As we all know the Covid curveball has thrown so much of what we love to do into chaos over the past 18 months, but happily more and more events are now able to take place due to people being jabbed as well as a redoubling of efforts to keep everyone safe.
One popular – and free local event which is returning after being cancelled last year is the Cranbrook Literary Festival. It promises to bring entertainment for all ages thanks to its children and adult author talks, creative writing workshops and general discussions on all things literature and beyond…
“The Cranbrook Literature Festival is a two-day, biennial event held to celebrate Cranbrook’s literary heritage and to promote the joy of the written word to children and adults in and around the Cranbrook area,” explains organiser Christine Newman.
“It is a not-for-profit organisation, run totally by volunteers, all passionate about reading, writing and all things booky!”
Taking part this year are author Deborah Moggach, horticulturist Tom Hart Dyke, screenwriter and novelist William Nicholson, and broadcaster Iain Dale who will be in conversation with Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark.
They will appear alongside other speakers including The Noir Collective writing group, children’s picture book supremo Sophy Henn, journalist Hilary Wilce and local poets Hubert Moore, John Rice and Bowie Adams.
Cranbrook Literary Festival was established in 2016 by Christine who describes herself as a ‘book geek’.
“As a librarian, creative writer, book geek and a life-long lover of attending literature festivals – Cheltenham. Charleston, Hay – I decided Cranbrook was the ideal place to hold our very own festival,” she explains.
“I gathered a few like-minded friends together to see if the idea had legs …and it turns out it did! We very much wanted to focus on it being a not-for-profit community event, accessible to all and to include events for children at the local schools which would be free of charge. It was, and still is very much about promoting the joys of reading and writing to the community. We look to cover our costs but not to make a profit and all involved are volunteers.”
Christine goes on to say there is plenty to excite her and fellow book lovers about the local literary landscape.
“There is a vibrant arts scene generally in the Weald area: there are lots of artists, writers, photographers and theatre people and so promoting the literary aspect of the arts fits very well with the area.
“The authors attending this year were chosen to suit a wide range of tastes so we have fiction writers and poets as well as non-fiction authors of political books, gardening and food. You could say it’s an eclectic mix!”
And despite being knocked off the calendar due to Covid last year the event is very much back for this year. So what does Christine hope the future holds for the Cranbrook Literary Festival?
“Currently it happens every other year which suits the fact that the organising team all have jobs and the festival is organised in their free time. We are hoping this can continue in this way but we are keen to do one-off author events too in the year between festivals. We are, of course, always looking for more sponsors, and without the generous support of our local sponsors the festival would not be possible.”
Christine says there are many highlights to be enjoyed for all ages at this year’s festival.
“Deborah Moggach is certainly one. Her last book The Carer was a masterful piece of fiction and she has a new book out now, Black Dress, which has had terrific reviews in the national press. I’m also keen to hear from The Noir Collective – a group of local writers who specialise in writing dark, mysterious and suspense tales. And of course I’m looking forward to the poetry recitals from Hubert Moore and John Rice who both used to live in Cranbrook.
“But, I am super excited about the whole programme having spent time putting together a range of writers to suit all tastes. Tom Hart Dyke, creator of the World Garden will be fantastic to listen to as will Pen Volger, fantastic foodie and author of the bestselling Scoff.
“My hope is that the now the festival is established it will continue to bring writers into Cranbrook for the whole community to enjoy.”
Full details of the programme and booking details are available from: cranbrookliteraturefestival.com
The events offer an eclectic mix of speakers:
Deborah Moggach will be talking about her new novel Black Dress as well as her best selling Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
William Nicholson will speak about his many novels and work on film scripts for Hope Gap and Gladiator
Pen Vogler will enlighten us on her new book Scoff – A History of Food and Class in Britain
LBC broadcaster, political commentator and journalist Iain Dale will speak about his books and will be in discussion with local MP Greg Clark
Tom Hart Dyke, a botanist/traveller/adventurer/TV personality/writer and creator of The World Garden will entertain with tales of his many adventures
The Noir Collective will present psychological, mystery and suspenseful writing advice
Iain Dale photo: Steve Ullathorne