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2020 Festival: In England’s Smallest City Life goes on

Iain Dale, opening our 28th Festival on Friday 16 October, related how delighted he was to be in Wells – live. Out of some 36 or more literary festivals throughout the country this year, a mere handful were running any live events, Wells being one of the fearless few!

Audience at the 2020 Wells Festival of LiteratureBy the time it ends on Saturday 24 October, the Festival will have featured around 40 speakers and interviewers live on stage, with just 11 delivering virtually. Of course, we were delighted that the vast majority entered into the spirit of the Festival and appeared live on the Wells stage, and even more delighted to discover it was as much for their own benefit as that of the audience:

“I watched as all my live appearances were cancelled, one after another,” said Sophy Roberts, author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia. “But Wells stayed firm.” Sophy generously waived her fee in appreciation of that fact – and because the Festival uses its profits to support educational projects in local state schools.

Audience at the 2020 Wells Festival of Literature“I felt I had hardly left the house for six months”, said eminent historian and broadcaster Michael Wood. “And here I was in Somerset talking again to a genuine audience: alive, responsive and enthusiastic. It was magnificent.”

Alice Vincent, who spoke at the Somerset Wildlife Trust event, agreed. “Wells is such a delight – a pocket rocket of a city and a literary festival, which perfectly balances issues of local importance with those on a global scale”. Lea Sellers, who interviewed security supremo Sir David Omand, said, “I felt very well looked after. You have a great setup in Wells – so impressive to keep it feeling live and vibrant during the pandemic.”

Max Porter, who spoke at the Festival’s Book Club Event, felt “It was really marvellous to be in a room talking about books with other human beings.  He added the opinion that The quality of questions at Wells literary festival is the highest in the land.

Questions of course come from members of the audience who have also enjoyed being ‘out and about again’, albeit in a socially distanced and masked way. And it’s ultimately thanks to them that we are able to run a festival at all, any year.

Thank you all!