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A Word from the Chair...
Welcome to Wells Festival of Literature 2015, our second year in the beautiful Bishop’s Palace Gardens.
2015 brings an incredibly powerful programme of performance, poetry, politics and economics and a wide range of experts and storytellers. We are delighted to welcome Mary Berry, Dan Cruickshank and Jeffrey Archer alongside campaigners like Will Hutton and Caroline Craido-Perez plus – to name a few, very unfairly, amongst the many - Jonathan Bate on Ted Hughes; John Lanchester on money; A. N. Wilson on the Bible; Christina Lamb on Afghanistan and debut novelists Emma Hooper and Mary Chamberlain.
This year has seen the continued expansion of our work outside the Festival week. In March the High Street was buzzing as actors from the theatre company Show of Strength performed monologues written by local writers. We are sending authors and performers into an increasing number of local schools and are very excited to be launching a new literacy programme with the charity Beanstalk.
Despite our growth we are still run entirely by volunteers. The size of the committee has increased dramatically to keep pace with our evolving work and Emma Lefevre has taken on the massive challenge of co-ordinating the Festival. Huge thanks to her and the Festival team. Continued thanks also to our patrons, William and Caroline Waldegrave - we are very pleased that they are both appearing at this year’s Festival. We are also extremely grateful for the generosity of Chubb Bulleid and all our sponsors, without who the Festival would not be feasible, and to our established partners Adams Marquees, Wells Waterstones and the Wells Journal as well as our new partner, YOU Magazine.
We are also delighted that this October sees even more events coming to Wells. As well as the Festival of Literature we will be able to enjoy Wells Art Contemporary, Wells Food Festival and New Music Wells. No question – this autumn Wells is the place to be.
The Festival launches…
WFL had its official launch on 8th October at the Bishop’s Palace in the wonderful marquee supplied by Adams Marquees and sponsored by Chubb Bulleid. The event provided an opportunity to thank them, the Bishop’s Palace and other local businesses and residents for the huge support they provide. The Chair, Emma Craigie, played special tribute to her team of volunteers as well as to the generosity of all sponsors, with special thanks to media partner The Wells Journal. Emma also introduced the literacy charity Beanstalk whose work is supported by WFL.
National Poetry Day was on the eve of the Festival opening. WFL poetry events include the judging of our Poetry competition by Peter Oswald, ‘the playwright who writes in verse’, who is also performing his own Three Folk Tales. Jonathan Bate unveils the controversial story of former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, and award-winning Hollie McNish performs from her stunning new poetry collection Cherry Pie.
But WFL isn’t just poetry. In fact this year’s Festival is possibly the most far-ranging and diverse to date. In the first weekend alone you can discover the human body through science and art via Gavin Francis’s medical expertise and Geordie Greig’s long term friendship with Lucian Freud; follow an intriguing journey through the history of paper with Alex Monro; see trees through Thomas Pakenham’s eyes; and question Emma Hooper on her fabulous first novel.
The weekdays open up more avenues - from the life of Margot Asquith to the demise of Mr Foote’s leg; from Richard Kerridge’s love of snakes to the imagined childhood of Jungle Book creator, Rudyard Kipling; from Samuel Johnson’s heir to vegetables as war effort.
The final day sums up the breadth of interest: William Waldegrave provides a revealing glimpse into the world of politics; best-selling writer John Lanchester translates the gobbledegook of money; Janice Hadlow looks at mad King George’s mad family life; Mary Berry talks to Caroline Waldegrave; John Campbell discusses Roy Jenkins (the best Prime Minister we never had?) with North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. And the Festival ends in a gale of laughter with the ‘queen of funny’, Viv Groskop.
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