Tag Archives: Gladfest

Running A Literary Festival

Tomorrow night Gladfest 2015 will start at Gladstone’s Library. We all love a book festival don’t we? In fact many of us probably dream of running our own, even if it was just in our back garden with our favourite authors having a chat on the decking, but what is it really like to organise one? Gladfest 2015’s Festival Director, Louisa Yates, kindly took some time out of her hectic schedule to tell me all about the running of Gladfest and why hosting a festival means so much to her and all at Gladstone’s.


So in case anyone missed me talking about the festival a while back, which I am really excited about, tell us all a bit about Gladstone’s Library and Gladfest?

Gladstone’s Library is a pretty unusual place – it’s a library, yes, but it’s actually much more than that. It was the vision of the Victorian Liberal statesman, WE Gladstone who decided that rather than bequeath his lifetime collection of books to the Bodleian Library or the National Library, he’d set up his own. With books at one end and the later addition of 26 bedrooms at the other (now, boutique style, I am pleased to report), it’s a residential library. It’s also the UK’s only Prime Ministerial library attracting writers, authors, academics, students and visitors from around the world.

 This weekend we’re hosting our third literary festival, Gladfest, and we have some great writers and authors including Jessie Burton, Michel Faber, Alice Oseman, Patrick Gale and Robyn Cadwallader. For 2015 we also have a much more extensive programme of activities for children and young people thanks to funding from Arts Council Wales.

With just a matter of days/hours to go before it all starts, what are you doing right now?

All the actual planning and organising starts around about December time and really kicks off at the beginning of the year when we are compiling the programme and signing up writers. I’d love to think that when we invite people to speak at Gladfest, it has something to do with my sparkling personality but I have to admit, that’s probably not it at all. The library is a truly special place.

We’re now at the ‘putting up the marquee’ stage and ‘getting the craft fair stands sorted’ stage and the ‘nailing fence posts in’ stage. It’s all hands to the pump and we call in favours from far and wide – friends, family and colleagues. This weekend, you’ll find me helping supervising the parking, handing out tickets and introducing the guest speakers –it’s full on but I love it.

Theology Room Gallery

Literary festivals are becoming increasingly popular, where did the idea for Gladfest come from and what’s different about it?

We first mooted the idea of a festival back in 2012. We wanted to stage a series of lecturers but could not find consecutive dates in the diary, so just 17 weeks later we staged our first Gladfest. We’ve tried to hang on to some of that impetuous spirit to make sure Gladfest is a friendly place to be. For us, it’s about the writers and the books and the audience. There’s no Green Room, there’s no VIP area, everyone mucks in together so if you happen to be with us this weekend, don’t be surprised if you are queuing up for lunch with Jessie Burton or Michel Faber.

I’d like to think that Gladfest is the literary festival writers would choose and that’s partly because we’ve been able to draw on a community of people that has been evolving for many years – our regular visitors and patrons include people like Salley Vickers, Terry Waite, Rowan Williams and Tony Benn. I think it’s also because we understand the practical flip side of being a writer. Earlier this year, statistics showed that the average annual income of a writer was about £5,000 and among the literary community, there’s been a lot of discussion about why so many authors and writers don’t get paid when it comes to taking part in cultural festivals. Why? Good question. There’s often an underlying assumption that art does not need to be paid for, and actually many literary festivals are more about ‘location marketing’ to attract visitors to a town or region than celebrating books and ideas. At Gladfest, we provide guest speakers with a package that covers travel, food and accommodation – effectively, everything they will need apart from booze! It means that although we have sold more tickets than ever before this year, we will only break even; at the end of the day we are hosting a community of writers and thinkers, helping bring their work to a wider audience.

Have you already got plans for Gladfest 2016?

 Actually we have! We’re in talks with some very exciting speakers so once Gladfest 2015 is wrapped up, we’ll give ourselves a well earned break during October and November and then get cracking again.

William Gladstone 2


 A huge thanks to Louisa for taking the time out of her bonkers schedule this week. Gladfest takes place this weekend from the 4th to the 6th at Gladstone’s Library located Hawarden, North Wales. I am going to be there all day on Saturday seeing the likes of Sarah Perry, Jessie Burton, Melissa Harrison and Michel Faber, there are a load more wonderful authors over the weekend so do head to https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org  for more information

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Some Festival Festivities This Autumn

I have mentioned before how much I enjoy going to and indeed on occasion being part of a book festival. I told you a few weeks ago that I was going to be heading to Gladfest at Gladstone’s library when it is one over the first weekend in September, more info here, and now I have two more to tell you about as I will up and down the country like a yo-yo at the beginning of October and I am really excited about these trips already. They will be needed as I am sure to be having a bloody massive small comedown after I get back from America and ‘Readers Road Trip’ with Thomas and Booktopia Petoskey with him, Ann and Michael.

The first festival that I will be heading to will be the Ilkley Literature Festival where , on Saturday the 3rd of October, I will be joining author and vlogger Jen Campbell and Unbound Publishing’s editor Rachael Kerr to discuss Writing and Reading in a Digital Age; Books and Reading from the Romans to the Digital Age. This event will happen in Ilkley Playhouse and be chaired by the very lovely Claire Newman, who is the Chief Executive of New Writing North and has kept me in line when she chaired an event I did in Newcastle. I am really looking forward to this as these three ladies are all ace, all very forward and I think the conversation and debate will be rather interesting, if I do say so myself. I am also going to try and sneak into some of the other events on around it, you can find the programme PDF here – it would be lovely to see some of you there.


Top right, not sure I can compete with Patricia Duncker…

Next up, announced just yesterday, is the lovely exciting news that I am going to be the official blogger for Durham Book Festival which runs from the 6th to the 17th of October. Here basically I will be gadding about and doing a series of ‘live’ blogs here on Savidge Reads and also some posts on the festivals website throughout the eleven days too. I love Durham and am thrilled to be heading back, as a child I grew up in Newcastle and trips to Durham Cathedral and its impressive knockers (no sniggering at the back) are imprinted on my brain.


Looking smiley as always, thank you Tim for finding this in the programme.

Now as much as I would love to be there for the whole eleven days, I have got a new job (very exciting and more on it next week) and so can’t be there during the week. However, I am really, really excited as I am going to be giving some master classes, and offering some advice and mentoring, for  some younger writers (who write for The Cuckoo Review) in September who will be ‘reviewers in residence’ while the festival is on. I am so, so excited about this. I bet I will have more questions for them than they will for me. I am also very excited as I will be going to the Gordon Burn Prize winning event, so I am going to be reading all the shortlisted books which I shared with you the other day (which New Writing North are kindly sending me) in advance of the event too. The full programme is here.

So September and October are looking like really exciting and very busy months. New job, lots of events and lots of lovely bookish chatter. Do let me know if you will be at Ilkley or Durham’s festivals as it would be lovely to see you, and of course at Gladfest. Right, I better get reading some books in preparation!*

*It isn’t all books, I have just found out I will be working on LIMF (Liverpool International Music Festival, the biggest free music festival in Europe no less) Summer Jam on the August Bank Holiday weekend, so my life is going completely festival mad, can’t wait!


Filed under Book Events, Random Savidgeness