Cheltenham Haul

I am finally home from the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I am utterly exhausted but I had the most amazing time and I am already planning and hoping for next year. To be so completely immersed in books was just wonderful.

In the end I was relatively restrained when it came to book buying. Two event books – The Book Smugglers and The Boy at the Back of the Class which I have been meaning to read for so long – plus Agatha Oddly and Wishyouwas. Agatha Oddly is another book I have been intrigued by for a while but one I have never seen in person and Wishyouwas was brand new and irresistible. There were many, many more books I could have bought, most especially The Murderer’s Ape which a colleague raved about but which sold out before I bought it. I will definitely be getting hold of a copy soon though.

I did however also buy a couple of tote bags because I just couldn’t resist them. Not that I don’t already have plenty of those!

I loved being at Cheltenham and I was very sad to leave it all behind me. On the other hand, it is very good to be home and back in my own space. The rain is simply pelting down outside and I am curled up by the fire. Evenings don’t get much better than that.

Cheltenham Part Two

Now that Cheltenham Literature Festival is open – and actually more than half over which is sad – I have had a bit of a chance to catch my breath. Of course, I am still working very hard but not for quite so long each day – and I am revelling in the festival atmosphere. There is nothing quite like drinking tea and reading my book surrounded by other people who love books just as much as I do. It is an added bonus that the leaves are just starting to turn so everywhere is looking simply beautiful and autumnal.

I have even managed to get to a few talks but for me the highlights so far have definitely been meeting Anna James and Onjali Rauf and getting my books signed. They are both just the nicest people – and Onjali made my day when I saw her again later and she remembered my name! It is wonderful to see children so excited by books too – there were little girls clutching piles of books and literally skipping away from Anna James’ signing. It made me so happy!

Perhaps my favourite part of each day though is when I finish each evening. I’m normally very tired but I treat myself to a hot chocolate, find myself a bench and just sit and read for an hour or so. It is the best way to end the day and soak up every last bit of festival atmosphere.

Cheltenham!

I am back at the Cheltenham Literary Festival – this time to work rather than as a visitor. Much like Appledore a couple of weeks ago, the work is physically very demanding and I am covered in scrapes and bruises but I am having so much fun.

Of course, the festival doesn’t open until Friday so we are still all about setting up. It is great to see behind the scenes but unfortunately I have already come across several books I would love to buy… I definitely need to set myself a budget.

Despite all the work though I am managing to make time to appreciate Cheltenham itself. Things like having lunch in the park at my favourite tea shop. After all, reading time is very important at a book festival!

Reading by the Sea

This week I am working at the Appledore Book Festival. I absolutely love this event – a week by the sea celebrating books is a pretty much perfect way to spend the time and it is always a highlight of my year. Ironically though I am also reading very little.

I am surrounded by books all day long – and they are long days – but we are also working very hard. Not least because the festival changed sites partway through. I am covered in bruises and constantly impressing people by how strong one has to be to sell books. It has of course been a lot of fun too and I have heard some great talks – I was completely starstruck by Hayley Mills – but my reading has gone down to almost nothing.

However, over the past couple of days I have managed to get away from the crowds for a short lunch break. I took myself down to the sea and just lost myself in a book and the peace. I definitely thrive on having time to myself so it was a very much needed break.

I have finally started Viv Groskop’s Au Revoir Tristesse which I bought at the festival last year so I thought it was probably about time to read it! The little I have managed to read so far has been excellent and I am very much looking forward to reading more over the next few days.

I love book festivals and Appledore is definitely one of my favourites. There are three days left and I am definitely planning to enjoy them!

Book Festivals at Home

Once again, the Hay Festival is having to be held online this year. I am very much enjoying the flood of literary conversation – my favourite event so far has to be Graham Norton’s book club with Richard Osman and Marian Keyes.

Obviously, we would rather be there in person as however good the talks are it is not the same watching them on a screen at home. In a way though I am grateful. Although I have been to several book festivals I have never yet made it to Hay in person. Even if I did I would almost certainly not manage to get to as many talks as I see at home. I am so enjoying them and am very grateful that I happened – completely accidentally – to book a week’s holiday from work this week.

It has definitely also helped that that weather this week has been so fantastic. I have been able to spend a decent amout of time reading outside – just as if I were at the festival. I have perhaps spent more time out there than I should but I don’t regret it at all.

I can’t help hoping that even when book festivals are back in person there will still be an option to watch them online. It would open the talks up to a much larger group of people – last year the Cheltenham Festival had small in person audiences whilst still streaming online and that seemed to work very well. During this past year I have watched talks held all over the country and even in the US – talks I would certainly not have been able to attend in person. Having said that, I am so looking forward to being able to attend an actual book festival again.

In the meantime, I have plenty of talks lined up over the next few days. It is going to be great!

Autumn Reading

I have been having a lovely bookish couple of weeks. Last week should have been the Bath Children’s Book Festival. Of course they couldn’t hold it in person but they teamed up with several other festivals to put on the Reading is Magic Festival online instead. All of the events were free and I had a great week picking talks to watch.

This week it is the turn of Cheltenham Literature Festival. They do have a very small number of people in actual physical audiences but they are also broadcasting the events online so every evening I am settling down for some wonderful booky content. It is great to feel so literary!

Of course I am sad all these festivals can’t go ahead as normal. Watching at home is great but it is not the same as being there in person. On the other hand, there is no way I would have been able to get to nearly as many events as I have watched this year so I have seen a small benefit of covid restrictions.

On top of all that, we had solid rain for about four days. It wasn’t particularly pleasant outside but it was perfect weather for curling up with a book indoors. Life is pretty great.

Book Festival in the Time of Covid

This week it was time for the Appledore Book Festival which is always a highlight of my year. Of course, this year the festival had to look a bit different. There was no antiquarian book fair and we certainly couldn’t gather a couple of hundred people into a hall many times a day.

I was convinced the whole thing would be cancelled or at least broadcast online only. The organisers though were determined to rescue something and came up with the brilliant idea of holding the UK’s first drive-in book festival. It was a stroke of genius and they couldn’t have had a better location – just look at the view!

As I was working at the festival, I got to hear most of the talks and I had such a great time listening to some fascinating people. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and I honestly can’t think of many things better than sitting in a field listening to people talk about books. Naturally I was well supplied with snacks too!

The whole festival was a delight but there were some highlights for me. Richard Osman was as brilliant (I’ve read the book – more on that another time but it is good!) as I expected and I also loved listening to Adele Parks and Viv Groskop. I could have listened to all of them for hours.

Of course, I couldn’t go to a book festival without bringing home a few books. Ths is quite a small haul but I am very much looking forward to reading them.

I loved this festival and in a way I will be sad to go back to normal next year. Naturally we hope that next time the audience will be able to sit together and actually meet the authors but it was so wonderful to have the whole event contained in one area. It would be lovely if the next event could still be outside or in a series of marquees – maybe there could also be a tea tent with a view of the sea!

Jane Austen Society

Last weekend should have seen the AGM of the Jane Austen Society UK at Chawton House.  This year is the 80th birthday of the society and so it would have been quite a special occasion.  Of course, for obvious reasons, this couldn’t happen.

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Instead, Chawton House hosted an online event which included a tour of the house and a talk about the history of the society which was very interesting.  1940 seems like an odd time to be creating such a society and I can understand why people thought there were more important things going in in the world.  It is however an excellent example of keeping calm and carrying on.

The highlight of the day for me though was the selection of birthday wishes from Jane Austen societies around the world.  It was very moving and even humbling to see how much people love Jane Austen and her world.

The videos are still available on the Chawton House YouTube channel and are well worth a watch if you can.

Lockdown Lit Fest

The lockdown is certainly creating a great deal of creativity when it comes to meeting up.  I have recorded music with my choir and have regular orchestra and ballet rehearsals over Zoom.  It has been fun to see everyone and to have a bit of structure in the week.

My favourite discovery so far though has been the rise of online literary festivals.  I love book festivals but I can’t usually get to many of them so the idea of having them come to me is just wonderful.  Obviously it’s not the same as getting to go to them but it is far better than nothing.

The online Hay Festival is coming up at the end of this week and I have booked my place at a whole load of the talks.  I am going to be in front of a screen for an awful lot of time next week!

First though, Chawton House had their own lockdown festival this past weekend.  Apparently they’ve been wanting to do a festival for a while and the lockdown pushed them into putting something together.  I have to say that if they do manage to have an actual in person festival I will be doing my very best to get there.  Even if they don’t, I have realised that I need to visit – the only time I’ve been to the house was for the AGM of the Jane Austen Society so I didn’t get to see very much of it (I have made a proper visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum but I would love to see that again as well).

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I have had a lovely weekend watching the talks and feeling very intellectual for doing so.  It was so interesting to see a bit of behind the scenes of the house and to learn more not just about the people who lived there but also about some related books – like The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner which is out next week and sounds great.  I also had a brilliant time playing with some found poetry using lines from poems in the house.

I have come away with a renewed enthusiasm for 18th and 19th century writers and a list of new to me authors to try.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of George Sand but not Jane West or Jane Porter and I certainly haven’t read any of them.  They are firmly on my list now though and I am very keen to read them soon.  It is such a great feeling!

The festival is obviously over now but some of the talks are still available on the Chawton House youtube channel.  If you can I would highly recommend you have a watch!