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.
In the early days of lockdown, my Mum and I found our own way of coping – every weekday we sat down together to watch Richard Osman’s House of Games. It was a small bit of routine which really helped – and, crucially, it made us laugh.
I have been a fan of Richard Osman for quite some time, so when I heard that he had written a crime novel I knew that I had to read it. I was therefore incredibly excited to find that I had been sent a reading copy by Penguin Books.
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
I loved this book. It is a great cosy crime novel (and we all know how much I enjoy those!) and the characters really lived for me. It is just as funny and clever as you might expect – the plot takes some brilliant twists and turns.
Very excitingly for me, Richard Osman had an event at the Appledore Book Festival last week. For obvious reasons all of the authors signed their books before the events and couldn’t meet the audience members. One of the perks of working there though was that I could meet him from a safe distance and get my copy personally signed. He was just as nice as he seems on television and I am now eagerly awaiting book two.
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!
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).
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!
As I mentioned in my last post, last week was the Appledore Book Festival. Not only was I at the book fair, I was also working at the festival itself which meant that I got to spend an entire week by the sea talking to people about books. It was wonderful.
Added to that, I also got to meet many authors which is always fun. It was particularly lovely to meet Tim Waterstone – who was one of only a very small handful of authors to come across and introduce himself to me. I was utterly charmed and of course I bought his book.
Another highlight was the event for Hazel Prior and her book Ellie and the Harp Maker. It was held in a little café and as well as talking about harps and writing she read some passages from the book interspersed with harp music. It was a delightful event – not least because she got the entire audience singing a song about how books are cool.
Books, books, books
Books are cool!
I also ate a lot of cake. This was peanut butter and jelly cake and it was amazing!
I had a wonderful week. It was hard work – almost twice as many hours as normal – and I am now exhausted but Appledore is always one of my favourite weeks of the year and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
On Sunday I had a stand at a book fair as part of the Appledore Book Festival. The day started off with pouring rain and I thought we were in for a very slow day. However, by the time we opened the sun was shining and everything was beautiful.
I ended up having a great day. Obviously selling books is good but more than that I had some wonderful bookish conversations which meant that I would have enjoyed myself if I hadn’t sold anything.
I had such a lovely day. Yes it was hard work but it was so good to have the opportunity to talk about books with so many people who love them.
I am just back from my first ever visit to the Cheltenham Literature Festival where I had the best time. The whole festival village was amazing and there were three separate festival bookshops – one of them dedicated to children’s books. I was in heaven.
I was there for a long weekend and in that time managed to fit in ten events. It was wonderful to find so many fascinating talks – Sarah Dunant’s on the Borgias was especially interesting (and entertaining, as all the best talks should be).
My favourite events were on the Saturday afternoon. Two talks about children’s books which were brilliant and after which I got to meet Anna James – author of Tilly and the Book Wanderers – and Jessica Townsend – author of Nevermoor. They were both lovely people (and their books are wonderful too – go and read them!).
To round off the evening we went along to the lit crawl to take part in the quiz. It had a classics theme which I obviously loved and we managed to come third which made me very proud, especially as we were the smallest team there. We received some fabulous prizes too, including two books – Frankenstein and La Belle Sauvage – and four tickets to festival events. I practically danced my way back to the hotel!
One of the best things about any festival is the amount of reading time. There were plenty of lovely places to sit and my favourite was the Book Stand – a cosy sitting room set up on the band stand. I spent some very happy hours there with my book and a cup of tea.
It was a brilliant weekend and I would definitely love to visit again.