Local news, and it has to be the LitFest!!

I  haven’t written any blogs as part of the 73 challenge – something a friend and I set ourselves to write one each of the suggestions of a list of possible blog subjects we came across. We are coming up to a third of the way through, and we’re thinking of pulling them together, editing them, and possible publishing them!

I have got to number twenty-five… writing about local news, and what has been most in the news locally? The first Weston-super-Mare Literary festival.

Weston-super-Mare grew from a small fishing village on the Bristol Channel, with just a few farmers and fishermen in 1804, to a town of nearly eighty thousand people today. Although always supporting a variety of industries and in an agricultural area, Weston’s main industry became tourism. However for a variety or reasons, not least cheap, sunny holidays abroad, the fortunes of Weston took a downward turn. This didn’t daunt the town and its people – there have been many initiatives and events to once again make Weston a great place to live and work, and a great place to visit as a tourist, day-tripper or  holiday maker!

The inaugural Literary Festival started two weeks ago and finished on World Book Day; the festival was underpinned by the idea of it being a local festival for local people. It was clear from the start that the organisers wanted to tap into the amazing talent born, bred or living in Weston and its hinterland. There are many other book and literary festivals which want to attract big names with no connection to the venue – Weston wanted to do it differently and do it better.

A tremendous amount of hard work went into planning and preparing the different events, with some wonderful venues to host them: the newly refurbished museum, the also newly refurbished Blakehay Theatre and the Stable Creative Hub (described as Weston’s new independent co-working space) All these venues are part of Weston’s story, its history and heritage; the Museum building used to be part of the gas works company  – formerly  the workshops and store for the Weston-super-Mare Gaslight Company; the Blakehay was Weston-super-Mare’s first Baptist church, built in 1850;

From the autumn 2017, events were planned and organised, more and more added as new ideas sprang into life. Talks, readings, poetry, workshops, children’s trails, parties, book day activities, panels of experts, q quiz, and many other small events organised by individual groups and clubs.

At last it was time open the box office and within a few days some events had sold out! Within a week or so, most events had sold out! There was a press launch with local newspapers, radio stations and other media present. A networking party took place so the participants could meet each other, talk, chat, exchange ideas and… network!

Yes, there were successful and widely read published authors, but all had strong connections with our area, Lord Archer (Jeffery Archer) of Weston-super-Mare, Damien Boyd who grew up in Burnham, Justin Newland who lives in Somerset, Huw Powell from up the road in Portishead and Amanda Prowse who also lives locally and a quintet of local writers of romantic novels. As well as these well-known writers there were  others such as me who self-publish and are very active leading and teaching writing to different groups.

Then it was the day! The week unfolded with all the different activities in the different venues all happening like clockwork thanks to the brilliant and yet low-key, light-touch organisation. I led my two workshops and attended two other events, I have also spoken to people who went to the other talks and discussions – and the audiences were thrilled with everything they attended. it was a fabulous success.

So that is our local news!

It’s likely there will be another LitFest next year, building on success! I hope I am involved, but I will be attending as many of the events as I can because I know they are going to be fantastic!

… and here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_9?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsd%2Caps%2C143&crid=3NRKMBZD0XVBL

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