A celebration of Guernsey’s literary history, the Guernsey Literary Festival is one of the island’s most anticipated annual events. Featuring local writers in addition to well-known international names, the festival offers a wide-ranging schedule of events that will engage and delight both locals and guests staying at The Old Government House Hotel & Spa and The Duke of Richmond. Part of the team behind the festival, Nick Le Messurier, gives us an idea of what to expect from 2018’s jam-packed event.
How did the idea for Guernsey Literary Festival come about?
“The idea was to organise an event based around reading that was accessible to all, an experience people in Guernsey might otherwise never have, and to bring tourists over to our beautiful island as well. We had experience of other bigger literary festivals and we organised our first festival in 2011. From there it grew into today’s successful annual event.”
What do you think it is about Guernsey that has provided writers with literary inspiration for centuries?
“Islands are special. You are never far from the natural world, from the great power of the sea, and many a creative mind has been inspired by that. Victor Hugo certainly was. And you can also hide away on an island and concentrate on your work. Guernsey has also been a melting pot of cultures, positioned as it is between the historical powerhouses of Britain and France.”
What can visitors expect from this year’s festival?
“Important and fascinating speakers and a great atmosphere! The Festival is centred on a small area of the capital, St Peter Port, which must be one of the most beautiful port towns in the British Isles.
This year’s speakers include media personalities Evan Davis, Jenni Murray, June Sarpong, Gary Younge and John Crace, best-selling novelists Gail Honeyman and Rachel Joyce, inspiring campaigner Katie Piper, scientist Steve Jones, award-winning poet Daljit Nagra, and two amazing endurance athletes, cyclist Juliana Buhring and runner Mimi Anderson.”
What books would you recommend reading in the run up to this year’s festival?
“Every one of the speakers has recently published a book, whether on politics, social issues, health or history. Check out their details on our website. If you are interested in novels, I’d recommend reading Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Absolutely Fine, which continues to be Britain’s number one best-seller.”
How does the Guernsey Literary Festival work with the local community to create an event that’s relevant to both locals and visitors?
“The Festival has a thriving education and community programme. Last year, no fewer than 2,000 school pupils were involved, with writers and speakers going into schools and into the prison. There are also writing workshops for people who write, or want to write for publication or for pleasure.
For visitors, there’s the opportunity to hear well-known local and off island authors, as well as attend scenic events such as a literary walk around Herm with author Paul Sherman, giving snippets of the tales from his book, Where Seagulls Dare, and other talks from Herm Island.”
Can you tell us about the two competitions taking place as part of the Festival?
“The 2018 Guernsey International Poetry Competition will be judged by Daljit Nagra during the festival. It attracts entries from all over the world and, as well as money prizes, the winners will have their poems on display at the Airport and on the buses. For youngsters, the WriteStuff competition gives local children and young people the chance to show their writing skills. Again, the winners’ presentation will be held during the Festival.”
Are there any local writers or authors who have written about Guernsey that we should know about at this year’s Festival?
“Annie Barrows, co-writer of the best-selling The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, will be in Guernsey on 14thApril to talk about the book and its film adaptation.
Then, during the Festival from 10th-13th May, Lara Dearman will be talking about her powerful debut novel, The Devil’s Claw. There will also be an exhibition and talk by Philip Eastwood on the life and work of David Bagley, who was a Guernsey resident.
Duncan Barrett will also be speaking about his latest title, Hitler’s British Isles, and exclusive pre-release copies will be on sale. Artist Frances Lemmon and poet Jane Mosse celebrate island folklore with a vibrant collection of paintings and poems, Guernsey Legends.
Patrick Barkham will talk about his book, Islander, and his experience traveling from large islands to ever smaller ones including Alderney in search of their special magic, uncovering bizarre and touching stories about island life.”