‘More open’ Jewish Book Week fields starry international cast

By Charlotte Oliver, February 20, 2014

Jewish Book Week’s 62nd chapter kicks off on Sunday, with speakers and participants from more than eight countries heading to King’s Place in central London for the annual festival.

Over nine days, some 150 luminaries in art, music, film and literature — including the likes of Robert Harris, Ruby Wax and Ian McEwan — are due to come together to celebrate one theme: the diversity of Jewish culture.

“Every year, we put our hands into this amazing barrel and pull out another lucky dip of events,” festival director Hester Abrams said.

“It’s always so different, and this year it promises to be a lot less rarefied. We put a lot of effort into showing that the festival is in no way a closed shop, and my endeavour is to open it up even more so that more people can enjoy it.”

This year, organisers have made every effort to deliver a wide range of events — from an examination of the role of Jewish musicians in the early punk scene to a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof.

Meanwhile, a preview performance of composer Jocelyn Pook’s classical song cycle Drawing Life — inspired by poems written by children imprisoned in Terezin— will launch the varied music agenda on the opening night.

High-profile names will likewise ensure the festival is lively and stimulating.

These include Israeli commentator Ari Shavit, who will lead four sessions during the festival; director and writer Jonathan Miller; and Fawlty Towers legend Andrew Sachs, who will discuss his career, fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s — and that phone call he received from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in 2008.

There will also be a literary commemoration of the First World War, with secondary schoolchildren appearing on Thursday to read poems by Siegfried Sassoon and Isaac Rosenberg, as well as their own, self-penned verses.

Jewish Book Week will run from February 22 to March 2 — with a full day of events on each Sunday framing a week of afternoon and evening activities.

Last updated: 7:45pm, February 20 2014