The new Chairman of WFL shares his thoughts…
How do you take your coffee?
Strong and black and piping hot, ideally made in an Italian Bialetti on the hob.
What makes your day a great day?
I divide my working life between London and Wells. Although I enjoy the buzz of the capital, those days when I can avoid the train and work from home, often with a walk up on the Mendips at lunchtime, makes me realise what a special place Wells is. And if I can finish with a game of squash, that really caps a good day!
What books have you read recently that you would recommend?
I tend to read mostly fiction. There is so much fantastic new work that it is tempting to constantly devour that. I try and go back in time occasionally, however, and often find refuge in Trollope; my favourite is The Way We Live Now. Moving forwards in time, I recently read Money by Martin Amis – a shocking and exhausting but compelling narrative. I am currently reading the second of three books by Jay McInerney, beautifully written and following the lives and careers of New Yorkers through the 80s, 90s and noughties. I also have by my bed The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, and Darke by Rick Gekoski.
What were your highlights from the 2016 Festival and how is planning going for 2017?
2016 was a fantastic Festival and a hard one to follow in this our 25th Anniversary. Last year saw a succession of authors who could entertain and educate their audience at the same time. It’s hard to pick favourites but some of those I particularly enjoyed were, in no particular order: Frank Gardner, whose novel Crisis is a frenetically enjoyable read, but who generously gave us his opinions on many issues stemming from his role as BBC Security Correspondent; Matthew Parris, whose book Scorn is full of witty anecdotes and quotations, but who freely gave his opinions on all matters; and Peter Snow, whose enthusiasm and intellect is so compelling. There were so many more….
So many people give so much time and energy into preparing for and running the Festival, and planning for this year’s event is well under way. Indeed, we started almost as soon as the last Festival finished. We have an exciting one-off event planned for 29th September in the Cathedral when Simon Jenkins will talk about his recently published book England’s Cathedrals; Wells is his favourite. I am sure it will be a special evening, and a perfect opportunity to celebrate our birthday.
Tickets for that, and the main Festival that takes place in the marquee in the Bishop’s Palace from 13th to 21st October will go on sale in early summer. Watch this space for the developing programme.
Why have you taken on the role of Chairman?
I became involved in the Festival three and a half years ago. I soon realised what a vibrant and exciting event it is, with so many passionate people making it such a success. I was therefore privileged to be asked to follow in Emma Craigie’s footsteps and to lead the Festival over the next few years. Not everyone knows that we are a registered charity, and that the surplus we make from the events is used to support local reading and related causes. In the week of World Book Day, for example, we are proud to have supported numerous sessions in schools to share our love of reading with the next generation. We also support the literacy charity, Beanstalk, having helped them establish locally.
What’s next for you?
Where’s that Bialetti?