We spent last weekend at ChipLitFest, otherwise known as the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, a four day festival that brings the great and the good of the literary world to the gateway of the Cotswolds.
ChipLitFest is a true community affair and is run by a group of dedicated volunteers headed by director, Jenny Dee, who spend most of the year arranging the programme. Over the weekend, the core team are joined by an army of volunteers who fulfil roles as stewards, author liaisons, sponsor guides, chaperones and merchandise sales.
There’s also solid support from local businesses sponsoring talks and Jaffe and Neale, Chippy’s champion bookshop, make a major contribution to the ‘unique community feel of the festival’, as Chair, Martin Neild, says in the programme intro.
Spread across ten different venues in Chippy, there are a real variety of talks. Last year the Festival pioneered a unique arrangement whereby all authors are paid the same share of any profits the Festival makes. It’s true that this has been well received by the author and literary circles. ChipLitFest might not be as large as the famous Hay Festival, but it’s certainly one of the most inclusive, welcoming and author friendly. And this guarantees a great line up for festival goers.
We kicked off our Festival with Ben Miller in conversation with Robin Ince about his latest book ‘The Aliens Are Coming!’ at the Chipping Norton Literary Theatre. The talk certainly showcased Ben’s science credentials with anecdotes from his Phd days – although as a lacking science buff, a fair bit went over my head! We left with the feeling that Robin Ince, from Radio Four’s comedic science panel show ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’, had many more questions for Ben about the latest search for alien intelligence but simply ran out of time to cover them all. Twelve PR sponsored both Shakespeare events including Friday’s ‘Explore a Shakespeare Play’ with Phyillda Hancock. Phyillda, RSC actress and trainer for Olivier Mythodrama, ran through Shakespeare’s As You Like It in one hour, playing all parts and exploring the context behind the play. Fittingly on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare death, we attended ‘1616 – 2016: Learn a sonnet’ with Jonathan Stebbings, also from Olivier Mythodrama whilst enjoying a pint in the back room of the Chequers part. The workshop used the method of phantasmagoria (or imagination) to learn the verse of one of Shakespeare’s famous sonnets. The trouble with audience participation and group repetition – there’s always one smart arse sat at the front running ahead and putting everything else off.
Smashing talk at #chiplitfest @chiplitfest by @mythodrama’s Phyllida Hancock exploring a #Shakespeare’s #AsYouLikeIt A photo posted by Jessica Friend (@jessicafriend1) on
By the time Sunday arrived we were only half way through our literary weekend. For me, as a foodie and a ‘blogger’ (I use this in the loosest sense), hearing Kathy Slack behind the real blog, Gluts and Gluttony, was a real pleasure. Plus it was held in award winning and Cameron favourite Chippy restaurant, Wild Thyme. Talking about writing a food blog, Kathy’s workshop included some tasty interactive activities; we first sampled a snippet from Wild Thyme’s Spring menu and considered how we’d write this up for our own blogs – real and fictional.
Followed by a chance to plate up, MasterChef style, a piece of Kathy’s Rhubarb and Ginger sponge cake. Kathy declared that Tom had gone for the ‘homely’ look. 🙂 We then did our best to take a worthy Instagram shot.
A photo posted by tom bartlett (@fastnbulbous) on
Tom’s favourite talk was given by Alys Fowler, otherwise known as the Thrifty Forager and Gardener and also Guardian columnist. As the programme says ‘central to her work is a DIY ethic that says gardening and forging can be available to all with the promise of beautiful and delicious plants’ – a very appropriate ethic for us, with a new garden and no money!
Our weekend was capped off by Dave Goulson’s talk about ‘A Buzz in the Meadow’ and saving the bumble bee. In 2003, Dave Goulson, Professor of Biological Sciences at University of Sussex, bought a derelict French farm to create a sanctuary for bumblebees and other insects. Did you know there are over 70 different species of bee?
And so that concludes our weekend at the Literary festival and I’d definitely recommend attending next year, with such a varied programme (we only covered six of the 40 odd talks) there’s definitely something for everyone!