Sunday, 1 July 2012

Lowdham Book Festival, that's it for another year

The last chair has been stacked, the last wine glass dried and the last cake eaten. The last speaker will be on his way soon. Lowdham Book Festival is over for another year - except that we have a year round programme so it's back to the Methodist Chapel on Friday for a "First Friday" lecture. But nevertheless, what stands out? Firstly, I realise I'm getting a bit old to put out 500 chairs on my own. Does Peter Florence do this at Hay? Secondly we must bring back our "last Saturday" book fair and all round jamboree. This year, because of family problems, I wasn't able to organise this, and the Festival missed it. I missed it. Thirdly, we might be on to a winner with a new funding stream. At our Dickens Day at the St. Mary's Church venue, someone turned up late for a session, but that happens, so he was duly charged £3 to come in. After praying for a while he left. Goodness me. Right, since we now do pay-to-pray, next year we could have a scale for charges - absolutions, confessions, holy relics.
What stood out from the programme? I couldn't attend everything this year, but the highlight for me was The Bookshop Band - one of the few events where ticket sales were lower than we expected. The Band write songs about books, it's as simple as that, but well crafted songs played on all sorts of instruments including an eighteenth century cello. More about them on Ticket sales were really pretty low for the Band, and we're not having that so next year they are coming back as a support act for a must-see author. The band is currently on tour round small indie bookshops and book festivals - do see them if you can, or book up when you see them at Lowdham next year.
Regulars will know that though Lowdham is a Five Leaves project (run jointly with The Bookcse in Lowdham) it is not a festival of Five Leaves writers. This year our Pippa Hennessy designed and layout out the programme and publicity material. Our sole featured book was Made in Nottingham by Peter Mortimer, though some Five Leaves regulars and irregulars appeared on other platforms including John Lucas (a Lowdham fixture), Chris Arnot, Jon McGregor, John Harvey, Stephen Booth and Heather Reyes. Attendances were around 2,500 and ticket sales in total were among our best ever. In these times that is good going.
My fellow organiser Jane Streeter had to do most of the work this year, and she must be exhausted. But the Festival would be impossible without the staff of The Bookcase, our technician Mark Gittins and our regular front of house team of Julia Pirie, Richard and Liz Kaczor and Helen Pallett.
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