Hi Ciarán! For those that don’t know, can you tell us about Writing on the Wall, what does the organisation stand for and how does this manifest itself into the events you run?

Writing on the Wall is a creative writing charity. Throughout the year we run community and education writing projects working with a very diverse range of people - empowering them to tell their stories through writing workshops, performances and publications. Every May, we produce and deliver a month-long city-wide writing and literature festival with a programme of radical, thought-provoking discussion, performance, competitions, workshops and talks.

How has the festival evolved over the past 18 years? I see that it started as just a weekender...it now runs for a whole month!

We celebrated Liverpool as Capital of Culture in 2008 by extending the festival out to a month-long programme! Since then we’ve kept it at that as it feels right to give the programme the time and space to fully explore the theme in depth. Having a month-long festival also allows us to welcome a very diverse range of guests and audiences which is vitally important to us.

What sort of impression do you hope that WoW Fest and individual events leave of attendees?

Each event has its unique personality, for example our #Justice4Grenfell event was a very different experience from say City Poets, Dizraeli or Akala. This variety is key to the events we do, but in any event, we want audiences to feel involved and represented, challenged, informed and, where best, entertained.

Wo Wfest 2018

Can you tell us a little more about the theme of Crossing Borders for this year, who have you invited into the city to speak around this subject?

We’re in our 19th festival, exploring the theme of Crossing Borders and have welcomed high-profile guest from the around the world to our programme including Carmen Bugan, Mourid Barghouti, Robert Webb, Akala, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Jordan Stephens, Shami Chakrabarti, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kate Evans, Paul Farley, LowKey and Dizraeli. 

If you don’t know who some of these artists are, you’ll want to check them out – their work and their experiences are powerful and inspiring. The after-party this year, headlined by Potent Whisper, is a celebration of our theme, of the diversity and history of Liverpool and an opportunity to promote community and inclusivity. We are deeply involved in social justice, activism as well as creativity, writing, literature and performance and we feel these two align excellently across both sectors.

Can you tell us about Potent Whisper, why is he such an important figure and why did you chose for him to close the festival?

Potent Whisper really is a rising-star of the rap and spoken word scene. I was sent his videos by a friend, and I was blown-away by how informative they were, but clever and lyrically astute as well. He is managing to speak to a broad range of people who might not necessarily be into spoken word or rap. He is accessible with flair, passion and a clear vision of what he’s doing, traits WoW share. The after-party will be a celebration with a purpose, it’ll remind us why Crossing Borders is an apt theme for the festival and will remind us of the work we all have to do in terms of social justice and activism. We started the festival with LowKey, an iconic and powerful rap legend at our pop-up Building Blocks To Freedom structure; a wall painted and coloured on with stories of hope, diversity and togetherness. Book-ending the festival with Potent Whisper really is a perfect way to wrap-up a programme we’ve loved putting together and delivering. It will remind us of why we do it, and reinstate the underlying issues we have addressed.

You have also involved Giovanna, from SisBis, in the event. Her party has become incredibly important in raising awareness for key charities like MRANG - how important is it to have her involved in the event?

As a charity ourselves, it is key for us to support and be in conversation with our local charities. I spoke to the wonderful gang at Between The Borders after a great zine-making workshop in the Open Eye Gallery late last year. I discovered they did these amazing “refugee raves” where they were providing a space for refugees and asylum seekers to be involved in a community. This felt like a wonderfully subversive idea, one that actively supported refugees and asylum seekers beyond the events themselves. I was delighted Giovanna was able to get involved with our after-party and I know we’ll be kept dancing till the wee hours.

How important is the support you get from external sources, the likes of Arts Council England and the Liverpool City Council?

External support is vital to us – without the support from Arts Council England and Liverpool City Centre we simply couldn’t do it. They empower us to deliver our excellent programme of project and festival work. We are grateful to have support from these sources and others and we’re looking forward to working with them in the future and continue to bring inclusive excellence to the city.

How can people become more involved in Writing on the Wall?

There are so many ways to get more involved. You can sign up to our mailing list and social media platforms – we post loads of interesting content about our artists and events, and we really feel like we are able to have dialogue through our social media. There’s also the added benefit of finding out what we’re doing first, in terms of events and projects so you won’t miss out on anything! You can sign up to volunteer with us – we have a fantastic group of loyal, hard-working volunteers and we’re always looking to expand the WoWsters!

You can check us out on our website and can search for us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.