by Charlotte Sabin
Wonderful host, festival founder and critically-acclaimed novelist, it’s apparent that Patrick Gale is a man of many talents.
As a range of festival-goers began to fill the marquee for the final event of the North Cornwall Book Festival 2015, I begin to realise this great writer’s ability to galvanise excitement.Locals, Londoners, writers, artists; the diversity of festival-goers is a hopeful sign of the South West’s commitment to literature and appreciation of the arts.
Patrick’s talk is captivating, as he leads us through his in-depth research process for his latest work of fiction A Place Called Winter. The book, inspired in parts by the author’s own family mystery, leads the reader from England to Canada, where the fictional Harry Cane explores his new relationships in order to finally connect with his own experiences. Patrick discusses his process, reading excerpts from the book and allowing the audience a glimpse into his collection of family photographs and letters that hugely inspired this story.
The author is interviewed by romantic fiction writer Alison Mercer. Both sit comfortably in armchairs on the stage, surrounded by flowers. Darkness falls outside, but the warm light inside the marquee makes for a cosy atmosphere, as if the audience have been invited into an intimate conversation between old friends, full of reminiscence and a genuine admiration for each other’s work.
In the audience sit other acclaimed writers, including Neel Mukherjee and Patricia Dunckner. Behind the scenes, a network of individuals enabling the festival to reach a huge fan base of readers, authors, agents and publishers who were not able to drag themselves from the city to the Cornish coast. Booksellers, bloggers, tweeters, photographers, stewards, cake-bakers, tea-makers; each playing a valuable role in the success of the weekend.
The North Cornwall Book Festival is an excellent example of the potential for small festivals to bridge the gap between events and workshops, both at the festival site and in the wider world. The online coverage of the festival, from social media and blogging to photographs and interviews has been exceptionally good, with authors, agents and publishers commending the high quality of content. The standalone blog received almost 500 views over the weekend – for a three year old festival held in a hamlet in North Cornwall, that’s very exciting.
Close links with primary schools in Cornwall and Falmouth University have allowed the educational merit of the festival to shine, with a diverse range of authors speaking on the Friday to a packed marquee of schoolchildren aged 7-15. These readers are a publisher’s dream; the YA fanatics, the Booktubers, the writers of the future. Seeing young people so engaged in literature is a clear demonstration that, of course, print has a long and lustrous future ahead. It is refreshing to be involved in a festival that is not threatened by digital, but welcome it is part of publishing, realising its value as an optimistic platform, with a focus on storytelling through innovative means.
This is a festival with firm roots in the countryside, with its primary concerns being fantastic literature and inspiring writers. This won’t change, and will only get better thanks to its connectivity with online platforms for coverage increasing its accessibility, keeping one eye on new digital technologies in literature and publishing.
Patrick is looking to the future, and with his list of outstanding authors taking shape for next year’s festival lineup, we’re already looking forward to it.
Photos: Dan Hall