Praise pours in for Marlborough’s literary festival to become a permanent event

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

Marlborough’s literary festival now seems destined to become a permanent major event following the overwhelming success of the latest festival – in fact only the second to be staged.

Praise has poured in for last month’s festival, the first in the country to shy away from celebrity authors and concentrate on contemporary literature, including that of home-grown authors, as well as fun events especially for children.

“It was wonderfully supported,” novelist Mavis Cheek, who created the festival, told Marlborough News Online after brushing aside customary pre-festival fears that it would be an awful flop.

“The edgier events delight their audiences, some events infuriated parts of their audiences – and why not? – and all in all the word going round the town was that it had been another great success.”

“As some wag said to me after the last event, ‘Well, you can have tomorrow off and then you must start planning next years’ festival.”

That was the same conclusion of the festival’s main sponsors Brewin Dolphin, who support six significant arts events in Wiltshire, among them the Marlborough Jazz Festival, the Marlborough Sunday concert series and The Merchant’s House.

“This year’s literary festival  was even bigger and better than last year,” said Myles Palmer (pictured), divisional director of the leading private client investment company.  “The committee does a great job in the organisation and it feels as if Marlborough should always have had a lit fest.”

Michael Pooley, proprietor of the White Horse Bookshop

Despite the recession, he added: “We will be maintaining our support for the foreseeable future.  There are no plans of scaling back our support for the local community.  We continue to want to support, as much as is possible, the community in which we work and live.”

And a congratulatory echo came too from Michael Pooley, proprietor of Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop, directly involved in the festival for the first time this year, who announced: “The festival was a big success for us as well as the whole town.”

“There was real underlying enthusiasm for the festival.  Including children’s books, we sold not far short of 1,000, which is a lot for one weekend.  People do enjoy buying books and getting them signed by their authors as well, which is always fun.”

“Yes, it was good business and I am very grateful to be involved.”

He pointed out the same of the best attended events – more than 250 at each of them -- were those for young people, particularly Lemn Sissay at Marlborough College and Lauren Child at St John’s School.

At Marlborough town hall the shining stars were Judy Carver, daughter of Marlborough’s own Novel Prize-winning author William Golding, who has written a family memoir, Anne Seeba and Deborah Moggach.

The festival too coincided with a personal triumph for White Horse, a mainstay in Marlborough since 1948, which has been named Vintage Independent Bookshop of the Year by international publishers Random House.

“The Vintage award is in the form of a very nice £1,000, which will be divided among the staff, and extra terms for Vintage book sales for the next six months,” explained Mr Pooley, who has owned the White Horse since 1973.

Accepting the award at a champagne event in London, bookseller and buyer Liz Loikkanen, said: “It is so exciting to win…We’re lucky, we have a loyal customer base and they have stuck with us.”

“We have been in Marlborough for 60 years and we are still going strong.”