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May 17, 2019

Record Breaking Literary Festival

Record breaking Literary Festival

This year’s Guernsey Literary Festival enjoyed a record attendance of 8,605 over its six days. The figure, which includes more than 2,000 children taking part in its education programme, was 18% up on last year’s event, itself a record.

Festival Director Claire Allen said that she was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the event’s success. ‘We’ve had so much positive feedback, not just from those who went to the talks and performances, but from the authors themselves. They commented on the warm welcome they received from the Festival team and the excellent organisation of events.’

Over the six days, there were 67 speakers and 84 events organised, including 18 educational talks by authors in schools to 2,283 children. All the events were planned and organised by a team of volunteers.

Writers and expert speakers covered fiction, history, the arts, music, current affairs, business, sport, health, wellbeing, nature, travel and poetry. The Festival - this was the seventh - has become an annual event, one of the highlights of the island’s arts calendar. Some of the visiting authors said that the line-up and diversity of the speakers rivalled some of the most prestigious literary festivals in the UK. 

The general events were centred in and around St Peter Port, and varied from 450-strong audiences for Adam Kay and Matt Haig to small writing and acting workshops and discussions for local writers.

As well as Adam Kay, whose event at St James sold out so quickly that he agreed to do an additional performance, and Matt Haig, speakers included internationally-renowned novelist Lionel Shriver, inspiring poet Lemn Sissay, environmental campaigning broadcaster Lucy Siegle, and the Festival’s own honorary chairman Terry Waite.

After the event, Mr Waite said, ‘Once again the Guernsey Literary Festival has exceeded all expectations. It was a triumph due to the dedication and hard work of all who took part. Up and onwards Guernsey!’

On his way back from Guernsey Lemn Sissay paid tribute to the reception he received. ‘When you're on  stage and you know you are the right person in the right place at the right time.”

And John Mitchinson, who founded the crowd-funding publisher Unbound and was at the Festival to record a podcast about The Book of Ebenezer Le Page and talk to local writers about publishing, described the Guernsey Literary Festival as ‘a jewel; generous, friendly, brilliantly run and with a programme that manages to combine broad popular appeal with literary quality.’

In addition to its large education programme, the Festival organised one talk in the prison and two at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital as part of its community programme.

The Festival’s WriteStuff writing competition for Bailiwick schoolchildren attracted a record number of more than 700 entries from 21 local schools. There was an excellent calibre of entries for the Guernsey International Poetry Competition as well as a new Poems on the Move campaign on Aurigny aircraft.

Claire Allen said that the success of the Festival has spread outside of the island. ‘Every time a speaker goes back to the UK with positive comments, it’s good for the Festival and it’s good for Guernsey.’

One of the Festival’s speakers was Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, who spoke about why creativity mattered in the modern world. He posted on his Twitter feed, ‘Great discussion with The Guernsey Arts Commission  and Guernsey Literary Festival teams today on value of public investment in arts & culture in terms of place-making, in increasing the quality and opportunities for young people, in improving everyone’s health and wellbeing, and in driving economic growth.’

Speaking after his talk in the Festival Hub, in Market Square, political commentator Professor Albert Weale said, ‘Authors could not ask for more at the Guernsey Literary Festival.  An attentive audience; engaged conversations afterwards when signing books; a programme to entertain and inform when you are not on stage.  And all in the attractive setting of St Peter Port.’

World Ironman Triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington said, ‘The Festival is growing in scale and reputation each year, and it was an honour to be asked to deliver a talk - not only at the Festival itself, to a wide ranging and extremely engaged audience, but also to hundreds of local school children. To be able to inspire the next generation with a love for books and physical activity is a blessing, and I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to share my life journey with them.’

‘I capped off the whole visit by circumnavigating this beautiful island on two feet - experiencing the very best that Guernsey has to offer in the way of serenity and utterly spectacular scenery. I really hope I, and my family, can return to Guernsey the very near future!’ 

Steven Lenton said, ‘Having never been to Guernsey I was in awe of its beauty and culture and will certainly be returning! The Guernsey Literary Festival was brilliantly organised and such fun to be part of. So glad our audience had fun and enjoyed the event as much as us!’

Next year’s festival takes place from 29th April – 3rd May 2020.

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