Shakespeare and Jungian analysis, sleuthing vicars and the poetry of e. e. cummings… the Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature 2016 managed to combine these and other such varied subjects in a fascinating three-day event. Speakers were drawn from the worlds of literature, theatre, politics, science, conservation and church ministry; with many Christian writers giving insights into their craft and the sources of their inspiration.
This year’s theme commemorated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, providing a fruitful supply of titles, quotes and subjects. Neatly meshed with these was the connection between crime and clergy, murder mystery and ministry, and the many whodunnits given ecclesiastical settings or clerical detectives.
Sponsored mainly by SPCK, the Festival is an annual event held in the pleasant, comfortable surrounds of Bloxham School, Oxfordshire. Sarah Meyrick, Festival Director, says that the Festival’s aim ‘is to encourage a love of literature as it relates to faith, and to create a thoughtful and relaxing space in which to consider works of literature and their religious and moral themes. It's for anyone who is interested in the big questions of life.’
For those grappling with the task of writing within the compass of Christian faith, there was much to guide, encourage and inspire: how to portray goodness and faith in a hostile culture; how novels might better say ‘come and listen in on my curious world’ rather than ‘here’s what to believe’; and the issue of swearing when writing for a secular market.
There was also helpful general advice for writers, chiefly inspired by the comments of published authors such as Salley Vickers, Richard Beard, Sarah Meyrick, Catherine Fox and Kate Charles. For instance, it might be either a source of comfort or dismay to hear that it does not get easier after the first novel – each novel brings fresh problems and uncertainties! Disciplined, dedicated writing time seems a must. The best of the day given to novel writing might appear a hard choice, but it makes a difference. And at each stage there will be setbacks as well as encouragements, so hang on to the encouragements!
Other speakers included the poet Malcolm Guite, who brilliantly unpacked a range of well-known sonnets and some of his own; Baroness Butler-Sloss talking about justice and mercy; Michael Northcott with radical views on politics, the established church, and the sacredness of land; and Bishop Stephen Cottrell reflecting on the way Psalms and great poems can live in our hearts.
On the Sunday there was worship in St Mary’s Bloxham, ending with a Songs of Praise service. David Winter spoke about his book ‘At the End of the Day: Enjoying Life in the Departure Lounge’, and in the afternoon a tour of Stratford-upon-Avon was on offer.
For those interested in attending future festivals, there is more information on the website at www.bloxhamfaithandliterature.co.uk
About the Author
I am a licensed lay minister in Oxfordshire. I have published 3 books with Barnabas for Children – Tales of Grace, Tales for the Prayer Journey and Story Box Bible Tales. I have a website, www.waysidenativity.org, showcasing my nativity craft project and meditational writing. My next project is to rework a children's novel I wrote a few years ago and which still engages my heart.