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LISTEN: Speakers full of praise for Literary Festival

LISTEN: Speakers full of praise for Literary Festival

Friday 19 May 2023

LISTEN: Speakers full of praise for Literary Festival

Friday 19 May 2023

The organisers of the Guernsey Literary Festival are hailing another successful year of events and community outreach programmes.

The Festival saw over 7,000 attendees for more than 65 events, school talks, prison activities, and care home and church visits.

1,600 entries from around the world were also received for the annual International Poetry Competition with prizes given for global, local, and children’s categories.

800 Bailiwick pupils also submitted creative writing pieces on sustainability as part of the WriteStuff competition which was judged by four UK writers. 

Guernsey Literary Festival has been named the second-best spring book festival by National Geographic magazine.

The Festival’s honorary Chair, Terry Waite CBE, labelled it “another triumph”. 

Festival Director Claire Allen said kudos should go to the dozens of volunteers who make the event possible in the latest Express podcast.

“We have lots of volunteers involved with everything from helping organise the book signings, stewarding events, running the bookshop, picking up the authors from the airport. 

“So, in total, I think this year, we have about 70 volunteers that are involved with the actual logistics of putting on the Festival. And then there's a team of about 15 of us that meet every month throughout the year to plan and organise the events."

Listen: The latest Express podcast with Ms Allen and Nick Le Messurier.

The organiser’s also won plaudits among the high-profile speakers. Broadcaster David Dimbleby said he “signed more books here than at any of the other festivals I have been to, which can't be bad”. 

Journalist Dan Walker said his “mind was slightly blown” at the attendance for his talk.

Children’s author Liz Hyder praised “all the outreach and education parts of the festival are fully integrated, it’s not a tokenistic add-on but absolutely a key part of what you do - and the fact that you proactively go out, not just into schools but into care homes and the prison.

“Honestly, I can’t tell you how rare and special that is.

Nick Le Messurier, the Marketing and Press Officer for the Festival, told Express those who volunteer to put on the events do so because they love to.

“We also really like the fact that it's bringing writers to Guernsey who people wouldn't normally be able to meet. And if you wanted to meet your favourite writer, you'd have to go to a festival yourself. But here, you know, we might have 40/45 visiting writers, and you've got a chance to meet them,” he said.

“All of them have got time for their audience, you know, they'll make time for you. And that's wonderful.”

Ms Allen said a new partnership were formed this year to deliver better events outside of the usual speaking circuit.

“We were really delighted to be able to partner with the library and also the John Rankin Charitable Trust to extend our community outreach programme. So, we had one event in the prison with author Jim Skinner. She ran a workshop in the prison,” she said.

“We have five events in care homes, one in the Cheshire Home. And then we have events taking place in local schools as educational programmes. So, it's probably an area of festivals that people don't see.”


Pictured: David Dimbleby speaking at St. James. Credit: Chris George.

Mr Le Messurier said one of his favourite events was “Helen Czerski, who's an oceanographer, talking about the oceans of the world and explaining the details of how they operate and, and how we should look after them, but don't. And really, she was inspirational, passionate, and one of those people who could pick facts out of the sky".

Ms Allen said Dan Walker was a highlight: “He had a sellout event on Saturday night at St. James. [He] spent so much time after his event speaking to every single person that wanted their books signed, having a conversation with them. 

“I think he finally finished about ten thirty in the evening. He really didn't have to do that. But I think he genuinely wanted to meet everybody. And his talk was just also really interesting. It's really interesting to hear about the people that he's interviewed for his for his book. So that was fantastic.”

Another memorable moment was the prize giving for the children’s short story writing competition: “It was just a great celebration of those winning stories, and also for the children to hear their stories read by award winning children's authors was a really special moment. And they were all gifted an illustration that had been designed by a local illustrator."

Mr Le Messurier said the Chicago-based winner of the adults open poetry competition travelled all the way from America just to collect his prize and personally read his winning poem. 

“That was amazing that someone would come halfway across the world to get his prize. And he read his poem and read it beautifully. And he loved it here, he absolutely loved it.” 

Visiting authors were also offered a private viewing of the Victor Hugo exhibition by Art for Guernsey, and a free tour Hauteville House was available according to Ms Allen.


Pictured: Joseph Coelho talking to students at Amherst School. Credit: Chris George.

Looking to next year’s itinerary, Mr Le Messurier said the orgnaisations hoped to provide “more of the same, but better”. 

Ms Allen added that there may be a chance for a few more events in 2023 following unexpected cancellations.

“We do potentially also have a couple of events that we're looking to reschedule this year. Susie Dent unfortunately had to pull out for personal reasons at the last minute, but we are looking to reschedule that event at some point this year.

“But looking forward to next May, we'll be scouting literary festivals. We go to Cheltenham every year when a lot of the next year's books will be out in time for our festival. So we'll be looking now for authors to invite for next year.

“It's an enormous task… we'll be starting planning next year quite soon. And what happens is that we get together we decide who we're going to ask to come… and then we start pulling together those invitations and sponsors.

“We're busy really from now and will be busy until next May.

The Festival would like to thank the following festival sponsors for their support: Butterfield, BWCI Group, Carey Olsen, Dorey Financial Modelling, Guernsey Arts, Guernsey Post, Health Connections, Hiscox, Investec, The John Ramplin Charitable Trust, Julius Baer, Praxis, Rawlinson & Hunter, Rothschild & Co, Specsavers, Spring Insure Guernsey, St Pierre Park Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, TPA, Vive La Vallette, Walkers and Walter Property."

Pictured (top): Helen Czerski at Les Cotils. Credit: Chris George.

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