunite several of the legendary Medway Poets, including Billy Childish and Bill Lewis, in a show which pays homage to ‘6 Days of Hunger’ a book launched 25 years ago at the last Medway-wide literary festival!


But that’s not quite all… due to scheduling conflicts, we have a few events at either end of the festival, which wouldn’t fit into the main Medway River Lit schedule – but we really wanted to have them as part of the festival. So, we’ve called them ‘Bookends Events’!

The first Bookends event will be the launch of the Circle of Six anthology on 16 May, and a Sensory lunch with Ideas Test on 20 May.

The final Bookends events are poet Pete the Temp with the 'Garden of Madness' tour on 14 June and Ben Aaronovitch on 17 June.

There might also be a few additional surprises that we'll announce once they are confirmed...

Check out our Events page for the up-to-date listings and booking information.


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