‘I [want to] congratulate you on a tremendous literary festival. We enjoyed it immensely and marvelled at the quality of writers you attracted.’ We’ve received many kind comments from people who attended the festival during the weekend of 11th-13th October. Even though it bucketed with rain on Saturday, we got good turnouts for all the events. The dust has settled and we’ve had our wash-up meeting.
The festival was a Franco-British event run by a joint team. We could have done with several extra hands, despite press-ganging spouses and other hangers-on into the fray. And we owe huge thanks to local people who put up authors overnight and looked after them. People said how smoothly everything went; they weren’t aware how fraught it was behind the scenes (‘Ducks paddling hard beneath the surface,’ as one author put it).
It started with a French words and music spectacle. The festival continued throughout Saturday and Sunday with a parallel series of workshops and author talks in French and English. The authors signed their books and we sold them.
I won’t run through the programme in detail, which you can see here. We were fortunate to attract a wide range of authors with very different styles. They all talked in some way about the craft of writing and gave useful tips, e.g. use a computer without Internet access to avoid displacement activity. One for me. A writing friend said afterwards, ‘I must say I’m feeling very inspired after the weekend.’
In addition to author sessions, Anne Dyson, who ran the Greedy Goose cookery school in Aveyron, demonstrated making canapés. She managed to produce a dozen different tasty morsels in the space of an hour, while delivering a witty, informative and seamless spiel. She selected me as her assistant, which she might have come to regret, but I got to wear a rather nice white apron.
Some good tips from Anne:
- parsley stalks have more flavour than the leaves, so don’t discard them
- use a paintbrush instead of a pastry brush
- let guests shell their own quails’ eggs!
We held a ‘meet the authors’ dinner on the Saturday. Seventy people crammed into the local auberge de La Castille, where an author hosted each table. The ambience was friendly and convivial, as it had been in the author sessions.
What did the authors themselves think? Here are just a couple of comments:
‘I had an absolute ball! I knew it would be interesting but I had no idea how much I would enjoy myself, everyone was so lovely and the atmosphere was fantastic.’
‘I thought your festival was great and I was really pleased with the crowd that came to see me – a wonderful, interesting group of people and I felt there was a really warm ambience.’
Naturally, we could have done many things better. This was our first time running such an event and you certainly learn from experience. But its overall success shows what you can do in rural France with an enthusiastic team.
A second festival is planned for next year. Watch this space.
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