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Hastings Literary Festival

Sam Davey could have come out of the womb with a book in her hand.  From there it was hardly a stretch to bcoming a writer herself and then to co-founding the first Hastings Literary Festival. When HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths talked to her about this new addition to the Hastings annual calendar of festivals and events, she explains: “I was raised on books. I could read before I could walk”.

Samantha Davey

Samantha Davey

Sam had been brought up in the Isle of Wight, loved the sea, moved to Durham “as landlocked as you could be”, to Befordshire but there was always a longing to get back to the coast. The move to Hastings has proved liberating and creative; it has given her the space for clarity to write. Soon after Sam moved here she met the festival’s co-founder, Marcia Woolf. Both she and Sam are published authors: Marcia, author of Roadkill and its sequel, Get Out; Sam author of Angels of Islington. They got talking – and the idea of the Hastings Literary Festival was on its way.

A year in the planning, they decided to go for their dream list. That was something I learned many years ago from David Frost: ‘always start at the top’. Like tends to attract like; you can always lower your horizons but it is somewhat harder to raise them again.

So they contacted David Hare, who was born in St Leonards – and is now their sponsor. From there, other acclaimed names fell into line, like writer, Patrick Gale and actor, Julian Sands – with many other writers taking part, including some recently published and on the beginning of their literary paths.

 So what is its difference from other Festivals?

David Hare

David Hare

There are literary festivals literally up and down the country – from the far reaches of Ireland to the lumbering beast of the Hay Festival… so why is this different? Sam has a ready answer – after all she didn’t work at the Cabinet Office for nothing. “It is writing for writers. There are so many creative people in Hastings and St Leonards, artists and muscians who seem to have established their own spaces, so we thought it would be good to celebrative the simplicity and expressiveness of the written word.”

Sam and Marcia have put together an interesting programme: varied and inclusive of different genres of writing, from sports, film, crime, science fiction, children, life stories, wellbeing and mental health, fantasy, poetry, song, film scripts and, of course, novels. Even writing a novel in Tweets.

Ostensibly, the festival is somewhere for writers to talk about the writing process and how they write – and  to encourage writers to find their own voice. Sam herself found her own voice from attending the Hastings Writing Group, discovering it, surprisingly to her, in fantasy.

Marcia Woolf

Marcia Woolf

They have explored difference and diversity. There are writers like Sophie Hannah, an internationally known poet and writer who has been accepted by the Agatha Christie Foundation to continue the Hercule Poirot novels; Kevin Brooks, about to pubish a  young adult novel; poet Simon Mawer has a new book, Prague Spring, and will also be talking about the experience of his novel, The Glass Room being transformed into a film; Rachel Malik’s novel Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is based on a skeleton found in her family’s cupboard of  a grandmother involved in a murder trial – she will talk about her story, the research and filling in the blanks; Rianna Walcott  has written about mental health and creativity.

Children can make a book, you can meet the authors – and there will be a screening of the Oscar winning film, The Hours. And lots more.  

Is this the right time for the Festival?

With the number of Festival in Hastings is this the right time for a new one? There is somewhat of a log jam in September: the annual Coastal Currents, the new photographic festival, Through the Lens, Seafood and Wine, International Composers Festival all vying for attention – which can all, understandably lead to festival fatigue. Sam rightly points out there are apparently 58 festivals celebrated in the town and if spread out that would be over one a week. So there probably is never a right time.

What was surprising about the Festival?

“People are coming over from the Netherlands, Belgium, France. We have entries to the crime novel competition from the States, New Zealand, Ireland and Europe. We have 60 committed volunteers and we managed to get Arts Council Funding.”

I wish the Festival well. Inevitably, it will change over time, ambitions will come to the fore, some things will work others perhaps prove over ambitious. Whatever happens ,what they have achieved thus far is not bad for a start up.

Hastings Literary Festival runs from 31 August – 2 September  Look at their website for times and the various events and gatherings around the town.

Posted 14:50 Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 In: Literature

2 Comments


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  1. Sunbear

    Oh, and when counting I missed a couple more mentioned above.

    Comment by Sunbear — Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 @ 00:19

  2. Sunbear

    Not festival fatigue at all for me. Just until I can time zone them as I do TV watching, I simply can’t go to as many as I would like as I physically can’t get around them all when there is a plethora of festivals and events. Next Saturday I counted 5 including the very pleasant Bexhill Sea Festival. But I wish this new literary festival all the best and hope it becomes an annual feature of our creative and original town.

    Comment by Sunbear — Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 @ 00:17

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