The view from the Chairman of the Earls Barton Literary Festival Committee for 2019.
I first conceived the idea of a village Literary Festival four years ago, after visiting the nearest one, at Althorp House. Whilst recognising that we couldn’t replicate that sort of event, I nevertheless took my idea to the Friends of Earls Barton Library. Although the Library Manager and I were very enthusiastic, it was pointed out to me (quite rightly as it happened) that it was too late to get anything organised in time for the following summer.
However, being told that I can’t do something is just the spur I need to get it done and I started to investigate how we might have our first Festival in 2017. I found some speakers, got a sub-committee together and we managed it. It was a success and made a profit. Learning lessons, we then did a bit better in 2018, despite me spending three months of the lead up to the actual weekend , struggling with a back injury. The committee stepped up and took over the running of the two days and it was a bigger success and people started to ask about ‘next year’. As John Griff, at Radio Northampton said; “You appear to have created a monster”. Well, maybe not quite a monster, but certainly something which takes over my entire life for several months of the year. The outcome is always worth it , though!
This year our ‘brand’ seems to be getting recognised. Lots of people have told us that they have kept the date free for next year so it seems we are committed already!
2019 was better than ever. Not really bigger, as we have a limited number of venues available to us if we want to keep it located in the village centre. But we had a fabulous mix of speakers, actors, performers and workshops, providing an eclectic mix with something, we hoped, to suit everyone. Of course, sometimes the times of speakers you want to see clash and you have to make a difficult decision – this is a problem with all of the big festivals too and not one which we can solve. We also had a pop-up book shop, located in our library, where authors could sign books and meet the public who’d just heard them speak.
Currently, we try to get people to take part who have a link of some sort to the county, although this gets harder each year! Our exception this year was the wonderful Tricia Stewart, who travelled from Yorkshire to speak to us. We also try to cater for people who are not necessarily ‘bookish’. This year we had the ‘Northamptonshire Lives’ sessions. These were talks from people who hadn’t, necessarily, written a book but who have an interesting job or lead interesting lives. Added to this we also had a weekend of writing workshops for budding authors.
The help we had this year was amazing. Bernie Keith of Radio Northampton agreed to interview me and then advertised the event on a daily basis. The marvellouse Ukes of Earl, our home-grown Ukulele Band, who use the library for practice, agreed to play to entertain people as they arrived for the opening. The entire committee worked so hard, with our new ‘marketing’ co-ordinator raising sponsorship for us and sourcing and organising our Goody Bags, which were extremely popular with the visitors. Someone kindly set us up a website (as you can see) and one committee member maintained and updated it throughout the lead up to the weekend. We had an operations team who provided marvellous signage and coped with any technical problems. Each member of the committee sold advertising space, enabling us to produce a marvellously professional brochure and they all delivered leaflets (one of them even incurring a badly bitten finger) to many of the local villages to spread the word. They, the students from Bosworth College and other volunteers, not necessarily from our village, acted as ‘buddies’ to our performers, manned the library, helped with the book sales, sold tickets and did a million and one other tasks which are needed to make such an event a success. My sincere thanks to them all – none of it would have happened without you! See you all in 2020……………..
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