What better subject for my first blog post than the magnificent Bristol Festival of Literature, which kicks off across the city from 20th to 29th October 2016?
You could argue that the area is already well-served by literature festivals, with big-hitters Cheltenham and Bath just a short journey away. But Bristol, as is Bristol’s habit, has done things a little differently. Since its inception in 2011 it has been organised by an untiring group of volunteers, and funded by local sponsors (including a crowdfunding exercise in 2015). Bristol Festival of Literature remains proudly local, ‘with a desire to see literature represented in fresh, exciting and meaningful ways’.
They’re not kidding. Bristol has a lively writing community and nowhere is this more apparent than when browsing the Festival’s website, Unputdownable … this year there are numerous events hosted by individuals, panels and writing groups, in such diverse locations as the legendary Arnos Vale cemetery, the Egyptian section of Bristol Museum, and the depths of Redcliffe Caves. And to match such a wide variety of locations there are an equally broad range of voices and communities involved, including an exploration of ageing in the LGBT community and a workshop on how to represent difference.
Which brings me to another strength of Bristol Literature Festival … how welcoming it is. This is not a festival of hushed, reverential and well-heeled literati sitting respectfully in rows. It’s a festival to get your creative hands good and dirty, with tons of opportunities to get writing whether you’re an old hand or a complete newbie. You can learn how to plunder the Evening Post for inspiration or smash down your writer’s block to knock out a short story in an hour, hang out with ‘slammers and flashers’, or face your public in some ‘free and frivolous open mic storytelling’ at the pub. There’s no excuse not to get involved, and with so many events taking place in pubs and clubs, you can find out what a friendly bunch the Bristol writing community is when you get your round in.
So if you’re a little tired of those glossy LitFest brochures vaunting actors, comedians, TV chefs and general ‘personalities’ who, having hitherto not been known for their literary prowess, suddenly have a book to flog to the coffee table and Christmas stocking end of the market, dive in and check what Bristol Festival of Literature has to offer. But don’t hang about, several of the Festival’s events have sold out already, and others are filling up fast. Don’t worry though, there are still lots of drop-by happenings on offer for a good old litcrawl.
I’ll see you at the pub …