Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘literary festival’

Back when I was a more regular reader of the New Yorker magazine, I used to love a tiny, bottom-of-the-column feature with the heading “There will always be an England.” The blurbs printed there tended to be about quirky individuals or happenings that struck the New Yorker editors as indelibly English. That’s what I thought of when I saw a recent article in the Guardian.

Steven Morris reports, “The book lovers of Appledore, a picturesque fishing village on the north Devon coast, are a resourceful, determined lot.

“When their library faced closure 14 years ago, they helped save it by launching a literary festival, which grew and developed year by year into one of the most popular cultural events in the south-west of England.

“And when the 2020 Appledore book festival was threatened with cancellation because of the Covid crisis, they came up with the bold idea of holding a coronavirus-secure drive-in event, believed to be the first in the UK.

“Over this weekend, hundreds of people will park-up in a field usually used as an archery range to listen from the safety of their cars to talks and readings on topics including politics, cooking, shepherding and gardening.

“If they are not distracted by the stunning views of the sea, they will hear the wise words of science writers, novelists and environmentalists relayed into their cars via their vehicles’ radios. …

“By March, when the UK went into lockdown, 45 authors had been booked for a nine-day festival this September. … Rather than cancel because of coronavirus, the organisers thought outside the box. They contacted a Devon events company, Waggle, which runs drive-in cinemas, and asked if they could do the same sort of thing in Appledore – but with books.

“They have had to reduce the number of events but are able to accommodate up to 120 cars for each session with up to five people in every vehicle. …

“Appledore and the surrounding area have traditionally been known as centres for fishing and shipbuilding rather than for a thriving arts scene. The festival is changing that.

“The area’s remoteness means that many local people have come to rely on the festival for an autumnal fix of culture. [But] navigating the rules and regulations to stage the drive-through festival has been a challenge. …

“Friends Rebecca Flashman and Debbie Moss, from Braunton, north Devon, arrived in an open-topped two-seater car with just enough room for a hamper packed with cucumber sandwiches and sparkling wine.

“ ‘We’re used to coming to open-air classical concerts,’ said Rebecca. ‘But we thought we’d give this a go.’

“Covid means, of course the festivalgoers cannot freely mingle but have to stay within boxes marked out with whitewash. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was warm and convivial.

“ ‘It felt surprisingly intimate,’ added Rebecca. “It’s wonderful to get out and do something cultural in these difficult times.’ …

Tobias Kennedy-Matthews, a local chimney sweep, had been given his ticket to the Harriott gig as a birthday present.

“He loved the chef’s tales about Ready Steady Cook and his culinary trips abroad. ‘It was brilliant. This is my first literary festival. I’ll definitely come again,’ he said.

“The festival founder, children’s author Nick Arnold, who lives in Appledore, said he had always been keen for the festival to be innovative. … ‘I always hoped that by coming up with new and exciting ideas we would attract attention.’

“Harriott had wondered how the audience would engage and how he would know if they had enjoyed his appearance. He needn’t have worried. He walked off not to the sound of applause but to the enthusiastic honking of car horns.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Photo: Jim Wileman/The Guardian
An interview and Q&A with the celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott opened a drive-by literary festival in England. Car horns told him it was a hit.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: