Shaftesbury’s New Literary Festival Launches Volunteer Recruitment Drive

Have you the skills or experience needed to help put on Shaftesbury’s new literary festival? Plans have been announced for a weekend event, starting in Autumn 2020.

Rosie King is steering the project and she told Alfred’s Keri Jones that she wants more residents to get on board. “Something like thirty years ago I founded a children’s book fair when I was teaching in Cornwall, which was an amazing event. It ran for ten years,” explained Rosie, who is clearly not a rookie!

The Motcombe resident and Shaftesbury Arts Centre board member is also a published author. Rosie launched ‘Missal for Murder’, the first book in her Dorset-set medieval murder series, last year under the name Rosie Lear.

Rosie King

The three-day festival event will feature talks, discussion, readings and interviews from visiting and local authors and booklovers. “A literary festival is just a celebration of books, writing and the power of words,” said Rosie. “We’ve had one inaugural committee meeting with people that were suggested to me. What seems to be coming out of this is that the countryside should be our theme, particularly since there is some beautiful countryside in Dorset and around Shaftesbury. We will probably go further afield as well.”

The festival will have a focus on factual and fictional writing that features the great outdoors, landscape, wildlife, the environment, nature and rural life. And Rosie says Shaftesbury is crying out for its own event.

“Although there are literary festivals around, we’ve nothing here in Shaftesbury. It is such a literary sort of town and yet there’s nothing here. There is one in Mere, which is very successful, and Sturminster Newton has just started one,” said Rosie

View from Fontmell Down – countryside writing will feature prominently in the new literary festival

And she believes the local event needs the special countryside angle. “It is important to make sure that the one that we have here is different from any others. Rather than having random authors, who perhaps would agree to come, we will work our theme through in all sorts of different ways,” said Rosie.

It’s early days yet, but the event could include walks, additional activities and local foods that could be presented in tandem with the book-sessions. And there could be a crossover with some of the ‘spoken word’ elements of Fringe. The two events are unconnected, but the Shaftesbury Fringe committee offered the literary festival planners its full support recently, which pleased Rosie.

“I think it is important. I don’t want anybody thinking, ‘Oh, not another festival’. We want this to be slanted differently. We have no wish to tread on anybody’s toes in the town. I think it’s very important that we all work together and that our things are different in some way.”

It will take time to prepare this new event, so Rosie says the festival will launch in 2020. It will take place in either October or November of that year. She has considered its timing carefully. “For practical purposes, there’s a highly successful Fringe Festival in June. There’s the successful Food Festival in May. There is the Snowdrop Festival in January. And last year, the Arts Centre did a Marmafest in the winter. That was one reason for picking November, so that it didn’t coincide with anything else. There are quite a lot of literary festivals around and we didn’t want to clash with any of the local ones. It seemed wiser to try and get a little bit of clear water,” she said.

Rosie has some committee members on board but says that there are opportunities for more residents to join the team. “I’m certainly hoping for skills that I don’t have – things like graphics, secretarial and computer skills.”

Grosvenor Arms Hotel

She hopes to find a project leader who will act as a Festival Director, too. “To be in the driving seat and have the energy and enthusiasm to drive this whole idea forward. I know from experience that to organise an event like this takes an awful lot of time and energy. We’re also looking for commitment.”

Rosie says you don’t necessarily need to be a bookworm to volunteer. “It would help if you understood that we are trying to promote books, but that’s not essential. There will be some people who know about books and will guide us in that way. The energy, enthusiasm, expertise and the skills of the people who join us will hopefully be quite diverse, but not necessarily book-pointed,” she said.

If you are interested in getting involved, Rosie says you will be welcome to attend the next meeting at 7pm on Monday 12th August at The Grosvenor Arms Hotel. “They are very supportive and have already agreed we can use the hotel as our main venue,” she said.