Literary first for town

An exciting new chapter has been written into Berwick’s increasingly popular festival season, with the addition of the Berwick Literary Festival which launches in eight days’ time.

Organisers felt the wealth of literary talent in and around the town was a story just waiting to be told, and after much hard work, Berwick’s first ever festival of books will mark the extraordinary writing and illustrating talent concentrated in the vicinity.

The two-day festival will bring together a host of award-winning authors and illustrators in an exciting programme of free talks, readings and workshops, with something to suit all ages and interests.

“We have got the other festivals and we were looking around to see where the gap was,” explains Christopher Smith, chairman of the steering group behind the venture. “People said it’s literature. We decided to go for ‘literary’ festival instead of ‘book’ festival because literary isn’t just about books.”

North Northumberland boasts a whole host of creative talent – singers, actors, artists and film makers are celebrated by the Film and Media Arts Festival, and Christopher feels it’s high time writers are given a turn in the spotlight.

“In many ways, it’s a surprise that it has never been done before,” he says. “The town of Berwick and its surroundings are so rich in creative writing talents; it is a hub of award-winning, industry-recognised authors and illustrators of children’s literature, as well as writers in many other genres.”

After a few teething problems, the festival has been arranged in just five months.

It features workshops, talks and tours, with contributions from internationally known authors and illustrators Mick Manning and Brita Granström, who designed the eye-catching festival logo; football writer Tom Maxwell; novelist Bea Davenport and children’s book writer Cara Lockhart Smith.

These are just a small selection of contributors and exhibitors to the festival, which also offers a tour of Martins the Printers in Spittal and an open mic session.

“We have pulled it all together since May, which just shows there is a will in the town for it to be done,” Christopher says.

The inaugural festival will showcase and celebrate local talent, with exhibitions and workshops in the first schools running in conjunction with it. An exhibition of children’s illustrators’ work will be in situ in the Granary Gallery from October 11 until January 18.

“Next year we’re going to go for national names, but this year it’s all local,” Christopher says. “The good thing is it shows the talent that there is locally which is phenomenal.

“Because so many acclaimed children’s writers and artists are based here, this year’s inaugural event has a focus on writing and illustrating for young people – but you can also find prize-winning adult fiction writers on the programme too.”

Tickets for all festival events can be obtained by contacting the Maltings Box Office (Tel 01289 330 999) or visiting The Maltings in person. All tickets are free, but be quick as spaces at some events are limited.