Litfest is over for another year.
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
Litfest is over for another year. I think all of us involved probably feel a mixture of elation and exhaustion! It’s been the biggest, busiest and, according to lots of people, the best to date. We’ve had more sell-out events and greater variety than ever before.
We started with pop-up street drama performed by local children, and ended with a debate to choose the best Booker prize-winning novel from the last 50 years. We’ve had poetry with Michael Symmons Roberts and William Sieghart’s Poetry Pharmacy, there’ve been workshops on book binding and creative writing, and we’ve discussed British and American politics with Stig Abel and Sarah Churchwell. Travel writer and biker Lois Pryce thrilled with the story of her solo trip across Iran and linguistic expert David Crystal talked about pronunciation. We’ve commemorated centenaries of the Suffragist Movement and the end of WW1 with Jane Robinson’s Hearts and Minds and Peter Hart’s account of The Last Battle. Thomas Harding talked about a real crime and Ruth Ware a fictional one. Andy Hamilton’s -not the comedian – talk about beer was a new departure for us.
One feature of this year’s Litfest has been the number of really well-known, great authors who’ve come. Their events sold out quickly. Novelist Rose Tremain, this year’s Golding speaker, spoke movingly about her new memoir, Rosie, with journalist Alex Clarke. Max Hastings opened on Saturday with an account of the Vietnam War and, completely different, Alan Johnson Labour ex-cabinet minister entertained us with a memoir on his childhood passion for pop music, especially The Beatles.
Best-selling author of Labyrinth, Kate Mosse, introduced her new novel The Burning Chambers and talked about her love of Carcasonne, the setting for this opening novel, the first of four on the French religious wars.
Marlborough College’s newly restored Memorial Hall is the biggest venue in Marlborough. The College lent it to us for three events which we knew would attract large audiences. Even so, many people were disappointed that they couldn’t get tickets to hear children’s author David Walliams, despite putting on two events. Those that did were ecstatic.
A rapt audience listened to one of our best-loved and most prolific novelists, William Boyd, on Saturday evening.
Big events are exciting, but Litfest is about much more than that. Our aim has always been to give a platform to new voices and minority interests. Fiction lies at the heart of the festival and we welcomed debut authors Adelle Stripe and Mick Kitson, plus the winner of the McKitterick Prize, Anietie Isong. Leila Aboulela read from her collection of short stories and Aida Edemariam spoke about her biography of her Ethiopian grandmother. Amy Sackville’s book on the relationship between the painter Velazquez and the King of Spain proved very popular. We had history with Miranda Kaufmann’s Black Tudors and historical fiction with Katie Hickman’s The House at Bishopsgate. It wouldn’t be Litfest without old favourites like the Big Town Read and Poetry in the Pub. All in all, it was a feast of great writing.