Louise Minchin on literary festivals
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 November 2018
The Chester-based BBC presenter is brought to book and finds she loves the atmosphere of literary festivals
I loved reading last month’s Cheshire Life article about the literary festivals that are taking place over the next few months and I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I arrived very late at the literature festival party. I don’t know quite how I have missed out on such a brilliant cultural phenomenon.
The first time I went to one was about this time last year, and it was a pretty daunting introduction. I had been asked by Chester Storyhouse to interview former Prime Minister Gordon Brown about his book, My Life, Our Times. Security was tight, the auditorium was packed and we were both a little nervous as we waited back stage.
My most useful contribution at the start was to help him sort out his microphone which had fallen off, so the audience could actually hear his insights and anecdotes about life before and after Number Ten. When I opened questions to the floor, unsurprisingly there were plenty and he answered as many as he could in the time available. For me, that is one of the most inspiring things about literary festivals, the fact that anyone can ask any question they want. The access is incredible.
As he signed books for dozens of people who queued amiably around the entrance hall I was struck by what a unique opportunity literature festivals offer for anyone who wants to see their favourite author, writer, comedian, journalist etc, up close and personal and talking about their specialist subject.
Since that first foray, I have been fully immersed in the fun of festivals. I am no literary giant but I have been travelling up and down the UK talking about the book I wrote last year, Dare to Tri. It has been a wonderful journey. I started in Chester, where I was besieged by open-water swimmers, had a scrumptious cream tea in the tiny picturesque fishing village of Appledore in Devon, braved the intimidating home of The Bard himself, Stratford-upon-Avon, and joined in the electrifying Edinburgh Festival. I have loved every minute, and have been struck by the calibre of writing royalty that turn up (myself excluded), and that every event has its own special atmosphere.
I am sad to say that after imminent visits to Sheffield and Rochdale, my own year of the festival is about to come to a close, but now I know what I have been missing out on, I will continue going like everyone else, as a member of the audience.