Thursday, 7 March 2013

Lowdham winter weekend round up

It is difficult to review your own event without sounding vainglorious or, conversely, annoying the hell out of your fellow organisers, writers and volunteers by seeming to diss the work they have done, but I have to say Lowdham Book Festival's winter weekend was a great success, with all the sessions being nicely or well attended and all the speakers giving their best.
It's not all about numbers, but we had somewhere between 700 and 750 attendances over the weekend, with three of the events topping 100. We made a modest profit, which will go towards the bigger summer festival. Unlike summer, where we produce 10,000-15,000 brochures and do a lot of press work, publicity for the winter weekend comprises a couple of thousands leaflets, and email to our mailing list and an article, admittedly front page, in the local free paper, The Bramley. The winter weekend is aimed at our core audience and most of those attending were known suspects. The programme was aimed at them, with Catherine Bailey pulling in the country house fans, Polly Toynbee attracting the book festival left in what became something of a socialist rally, County Archivist Chris Weir attracting his local history fan base, Chris Arnot bringing in the chaps for a talk on beer and football, Roy Bainton playing to the fringe with his talk on weird things and Sheelagh Gallagher, a regular fixture at our events, bringing her followers along for a talk on secrets and lies (the theme of the weekend) in the work of Ian McEwan and Sarah Waters. Indeed, the only debut speakers at the weekend were the crime writer Sophie Hannah and our local Booker-shortlisted novelist Alison Moore. We could have done with a bigger audience for Sophie, but mostly because she was so good and our core audience would have loved her - the numbers were still very respectable for her talk, just there are times when you think that so-and-so and so-and-so would have loved that.
The section I enjoyed most though was interviewing Alison Moore. I had some slight worries as she has only written one novel and a group of scattered short stories, which have not yet been collected, so I was probably the only person who'd read more than the novel, but she was just so easy to interview and the audience loved her. I'll post a later blog on Alison soon, but we are doing another run at it on the 16th at States of Independence in Leicester if you missed her at Lowdham.
The best winter weekends always have a theme, though "Secrets and Lies" is so usefully broad it could just about describe any of our festival content, certainly on the fiction front.
Jane Streeter (fellow organiser) and I had a great time, so thanks to our audience, our speakers, our front of house (especially Liz and Richard Kaczor who attended everything), Mm Deli who ran the cafe and the various stall holders and publishers who we worked with.
The summer Lowdham Book Festival runs from 21-29th June. If you would like to be on our mailing list email with mailing list in the heading.
Given it was a book festival, I should that I left with a pamphlet on the Nottingham artist Marjorie Bates (a cousin of Laura Knight), who I'd not heard of previously, Ian McEwan's children's book Rose Blanch, Karen Maitland's latest medieval murder, The Falcons of Fire and Ice - we'll be asking Karen to come to Lowdham this summer - and a proof copy of Sophie Hannah's next novel.

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