Some Thoughts Upon a Festival

Written by Angus MacLennan.

It used to be a truth universally acknowledged that a town in possession of a good audience, must be in want of a Literary Festival.  But then the tide turned, and the perceived wisdom nowadays is that there are too many Festivals.  This is surely missing the point and the Marlborough Literary Festival proves it.

The purpose of the Marlborough Literary Festival is not to become the next Hay Festival, or a literary Glastonbury, it is an opportunity for the community to celebrate its own interest in reading and writing, no one else’s.  There is no other Festival that is going to do that for this town, so how can it be one too many?

Festivals concentrate the mind of the reading public, making it more likely that an audience will gather for an unknown author, or authors, than if they were offered as a stand-alone event.

This is a fact. The Marlborough Literary Festival understands this absolutely – it has at its heart a desire for discovery. By including young unheralded or, sometimes, young, heralded yet ‘unread’ authors alongside some stellar names the audience for one will be trusting of the inclusion of the other, and there is no greater attachment than that between a writer and a reader who discover each other early.  The Festival can always be better, and it will be, but it can never better this remit.

For The White Horse Bookshop, life as the Bookselling Partner for a festival is a time of pleasure, stress and, if you are not careful, greed.  The Marlborough Literary Festival, compared to previous events on this scale that I have been involved with, has been heavy on the pleasure, minimal yet measurable on the stress and negligible on the greed.  The concentrated nature of the weekend, along with various venues being used simultaneously, created a logistical challenge easily overcome with a little planning and, more importantly, with wonderfully willing and engaged staff.

The White Horse Bookshop sits in an enviable position of supporting the festival (to the hilt) without being a central player in its existence.  We are merely an entirely wholesome and necessary part of it all.  Buying books after all is all about pleasure – sublimated maybe and delayed almost certainly, but one of life’s great pleasures undoubtedly.

From a personal point of view it was an almost perfect weekend.  The town was full of readers; the sun was shining; authors in, authors out, authors to show around the shop!  When I look at the Town Hall now (and in our position I can’t really help doing so) it will always remind me of walking a hundred times through the automatic doors, for a hundred different reasons, but all of them something to do with books.  Which was a pleasure and a privilege.

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