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Flipside uses green language to change the world

PUBLISHED: 15:39 03 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:39 03 October 2017

Margaret Atwood who delivered the keynote speech at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: Liam Sharp

Margaret Atwood who delivered the keynote speech at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: Liam Sharp


Flipside is the bi-annual literary event that links Suffolk with South America. Arts editor Andrew Clarke speaks to founders Liz Calder and Genevieve Christie about a packed weekend.

Audiences enjoying a carnival atmosphere at Flipside. Photo: FlipsideAudiences enjoying a carnival atmosphere at Flipside. Photo: Flipside

From the evergreen forests of Brazil to the russet-tinged autumn leaves of Snape, Flipside is an arts festival with a unique global feel.

The bi-annual arts event has developed a reputation for showcasing UK and South American literature alongside other art forms such as music and food culture. This year’s event is adding another over-arching theme – environmental awareness.

Co-directors Liz Calder and Genevieve Christie said that this year’s event blends the best writing, thinking and music from the UK, South America and Canada to create a fantastic festival experience that not only brings lovers of books together but allows the generations to mix and experience a variety of art forms.

Jackie Kay who is appearing at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: Mary McCartneyJackie Kay who is appearing at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: Mary McCartney

Liz said: “Flipside has grown and evolved into areas that we hadn’t expected. Flipside, this year, has a greener focus and we are aiming to address some of the things which are more relevant now than they have been in previous years.

“We have had two years to think about and we are very happy with the way that the festival is evolving. No cultural event stays still, stay the same, it’s always evolving, responding to the world at large and Flipside is no different. The environment and green issues have never been so important and we hope we can do our bit to raise awareness.

“We didn’t want Flipside to become set in stone. What we wanted, with the way that the world is, was to look at issues and ideas and have a conversation during the festival. That’s why this year we’ve decided to change the format and have a key note speech on the opening weekend and we couldn’t think of anyone better to launch the festival than Margaret Atwood. Tireless in her support of green issues she’ll be asking tough questions in her speech: ‘How do we live (or die) now?”

Helen Mcdonald who is appearing at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: FlipsideHelen Mcdonald who is appearing at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: Flipside

“We don’t want it to be doom-laden but we do want to start a conversation and that will be going on in an informal way across the entire event involving people of all ages.”

Genevieve added: ““I think the programme has a wonderful variety and inclusiveness. There will also be surprises like live jamming with a Brazilian banana tree. On the opening night we will be taking a live feed from a banana tree in Brazil and all the sounds and noises from in and around that tree will be translated into music, so we will not know what we will be getting next. It’ll be something different and unusual.”

One of the major events of this year’s festival is GAWP – The Green Alphabet Writing Prize. It’s a writing competition which embodies the spirit of Flipside because it has been designed to accommodate writers of all ages in a search for inspirational writing about the environment.

Anna Pavord who is appearing at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: FlipsideAnna Pavord who is appearing at this year's Flipside festival. Photo: Flipside

Entrants are asked to choose any letter of the alphabet and use it in a piece of writing on a green theme. The submission can be a poem or a piece of prose, and could include some visual art. Whatever form it takes, the piece should refer to the environment and how to care for it.

Liz Calder said that she is especially pleased to have secured so many high profile women writers this year. “ Obviously we have Margaret Atwood and Jackie Kay MBE, who is the Scots Makar,(poet Laureate) award winning poet and Chancellor of the University of Salford, along with Anna Pavord, the much-loved author of the glorious bestseller The Tulip, Ruth Padel, Anne Michaels, Ali Smith, winner of the Orange Prize, and Helen Macdonald, who, with Tim Dee, will be taking us well beyond human perspectives. From the skies to the seas, from the hawk to the whale, the very best of nature writing reveals a profound empathy for a variety of remarkable species.”

But, it’s not just the animal kingdom that will be receiving attention from the Flipside writers, visionary architect Mauro Munhoz, best known in Brazil for his part in the setting up of FLIP, South America’s first international literary festival, and for his design of the Museum of Football in Sao Paulo, will be joined by John McAslan CBE, responsible for the transformation of London’s historic King’s Cross Station, to discuss how to protect places of great natural beauty from mass tourism, if not from natural catastrophes.

Audiences enjoying a carnival atmosphere at previous Flipside festivals. Photo: FlipsideAudiences enjoying a carnival atmosphere at previous Flipside festivals. Photo: Flipside

On the music front Mônica Vasconcelos will be bringing her trademark joyful, jazz infused Brazilian classics to FlipSide alongside the London Bossa Collective.

Flipside is at Snape Maltings from October 6-8. Full details can be found at

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