I first came to the Book Festival 30 years ago in 1993, as an employee. It means a huge amount to me – first having worked there, and subsequently attending. Working there really introduced me to the world of books in many ways – it was completely pivotal in many ways for me. I’m terribly proud of having been involved with it.
I’m from a bookselling background and I came into the Booksales Team as Bookshop Manager. I was really pretty ignorant about festivals before that, though I had lots of bookselling experience. It was extraordinary how it all worked. There was a huge sense of shared effort within the team. You just did what was needed – if ever there was a problem or a disgruntled customer, you wanted them to come away feeling like things had been dealt with.
One memory that stands out for me was when Ranulph Fiennes nearly failed to arrive for his event. He eventually arrived around 15 minutes before it started, having got lost on his way from the train station – for one of the country’s most renowned explorers, it made me laugh!
I’ve continued to enjoy it over the years since I stopped working for it. I loved bringing my daughter when she was young – both excited but nervous about meeting authors – even now I still get slightly nervous! So many authors were just lovely to my daughter though. And of course we also came to socialise – just meeting friends for coffee and looking for books are key memories.
I’ve kept attending because I share the Book Festival’s ethos: what books and the world of books can do for you. It means you never stop learning or being curious. For me, the Book Festival has been a door into a whole new part of life. I see it as part of the fabric of the city. It’s the leader of the pack and has spawned a lot of children – you can see that evidenced by all the other book festivals that now exist. But it’s still here – it has pedigree.
I support the Book Festival because of all that I’ve gained from it. I want other people to have that too and I want the work it does to carry on. As the Festival has grown, it’s started to more closely respond to the themes of the day. It addresses serious issues – and it is so incredibly important to have platforms where ideas are shared and where people don’t necessarily agree with each other.
The Book Festival now has to change. Superficially its appearance might be different in the future. But the things I value about it – being a space for discussion, providing a place for conversations to happen – remain as they were. Now they are more key than ever.
Long may it carry on. It can be anything – from a nice afternoon to an encounter that changes your life. Don’t dare stop!