Launch of first St Albans Literary Festival

Organisers and supporters of the St Albans Literary Festival with Mayor of St Albans Cllr Annie Brewster outside the Fighting Cocks Pub Organisers and supporters of the St Albans Literary Festival with Mayor of St Albans Cllr Annie Brewster outside the Fighting Cocks Pub

Matt Adams
Friday, February 28, 2014
11:51 AM

A new chapter has been opened in St Albans’ cultural calendar with the launch of the city’s first literary festival.

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Presented by the Herts Advertiser, the inaugural St Albans LitFest will take place between November 6-9, and promises to be a celebration of story-telling of every kind.

St Albans can boast some pretty heavyweight literary connections. The first draft of the Magna Carta was drawn up in St Albans Cathedral; Francis Bacon, scientist and writer, thought by many to be the author of some of Shakespeare’s plays, lived in Gorhambury House; Dickens penned some of Bleak House in the city; and the brilliant scientist and writer Stephen Hawking was educated at the oldest public school in the country, St Albans School.

The full contents and a list of guest authors is still being established, but confirmed venues include St Albans Cathedral, the Maltings Theatre and St Michael’s Manor.

Talks, guided walks and workshops taking place over the course of the festival will focus on great works of literature, children’s fiction, journalism, poetry, non-fiction, copy-writing and blogging.

Nationally-acclaimed writers will rub shoulders with local writers to ensure the festival provides a truly egalitarian approach to literature in all of its many forms.

Local historical fiction author Kate Griffin said: “St Albans is the perfect place for a literary festival. Who could fail to be inspired by its wonderful, winding old streets, magnificent cathedral and atmospheric beamy pubs?

“St Albans people are an arty, creative and literate bunch. When I walk home from the station on winter evenings I am always struck by the groaning book shelves clearly visible through warmly lit windows. Our city has clearly been waiting for a literary festival of its own for a very long time.”

Jonathan Stroud, the bestselling author of the Bartimaeus sequence and his new Lockwood & Co series added: “I’m so pleased to hear St Albans, my home town, is going to get its own literary festival and I’m hoping I can be involved as much as possible. A well run literary festival can offer a city many benefits: attracting tourists, promoting arts venues and, most importantly, encouraging people, young and old, to discover and celebrate the joy of a good book.”

The Herts Advertiser will be the key source of information for the festival, with updates in the newspaper and via our bespoke website - www.stalbanslitfest.co.uk - and we will also be running a short-story competition in the run-up to the event.

Editor and festival director Matt Adams said: “Most places in the UK have some sort of a literary heritage, and St Albans is no exception. But more relevant than this is perhaps the fact that story-telling is at the heart of St Albans’ history. The city has always been the first coaching stop for travellers out of London - as can be seen by the huge number of old inns and pubs in the area - including the oldest in Britain, another story there.

“From the legendary story of Britain’s first saint, Alban, in Roman times, to the present day, the city has thrived on tales of Romans, peasants, heretics, monasteries and monks, not to mention royalty, highwaymen, film directors and golf pioneers.

“It is fitting to have a literary festival in this city of stories, and we are looking forward to welcoming locals and visitors alike to some of the city’s great venues and public houses to celebrate literature of all sorts.”

St Albans Mayor Cllr Annie Brewster lent her support to the event at the official launch on Saturday: “I am so excited about the brilliant idea to have a literary festival in the city. The arts play such an important part in St Albans life and this festival will fill a very obvious gap in our, already diverse, community events. Watching the enthusiastic children here today and the way they engage with books makes me want to write one. I am really looking forward to listening to some enthralling writers in some stunning St Albans venues in November.”

Sophie Banks from event publicity team Loudbird PR said: “A St Albans Literary Festival is long overdue. This city is a hub of creativity and culture, teeming with writers of one kind or another. I am sure there isn’t another city in the UK with as many bookclubs! The response from locals to a Literary Festival has been overwhelming, and I am sure it will also attract many visitors to St Albans.”

The festival team is now seeking sponsorship, not only to cover this year’s costs but also to grow the event in the future.

Nationally acclaimed blogger and festival director Claire Walsh, who is coordinating the event, explained: “St Albans Literary Festival promises to be an exciting event for the city and its wider community. However, we do need the support of local businesses who I hope, will see the value of sponsoring an event which brings the joy of reading and writing to a wide variety of people.”

Jennifer Blackford is overseeing the children’s element of the festival: “In addition to a brilliant programme for adults St Albans Literary festival will have an exciting line up of children’s events and activities. We want the younger generation to be inspired by some of their favourite authors to write and read for enjoyment. There will be an emphasis on fun and engagement, so whether you are a toddler discovering books for the first time, are just starting to read independently or are a seasoned reader with a heaving bookshelf there will be something for you.”

For details on how to get involved in the festival as a volunteer or speaker +or to enquire about sponsorship, please email stalbansliteraryfestival@yahoo.co.uk

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