Exeter Library events

The Exeter Library is putting on a whole range of events suitable for people of all ages.  

All the events are offered on a first come, first served basis and have free entry. No booking is required.


The Spectacular Translation Machine

All day

Alpha, a powerful graphic novel in French by Bessora and Barroux, tells the story of a West African migrant who leaves Ivory Coast to find his family in France. Thus unfolds a tragic, unforgettable tale about the hopes and perils of migration. Discover this story for yourself by joining our Spectacular Translation Machine, whether you’re a seasoned Francophone speaker or your knowledge extends as far as the dialogue of 'Allo 'Allo.

We have online and hard-copy dictionaries to hand, but best of all we have real human beings with real expertise to help you in live-time. Translation always involves at least four hands: those of the author and those of the translator. But we’re hoping for countless people to roll up their sleeves and join us in the engine room of our machine. How can we bring the words spectacularly alive in English and for a new audience?

This activity is suitable for everybody 14+.

The first Spectacular Translation Machine was run by Sarah Ardizzone and Daniel Hahn, commissioned by the British Centre for Literary Translation in partnership with the Southbank Centre. Since then, Alpha: The Spectacle opened the Migrant Stories Strand at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2016 with the support of the French Institute, and was part of Lancaster Litfest in March 2017.

Alpha is published by Gallimard Jeunesse in France, where it was awarded the Prix Médecins Sans Frontières 2015.

Alpha is published by Barrington Stoke in the UK, where it is supported by English PEN and Amnesty International, and has been nominated for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards 2017.


Watch the Spectacular Translation Machine in action

Poète Public

All day

Using just one word as inspiration, Hervé Eléouet can then tap out a whole poem—in French--on his faithful typewriter, Adélaïde. Drop in to visit our visiting French poet at Exeter Library and create something special.

Wordkeys: The 4D Translation Game

10:00, 11:00, 12:00 and 14:30

Wordkeys: The 4D Translation Game is an active game that explores the ways translation and foreign languages connect people and cultures from around the world, run by literary translator Rosalind Harvey.

Players are divided into two teams and given instructions, plus some mystery items: sealed envelopes, locked boxes, phrasebooks... Both teams are then separated and must not speak to or approach each other! Following instructions, you will use your phrasebooks to translate the clues you have been given, ultimately discovering what’s inside your mystery box and reaching a surprising outcome. No knowledge of foreign languages required, just a sense of fun and adventure!

Discover Translation: The Pleasures of Middle Eastern Translation


Come and hear about the intricacies of Middle Eastern translation with Alana Levinson LaBrosse, specialist in Kurdish translation, and Farangis Ghaderi, translator of modern Kurdish poetry. A lively session that will transport you a world away!

Discover Translation: Translating Russian – A Political Problem?


Listen to experienced translators and academics from the University of Exeter discuss their current projects (among them, a set of aphorisms and notes composed in Soviet Russia) and reflect on the political complexities surrounding the translation of Russian. Audience questions welcome.

Reading and Q&A with Alexei Makushinsky and Rowan Mackenzie-Kennedy


Author Alexei Makushinsky discusses his work, alongside the translator of his 2014 novel Steamship to Argentina and former University of Exeter student, Rowan Mackenzie-Kennedy.

International Story Time


Come and enjoy story time with your little one. This week, it will be a special international edition. Let's see where the story takes us!

Discover Translation: Keeping Dead Languages Alive


Join experts in the ancient and medieval worlds to explore how the linguistic past lives on in the present day thanks to translation. An incredibly rich, fast and fun session, full of surprises and revelations.

Discover Translation: The Wonderful World of Czech Translation


Come and listen to Dr Clare Horáčková (University of Exeter) and Julia Sutton-Mattocks (PhD candidate, Universities of Bristol and Exeter) in conversation about the joys and intricacies of translating from Czech. The session will include readings from and discussion about Julia’s recent award-winning extract translation from Bianca Bellová’s 2016 novel 'The Lake' (Jezero). Audience questions very welcome!

French Poetry Translation Duel


Experienced literary translators Martin Sorrell and Lesley Lawn discuss their versions of translated French poetry. Sit back and reflect on their translation choices, or jump in and suggest some ideas of your own. Open to audience participation!

Translation Jazz: French Poetry in (Musical) Translation


Breton poet Anne Jullien is joined by her translator into English, Michelle Bolduc, and her musical interpreter, jazz musician Fred B. B., for a session that intertwines poetry in English and in French with jazz improvisation.

Translate with the Professionals


Come and try your hand at translating with the professionals! This fun, interactive session is your chance to meet some industry experts and discover what happens during the translation process. Just how do they get around those tricky translation problems? Bring along a pinch of creativity and see what you can do. Led by professional translators from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting South West Network.

International Bounce and Rhyme


Baby Bounce and Rhyme, a traditional library favourite for young families, will this week be taking on an international, multilingual twist! With songs, rhymes and accompanying actions, the session is both lively and stimulating for babies, toddlers, parents, carers and grandparents alike.

Spanish Literary Translation Duel


Rosalind Harvey, literary translator and organiser of the Wordkeys: The 4D Translation Game, mediates this translation duel between Simon Bruni and Rosie Marteau, both experienced literary translators. Both will have translated the same extract before the session, but will hear their opponent’s version for the very first time on stage at the festival. Let the duel commence!

The Jabberwocky in British Sign Language


Come and discover how translation works between English and British Sign Language! As the preferred language of over 145,000 people in the UK, BSL has its own syntax, grammar, and even regional colloquialisms! This talk will discover the wonderful ways in which BSL translation works, with a showing of the popular poem 'Jabberwocky' in BSL, and a live poetry interpretation.

Pop-up readings

Every hour

On the hour, every hour, in Exeter Library and Exeter Phoenix. Come and listen to members of the Exeter community sharing their favourite literature, poetry and children’s stories in a range of languages from around the world. A wonderful display of the diversity of languages and cultures that bind together our local community.

Game stations

All day

Bring your friends and family along to use the power of play to experiment with different languages. Board Exeter have supplied us with some fantastic games, and you'll have word lists and phrasebooks at hand to help you play around with languages in a fun, interactive (and competitive, if you want!) way. Have a go on our game stations in Exeter Library and Exeter Phoenix at any time during the day.