The Town Council has welcomed plans for Shaftesbury’s new literary festival. During Tuesday’s meeting, they heard that the programme for November’s event reads like a ‘who’s who’ of British countryside and nature writing.
Sue Clifford, one of the volunteers arranging the ‘Reading the Land’ Shaftesbury Book Festival, told town councillors that there are now over 300 literary festivals across the UK. The inaugural local event will be devoted to English wildlife and countryside writing because the organising committee wanted Shaftesbury’s festival to have a clear focus.
“Some of us didn’t want it to be like any of the rest,” said Sue. “We are aiming for a high-quality event with national status. We have worked hard to find a fantastic array of authors, all of whom have agreed to speak.”
Sue revealed that respected nature writer and broadcaster, Richard Mabey, has agreed to be the patron of the event. “He is the top man as far as nature is concerned,” said Sue.
Confirmed speakers include Keggie Carew, Isabella Tree, Christopher Nicholson, Philip Marsden, Stephen Moss, Mary Colwell, Kate Bradbury, Ben Hoare and Yuval Zommer.
“They are writers who excite, expand and share cultural knowledge and imagination about nature and the land. We hope to stimulate positive ways of living with local nature, and encourage us to play our part in mitigating the effects of climate change,” Sue said, before reminding councillors that the event would ‘fit in’ with the council’s recent declaration of intent on climate change.
The main venue for the book festival will be The Grosvenor Arms Hotel. “We hope that we will bring people from across the country, but they will have to fight for seats as The Grosvenor sits around seventy people,” said Sue.
The committee intends selling tickets online later in the year, but the high profile of the author of ‘Wilding’, Isabella Tree, following her ‘Desert Island Discs’ appearance, means her talk will be in great demand. Isabella has agreed to present a second session at Shaftesbury Arts Centre. The Library will also provide a space for some activities during the festival, which runs from the 13th to 15th of November.
Sue told councillors that the festival aims to promote Shaftesbury. “We will be bringing people into Shaftesbury and building a reputation for excellence,” said Sue.