Let me make a confession – I’ve not always been a fan of literary festivals, for several reasons. Some of them appear to be set up to primarily make money and part of their profit-making drive includes not paying authors who appear.
I also have something of a bugbear about those type of festivals which don’t seem to care that much about helping promote literacy, writing or local talent. Or as a way to innovate or spread new ideas.
However, I’m not arguing that all festivals are like that. For example, I have it on good authority that one coming up this month has its house very much in order, which is just as well as it’s based in the home town of a certain Mr William Shakespeare.
The Stratford-on-Avon literary festival runs creative writing competitions, encourages community activities (this year there is an initiative called Book With Friends, a free, monthly, informal book group for over 55s and the chance to share a love of books, a cup of tea and a chat with likeminded people. They hope the book group will be especially enjoyed by people who find themselves lonely and isolated.
And they create a lot of events and workshops for schools. This year they are running a workshop with Ali Sparkes, Blue Peter Book of The Year Winner (I once earned a Blue Peter badge, but that’s a story for another time).
I’m not saying that other festivals don’t do this kind of work just as well, but the Stratford Festival does put it front and centre and I believe that’s exactly how it should be, because literary festivals can inspire people to read more widely – and as an author, that has to be good.