Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lowdham Book Festival at fifteen

Way back when the world was younger and more innocent, Jane Streeter from The Bookcase in Lowdham and Ross Bradshaw, then of Nottinghamshire County Council, met for the first time in Jane's bookshop. By the end of the meeting we'd agreed to do a dummy run event, and if that worked, we'd run a full scale book festival. It worked, and we did. Neither of us had run a book festival before, though both had organised readings and other events. We learned on the job and the festival grew - and grew and grew. In its tenth year there were sixty events, a winter themed weekend, a weekend long film festival, irregular launches and readings. We started up Lowdham Book Festival on Tour. I'll write up a fuller history sometime, but Lowdham led us in other directions too - Jane became President of the Booksellers Association, Southwell Poetry Festival developed in tandem, both of us are trustees of the East Midlands Book Award... and now Five Leaves has its own bookshop and is heavily involved in the radical bookshop revival.
In consequence - and as it should be - Jane is now the main organiser of Lowdham while I run the traditional "last Saturday", which is approaching like a train...New partnerships have been formed, such as that between the Festival and Nottingham Playhouse. We never wanted the Festival to be static, but we also wanted to keep some traditions - the last Saturday, the reading group day, the cricket night, the technician bringing out that awful yellow staff T-shirt that seemed like such a good idea fourteen years ago.
Fifteen years in literature is a long time but it still gets you. Even just hearing about Bonnie Greer at Lowdham last night (I could not attend) - one of the country's leading Black intellectuals captivating the audience in St Mary's Church in the village made me excited. And on Saturday morning, at 6.30am I'll turn up to set up the bookstalls for our book fair and be castigated, as every year, by the first arrival for my amateurish lateness but that bookseller knows that he will get exactly the spot he wants, the best one on site, as he has every year at that time in the morning. I'l looking forward to it.

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