Friday, March 31, 2017

Festivals and Workshops: Chipping Campden Literary Festival

This month Elaine Roberts takes us to the Chipping Campden Literary Festival to chat to organiser Vicky Bennett about the event and what goes on behind the scenes to prepare for the festival.

Welcome to the RNA blog, Vicky. Can you tell us something about your festival, how it came about and how long its been running?

The inspiration for running a literature festival in Chipping Campden came from the now

internationally acclaimed Chipping Campden Music Festival founded in 2002 by Charlie Bennett. In 2009 I decided to run a six-day literature festival immediately prior to the 2010 music festival. At that time there was a small bookshop in Chipping Campden. I approached Mary Gray, who ran it for the owner, and asked if she would help me run a festival. Mary sourced the initial sponsorship. We approached authors either directly or via their publishers. The initial intention was to concentrate on fiction. Key to attracting good writers was to secure one well-known author from the outset. In 2010 our first speaker was William Boyd, followed by Patrick Gale, Amanda Craig, Michael Arditti, Samantha Harvey and Adam Foulds. So, between us Mary and I had put together a programme of novelists, gathered a group of helpers to distribute programmes, and hired venues around the town. The bookshop closed two years later. The Festival bookshop is now Borzoi Bookshop Stow on the Wold, and the Literature and Music Festival now have a designated shared office, and tickets may be purchased on line. The Literature Festival offers a fee to all authors and interviewers, and for the big venue, capacity 300+, hires a sound production company. The Festival has no public funding and relies on ticket sales, local business sponsorship, and small private donations. It is therefore imperative that we engage speakers that have a wide appeal, and audiences return year on year.

Who are your main speakers this year?
Max Hastings event
As soon as one festival ends I begin to think about the next. I try to choose a writer who will set a theme for the festival. Sometimes, as this year, a festival-goer will suggest an author. Early 2016 it was suggested that I read East West Street by Philippe Sands for 2017. As I was thinking of Crime/Justice and Forgiveness as being themes for 2017 I read the book with interest, and asked Philippe Sands to be my first evening speaker, and he accepted. He has since won the Gifford Baillie prize for non-fiction.
  I soon realised at the 2010 festival that to attract big audiences, a speaker must either have written on a subject of interest to a wide audience such as world war, historic buildings, great politicians, Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen or be a novelist who has become a household name through television and film. So for 2017 my other main speakers are
Non-fiction: Adrian Tinniswood The Long weekend, Lord David Owen Cabinet’s Finest Hour, Richard Holloway A Little History of Religion, Annie Gray The Greedy Queen, Kathryn Harkup A is for Arsnic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
Fiction: Sophie Hannah Closed Casket, Mark Billingham Die of Shame, M C Beaton Pushing Up The Daisies: Agatha Raisin. At the two latter events BBC Crimewatch broadcaster Sue Cook will be in the chair.
We also have events on Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment, Oscar Wilde, and Hamlet. At the two latter events we have well known Archers actor Timothy Watson (Rob Titchener) reading.

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?
Reading, meeting and listening to good authors speaking about their own work or hearing academics
talking about great writers is essential to being a good author. Additionally, Jane Corrie (whose first psychological thriller My Husband’s Wife was a 2016 Sunday Times best seller) is in 2017 running a day workshop: Expert practical advice on how to find the right idea, create characters, write realistic dialogue, get to grips with viewpoint, put the reader in the setting, and get published.
We also spread the word about other festivals and author events via twitter. Following us, and other festivals, is a good way of finding out what is happening at festivals, what is being published, and what is being reviewed. If an author emails me about appearing I always respond even if I can’t offer a space. It is essential for an author to approach me as soon as one festival is finished in order to be included in the next programme. But not to send a book until requested because it will only be read if the intention is to include it.

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay? 
Chipping Campden, a bustling Cotswold market town in an area of Outstanding National Beauty, is geared up to visitors. 
There is an exceptional amount of accommodation from private B&B's to atmospheric pubs and a four-star hotel plus masses of self catering cottages. There is also a range of places to eat out, and high quality food and wine to take away for self-caterers.

What does it cost to attend?
The Printers Wayzgoose is free, film £5, poetry reading £4, main talks £7, Lunch event £29. All evening and weekend talks are free to full time students.

Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?
Some of our daytime venues are small so these talks can fill quickly. Also numbers at workshops limited. Friends of the Festival get priority booking:
Minimum donation of £25
Please make cheques payable to
‘Chipping Campden Literature Festival’ And post them to:
Vicky Bennett, Literature Festival, The Old Police Station, High Street, Chipping Campden, GL55 6HB

How much time does it take to organise the festival?
Full time for each year: as one festival ends so the next begins.

Dates for the next two years:
Tuesday 9th- Sunday14th May 2017 inclusive 
Dates for 2018 TBC

Link to the Chipping Campden Festival website

Email for queries: Vicky Bennett

Thank you, Elaine. This is certainly a literary festival worth visiting.

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