Sunday, 8 May 2016

The making of a book festival - an insider's view. Annie Try

I've been chatting to my sister Pat - she is up to her eyes in organising the Appledore Book Festival.
This is so relevant for us as writers that I decided to find out more to use as my blog today, hence the 'interview' with Pat Hadley-Smith:

Where do you start, arranging something like that?

Immediately after the festival we have a 'wash up meeting' with reports from all those involved in the festival, from the Director through to volunteers co-ordinator, fringe events, schools programme, box office etc., not forgetting the men who move chairs from one venue to another, plus all the feedback from author and attendees.

This provides a platform from which to build.  Dates are set for the next 10-day festival.  In the new year the search for authors and fringe events begins.  Patrons Jeremy Vine, Judi Diers and Nick Arnold provide contacts and everyone involved in the festival makes suggestions.

This is more than I imagined, what happens during the event?

We work on running five events per day.  Usually there is a headline event, a less well-known author, workshop, an event such as a local walk or film, and a fringe event such as pottery/art/performance poetry.  Waterstones provides lots of books from featured authors and of local interest.  Book signings follow events.

You have a number of diverse events - what is your general aim?

To provide access to authors and entertainers and increase interest in reading and the use of libraries throughout North Devon.  The associated schools programme aims to enable school children of all ages to meet a real writer.

How many people attend the festival?

Over 5000 tickets are sold but of course many people attend more than one event.

That's a big number for a small place like Appledore.  How do you draw people in?

Our publicity includes a huge social media presence, local signage, programmes, leaflets, radio interviews, local newspaper.  The event has a real community feel with sponsorship from local companies.

You have a school programme which runs just before the festival.  Do the authors going into schools have to be children's writers?

Yes, they do.  We attract people like Bali Rai, Tanya Landman, John Townsend and Chloe Inkpen.  We have a mix of poets, authors and illustrators.

Umm, perhaps I can do it once I've published a few more YA books.  But one more question, I'm sure our writers would like to know; are the authors paid?

Yes, authors receive £60 per hourly session and do a minimumof two.  They also receive free accommodation, travel expenses and meals plus stewards to accompany them to the schools.

Thank you to Pat for her time and for all the hard work she does to encourage reading in North Devon.

Annie Try is the pen-name of Angela Hobday, Chair of ACW. She is the author of Losing Face, a YA novel. Her novel for adults, Trying to Fly, will be released in January 2017.


  1. It sounds great! A fascinating insight. Thank you :)

    1. This was only a snapshot of what she does - I feel an article coming on!

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  3. That's a lot of behind the scenes work. Warwick has its own Warwick Words literary festival too which brings in some great speakers. I have taken part a couple of times at performance poetry nights. Fun.

  4. There - that's your subject for your next blog or plot! I'd love to hear what it's like to perform at a festival.

  5. Auto-correct changed 'plog' to 'plot' and I didn't notice, sorry!