Having detached myself from the writing process and even the writing world for a month or two, I had no hesitation in dipping my toe back in the waters by helping at Hawkesbury Upton Litfest, organised by the Indefatigable (that’s a Homeric epithet by the way) Debbie Young in the Fox Inn. And I wasn’t in the least suprised that the whole event went swimmingly. So here’s my report from the sidelines.
Because Debbie wanted to let as many writers as possible take the stage, the evening was mainly in in two ‘strands’ with discussion panels (fiction and non-fiction) in the main auditorium (aka skittle alley!) and additional readings in a side r00m. We also had the use of a big tent, oops, small marquee for the earlier part of the evening, which in view of the gorgeous weather (more IDY magic) was a real bonus. Arriving at 4pm to lend a hand, I had time to sun myself in a few moments of happy seclusion as well as helping put out the chairs and shuffle things around on the increasingly crowded bookstall. Then there was the added pleasure of a lovely Italian meal with friends old and new before things really got going.
I kicked off the pre-festival readings but once things were under way I was happier hovering in the wings, unless you count a bit of compering (with help from John and Caro – thanks again) which was a great way to learn more about authors who had come from as far as Oxford, London and (on the day) Madrid!
Unfortunately in all the coming and going I didn’t give as much attention to as many readings or discussions as I woud have liked, but I particularly enjoyed the non-fiction session and a highlight was Paul Murphy’s ‘As I Walked Out Through Spain …‘ beautiful writing as well as a labour of love. If you want a reminder of all of those who contributed, check the festival website.
Of course there were some practical problems, mainly because of the huge turn-out (I hope someone was counting) which made speakers difficult to hear for anyone who couldn’t get a seat. (Microphones next year?) Similarly the bookstall was difficult to access and we probably should have thought about how to accommodate an audience (!) as well as the line-up of readers in the smaller reading areas. But needing more time and more space is a symptom of success!
So how did she do it? I mean not just sign up such big names as Katie Ffforde and Orna Ross, but also offer a showcase to a gamut of lesser-known writers and persuade most of the local population to come along? Never mind how, the point is that it can be done, and I have no doubt this event will go from strength to strength. An anthology is already promised as pre-publicity for next year.
Here’s to Hawkesbury and local festivals everywhere. Here’s to the indefatigable Debbies of this world!