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Alumni light up North London literary festival


Philippa PerryIn March 2013, Middlesex students, alumni and members of the public had the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of the literary world's leading lights at the North London Literary Festival.

Among the cast of high-profile writers, poets and journalists addressing more than 500 people who attended were prestigious Middlesex alumni Laura Hird, Philippa Perry (pictured), James Heartfield and John Lucas.

The two-day celebration of words held in venues around the Hendon campus is the UK's largest student-run festival of its kind and has quickly become an annual fixture in the Middlesex University calendar.

Each year students from the School of Media and Performing Arts work with their tutors to plan the popular event and with many of our alumni now successful authors, journalists and poets; festival organisers were keen for them to return to campus.

Whitbread and Orange Prize-nominated Laura Hird, who studied BA Contemporary Writing Studies and graduated in 1991, ran the festival's Poetry Master Class. The event was bursting to the seams with literary enthusiasts, all of whom received excellent insight into what it takes to be a successful poet.

Following her master class, Laura commented on her return to Middlesex: "To come back and meet the students that are on what has become such a successful course which now offers an MA as well is great. Just to get a chance to speak to them and hear about their work has been a real privilege."

Alongside other inspirational readings, publishing workshops, and writing competitions, Philippa Perry's inspirational talk based on her 2012 self-help book 'How To Stay Sane' also drew a large audience.

After graduating in 1990 with a BA in Fine Art, Philippa retrained as a psychotherapist. She now writes for The Guardian and published her first book, the graphic novel 'Couch fiction', in 2010.

Commenting fondly on her time at Middlesex the author, who is married to Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry, said: "I was bloody keen I tell you. I was here at 9am every day, put in the hours, did the research and got the most out of it. I made some really good friends and good contacts.

"I used my degree in Fine Art to basically self explore and explore things I was interested in. I don't think I would have been on this path if I hadn't had the opportunity to go to university and I really appreciate that I had it."

Another of those making a welcome return to Hendon was Philosophy and Literature graduate James Heartfield, a journalist and author who has written extensively around the subject of economic regeneration with books such as 2005's 'Let's Build! Why We Need 5 Million New Homes'.

James, who was a student at Middlesex from1980 to 1984, commented: "It's lovely being back at Middlesex. It all seemed very familiar as I was going along on the bus and then it didn't anymore. It's a completely different place as far as I can see."

Sadly bestselling and award-winning horror author James Herbert OBE, who was an alumnus of Hornsey College of Art and due to be the festival's keynote speaker, died unexpectedly a few days before the event.

During the course of his lifetime, James sold over 54 million books. In place of his keynote speech, the evening was dedicated to paying tribute to his outstanding talent and work.Commenting on the news of James' death, Josie Barnard, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Middlesex, said: "The North London Literary Festival is greatly saddened by the news that James Herbert passed away. We were all delighted when he agreed to be part of our festival and are still honoured that he was to be our keynote speaker."

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