WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swoot,
The drought of March hath pierced to the root,
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages, to literary festivals
Yes folks – it’s LitFest season.
I started my preparations early this year: not something to be undertaken lightly in the face of what must surely be Britain’s most badly organised literary festival.
The easiest way of doing this is to go through the festival guide: or it would be if you could get hold of it more than two weeks before the start of the festival. Staff at Blackwell’s were in despair at having to keep telling people that it hadn’t arrived yet (and “it gets later every year”). I finally managed to get one last Wednesday and even then I had to go down to the Norrington Room to get it.
(The Norrington Room is where I want to go when I die – there or Harrogate – Harrogate has a better tea room, but the Norrington Room has more books).
By this time I had already picked my events from the Festival website and sent the list in to Daily Information. As with other types of review, you get a free ticket, but have to get your review in pretty sharpish after the event. You also have to be confident that you can produce a review. For me this involves a reality check – is this something that I know about or would I need to do some sort of preparation? A Lecture-performance of Indian Sanskrit Manuscripts sounds fascinating, but could I write a review?
My eventual shortlist consisted of:
- Film Oxford (walking tour around sites linked to films)
- What on Earth Evolved? (with Dippy the diplodocus)
These are both daily events, so it seemed to make sense to review them at the beginning of the week.
- My Sister Rosalind Franklin: Discovering the Structure of DNA(with Brenda Maddox – who wrote the definitive biography of Franklin
- The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life (Bettany Hughes – someone helpfully gave me the book last Christmas)
These are events that I thought were interesting.
- Chocolate is the Word (Creative writing project by students of from a local secondary school , because I think that it’s something that should be covered and it’s good to encourage young people).
Obviously, you know that you’re unlikely to get everything on the list, especially as Daily Info is likely to be fairly low in the pecking order as far as the Press Office is concerned.
I’ve been allocated tickets for The Hemlock Cup and Chocolate is the Word. I may go to the Rosalind Franklin event and the biotechnology event in any case (i.e. as a member of the public) and there are also a couple of free events that sound quite good. Shame about the diplodocus.