Once is never enough
Lavenham Literary festival has audiences and authors coming back for more
THERE’S topiary in the shadow of the grand medieval church, multi-coloured higgledypiggledy houses on the high street, the National Trust Guildhall celebrating the wool trade heritage, and a stunning timber-framed luxury hotel in which to stay, relax and dine in comfort. It’s not hard to see why so many people flock to Lavenham for a short break – even in November.
One of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing contestants will be certainly be taking a break there, escaping the ballroom to join other speakers at the fifth Lavenham Literary Festival in November from November 17 to 19.
It boasts an impressive line-up including the Rev Richard Coles who has been announced as one of this year’s contestants in the popular BBC prime time dance show – as well as speaking at the festival’s concluding session.
Lavenham Literary Festival has become a firm favourite among its many regular supporters and has earned an enviable reputation for providing a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for speakers and audiences alike.
This year’s event – at venues including Lavenham Guildhall and The Swan Hotel and the village hall, just off Church Street, which can accommodate up to 200 people – sees the return of firm favourites Tracy Borman, Clare Mulley and Tracy Chevalier – all with newly released books – as well as many highly-rated authors making their first appearances at Lavenham.
Speakers include wildlife writer and novelist Simon Barnes, while best selling novelist, and now Suffolk resident, Erica James will be in conversation with the Radio Four Saturday Live presenter JP Devlin. The programme also includes a panel discussion with Churchill biographers led by Andrew Lownie, Charles Abel-Smith (From Eton to Ypres), Daisy Hay (Mr & Mrs Disraeli), crime writer Sophie Hannah in conversation with her mother, children’s author Adele Geras, and Greg Votolato (The Golden Age of Ocean Liners).
Festival secretary, Colin Rockall, said: “The popularity of the event led the committee to increase its size to 10 sessions, as well as a sell-out festival dinner and an all-day creative writing course.”
A course of creative writing focusing on the natural world, will take place on the Saturday, hosted by tutor Bridget Holding, and a children’s writer will go into Lavenham school
to meet with the 110 pupils on the Thursday ahead of the festival proper.
In addition to the principal sponsors, The Swan Hotel at Lavenham and Mattioli Woods plc, local organisations and businesses have given their support in various ways.
While some events take place in the Guildhall and Swan Hotel, the central venue is the superb There is an upper room for smaller audiences, and the village library is housed here. The hall’s staff and Friends support the organisation of the festival.
“It is very much a community effort,” says festival secretary Colin Rockall. “We have a lot of volunteers – nobody is paid.” Colin has been involved from the beginning when the idea of a literary festival was conceived by a resident, Sir Clive Rose, in 2008. It’s success could signal a new direction, according to Colin.
“We did have a highly successful children’s book festival last year so we may run that in alternate years with the main festival.”
Lavenham Literary Festival November 17-19. www.lavenhamliteraryfestival.co.uk
Lavenham feature with James Marston.