Author Rosie Garland visits Gothic Manchester Festival

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By Pruthvi Khilosia
Photography: Alannis Barnes

Award-winning poet, singer and novelist Rosie Garland joined the 2017 Gothic Manchester Festival line-up this weekend for a reading and book-signing of her latest novel The Night Brother.

Currently in its fifth year, the festival is hosted by the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Research in Arts and Humanities programme (RAH!). Its aim is to promote the study of the Gothic both nationally and internationally through a series of screenings, readings and exhibitions.

Garland’s reading from her novel The Night Brother, set in 19th century Manchester, took place in the beautifully ornate Historic Reading Room of the John Ryland’s Library, a perfect location for a gothic event.

Following the reading, founding member of Gothic Manchester Festival and Manchester Met Senior Lecturer in English, Literature and Film Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes interviewed the writer.

He told Humanity Hallows, “We want to capitalize on what Manchester has to offer, Rosie being a local author as well as someone who has gone beyond the local and who writes in the area the Gothic, it makes perfect sense.”

Talking about the novel, he added, “It’s very difficult to categorise; it’s very personal. It liberated my queer mind.”

Photography: Pruthvi Khilosia

Garland talked about how she was always fond of reading as a child and would go to the library every Saturday. She particularly loves the history of the John Rylands library and that it was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband. She also admired how the stunning library was open to poverty stricken Manchester back in the times when The Night Brother is set, commenting, “Why shouldn’t the poor deserve it?”

Talking about her own writing, she said, “I like breaks and I’m writing poetry now. I need a rest from being possessed.”

She added, “My writing is like space dust coming together to form a planet. I don’t write linear. I have different notes everywhere and I put them together.”

Photography: Pruthvi Khilosia

In her writing, Garland focusses on the 1800 period, wanting to imagine, dream and make-up stories about the past. She said, “I’m interested in when the world was on it’s tiptoes. When the world was on cusp… The present changes so quickly.”

Themes in the novel include sexuality and gender identity, as experienced in a diverse city like Manchester.

At the event, Garland talked about embracing the Gothic and “reclaiming the name,” as some people reject the identity of a ‘Goth’ because of its use as a label. She said that these identities can be “turned into instruments of power”.

When asked if culture in Manchester is united or separated, Garland had a unique response regarding creating safety and building a community. Referencing a character in her novel, she said, “One of the ways Edie sees that happen is a group of Suffragettes. She has to find her own community. Unlike her brother who doesn’t need anybody, people like that can often feel lonely.”

Photography: Alannis Barnes

Rosie hopes she reflects some of the diversity in Manchester, which she is passionate about. She said, “I’m drawn to come here because of it’s sense of opportunity.”

Andy, who travelled from Leigh for the event, is a big fan of Garland’s books and poetry. He said, “They’re really precise, you can tell it’s a poet that’s writing because the imagery is very rich, the sense of place, especially with The Night Brother. As a proud Mancunian, I love the fact that it’s so much about Manchester.”

Manchester Met’s RAH! Co-ordinator Helen Darby was pleased with the success of the event. She said, “It’s been absolutely fantastic. Rosie really is a friend of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies.”

For more information about the Gothic Manchester Festival, visit the festival website. For more information about Manchester Met’s RAH! programme, visit the RAH! events page.

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