John Simpson, Kate Morton and Gervaise Phinn are hardly Five Leaves' writers and we do keep a curtain between the press and the Festival to avoid being seen as too self-serving though naturally we use our contacts, as Jane uses hers, and if it feels appropriate we programme Five Leaves' writers about as much as we would similar writers from any local publisher. This year, for example, Mark Patterson gives his first proper talk on Roman Nottinghamshire, John Lucas dusts off his talk on England in the 1950s, Danuta Reah represents the Crime Express lot and some other writers - David Belbin especially - are published by us but are speaking to their work with other publishers. The Festival also provides the venue for the first East Midlands' Book Award which Jane and I (and John Lucas and David Belbin) have set up and act as trustees for, with Ian McMillan chairing the judging panel. The winner gets £1000 and the shortlist has been promoted as widely as we could. We're not the judges though, and no Five Leaves' or Shoestring (run by John Lucas) writers, Bookcase contacts or graduates of the MA in Creative Writing (run until recently by David Belbin) are on the shortlist. Honestly, you ask the judges to act completely independently without fear or favour and then they do! What sort of world are we living in?
If you can only make Lowdham on one day, come on 25th June. We have a huge book fair, an all day cafe, a full children's programme and 16 events for adults. That day, all events are free and a we put up a pile of marquees to host talks and stalls. Traditionally that is mostly one of my programming days so we have talks on the Moomins and philosophy, anarchism for beginners and on Shelley, but this year Jane has sneaked in talks on the footballer Tommy Lawton (he used to run a pub on Main Street) and invited Jasper Fforde whose auntie lives in the village. I'm not complaining. We also have some talks over the festival on music - Rob Young on visionary music, Graham Jones on the last of the record shops and Ian Clayton on "Bringing it all back home". With the local Warthog Promotions we have live music too - Barbara Dickson and The Demon Barber Roadshow. All part of the fun, and while Barbara Dickson has written a book we never worry too much about that, and the Festival has included early music, rock music, classical music and Indian music. Nobody ever asked why Kiki Dee has appeared twice at the Festival, with not a book in sight. What is important to us is that we provide a platform for our local talent as well as provide entertainment or inspiration from "national" figures. And we can be a bit cranky, hence a talk on Buddhist meditation and a Byron bicycle trip. I should point out that Jane booked the former! Our first step into "inner life".