Yorkshire film festival celebrates legendary US novelist Jack Kerouac

Kerouac on Screen – Friday and Saturday, 18 and 19 October

* Fifty years after his death, On the Road author commemorated on screen

* Event includes presentations, panels and discussion

* Plus Mexico City Blues live performance


IN OCTOBER 2019, it will be exactly 50 years since the death of the acclaimed US novelist Jack Kerouac, the author of On the Road, a leading figure in the Beat Generation, the ground breaking 1950s literary movement, and a large influence on the cultural shifts in the half-century that followed.


To commemorate this notable anniversary, Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax, West Yorkshire, will stage Kerouac on Screen, a two-day festival featuring movies about and inspired by the writer, linked to panels and discussion exploring his historical place and continuing significance.


Kerouac was a prolific writer of novels, poetry and essays, a huge fan of jazz, specifically the revolutionary sounds of bebop, and an individual who had a significant impact on several generations of rock musicians from the mid-1960s onwards, with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, David Bowie and the Grateful Dead, Patti Smith and Sonic Youth among those paying tribute.


He has also seen his life and work celebrated on screen: feature films based on his fiction, biographies and documentaries.


The Square Chapel festival will include screenings of What Happened to Kerouac?, Pull My Daisy, Love Always, Carolyn and On the Road. Connecting the movies will be a series of panels, featuring Beat specialists, considering Kerouac’s relationship to cinema, music and wider society. There will also be a live performance based on the writer’s Mexico City Blues.


A working-class boy from a blue collar New England home, Kerouac won a football scholarship to the prestigious Columbia University in New York. But a broken leg ended his sporting ambitions and, from the mid-1940s, he set out to be a novelist.


His adventures, encompassing the city and the mountains, the highway, the railroad and the sea, became the basis for a series of largely autobiographical volumes, recounting the thrills and spills of mid-century America. At the heart was a quest for salvation – romantic, religious and artistic – driven by a hunger for music, for freedom and kicks.


Once he found fame at the end of the 1950s however, the attractions of celebrity proved illusory. Although his tales of escape and resistance to convention inspired thousands to set out on their own hitchhiking odysseys and helped fuel the hippy rebellion of the next decade, he rejected those political messages and, alcohol-soaked, died lost and lonely aged 47.


But his writings and reputation have endured, as Simon Warner, curator of the festival and author of Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture, explains: ‘Kerouac was a complex figure, a devout Catholic who pursued Buddhism, a seeker after independence who remained closely tied to his mother, yet a brilliant writer who captured the essence of a changing nation at a key point in its mid-20th century history.’


He adds: ‘The lure of the road, the ecstasy of jazz, the power of religion and the mind-shifting revelations of intoxicants were at the core of his stories, but his unique and vivid vision of outsider life inspired generations of readers who remain transfixed and transported by his remarkable escapades.’


For further information and to book contact Square Chapel Box office on 01422 349422 or click here.



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