It’s high time I gave you an update on how one small town engages with the world of books. I’ve mentioned Crickhowell in Powys, Wales before as a place where a love of books takes pride of place. Time now to say how it responds to perceived and real threats where books are concerned, but first some positive news!
The first Crickhowell Literary Festival takes place between October 3rd and October 2015. “The Festival features something for everyone,” enthuses the website, and “there will be lots of talks – on books, poetry, art, sport and politics; and there will be readings, stories, interviews, debates, candle-lit literary suppers, creative writing workshops and wholesome walks.”
The 2014 Wales Book of the Year for Fiction winner Francesca Rhydderch will launch the week’s festivities and a reading from this year’s Costa Book Award for poetry winner, Jonathan Edwards, will close it. Other highlights in the week’s line-up include comic writer Jasper Fforde, crime writer M R Hall, bestselling author Mary Lawson, debut novelist Emma Chapman, poet and author Owen Sheers, children’s author Horatio Clare, memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink, author and illustrator Jackie Morris and bestselling writer Deborah Moggach.
The organisers say they’d like to see it “develop into a popular annual event that not only promotes Crickhowell as a cultural destination but also showcases what we, as a town, can offer the wider world throughout the year.” Programme and booking details can be found at http://cricklitfest.co.uk/ and you can also view the festival’s Twitter feed at @CrickLitFest if you want up-to-date information.
Unlike more famous bookfests (such as Hay-on-Wye’s) CrickLit aims to host more intimate events; which in turn means places can be more limited, so it’s worth booking as soon as possible. (I myself will be a stewarding volunteer at many of them, so get to attend a fair number!)
You may also remember the fear of cuts to the local library from the continued squeeze on public spending. That won’t be going away in 2016-2019, as the across-the-board 20% cut affecting all Powys libraries this year was just the beginning. In response to this and related issues the Friends of Crickhowell Library was formed in May to support this valued local facility.
I confess a personal interest: I’m on the Friends management committee. We’ve achieved a fair amount in a few short months, including promoting activities in the library building, networking with town councillors and Powys Library Service and raising funds for furniture, equipment, materials and activities. I’m glad to say we’re on a shortlist to receive £500 from Skipton Building Society’s grassroots-giving fund; but this is not a guarantee of receiving such income. That requires a good old-fashioned public vote, so this is now a plea for you to cast yours (if you would be so kind!) at
Just 162 groups around the country will win pots of £500 “to go towards the fantastic work they do within their local communities,” says the Skipton Building Society, so every vote counts.
So that’s it: proactive ways in which one small town is promoting the centrality of books in a community’s culture. When it sometimes seems like the worst of times, the best of times may still be around the corner if we work towards it.