FRIDAY 26 APRIL
I have now been Junior Reporter at ChipLitFest for four years and I’ve often made simple things complicated for myself because I’m pretty incompetent. However, even I feel that I am now very comfortable with the festival process. I usually know how to choose events that align with my specific interests, I can get around town without consulting the map too much, and I’m even able to time events so that I can have new books I’ve bought signed AND still get to my next event (if a little on-the-dot!).
Whilst I know that many others also know this fantastic festival well, I thought I might supplement my now traditional annual review of my own Festival experiences from this year with some handy tips for “rookies” in preparation for their first trip to ChipLitFest next year, to make sure they can feel the same delight as I felt on my first experience of the Festival.
John Simpson’s event was in the Theatre; a great venue because of the gallery seating above and food and drink for sale in the bar – if you’re going to be at as many events as me all day (i.e. as many as chronologically possible), the bar is one of many fabulous places to snack yourself up (as well as the yummy Jaffé & Neale café) because there won’t necessarily be time for full meals unless you can make it through a main course in fifteen minutes! John recounted his life as a reporter, bringing some truly thrilling (and terrifying) stories to the table, which had provided the inspiration for the premise of his new book, Moscow, Midnight. Although the event was an interview in format, John was given free rein to lead an enthralled audience through various riveting anecdotes that gave insights into his extraordinary life and experiences.
Afterwards, I had the most BRILLIANT time at Nikita Gill’s event in the library (so nice to be surrounded by books whilst talking about books!). Oh. My. Gosh. Insightful, witty, and motivated to make a positive impact, Nikita involved the (unfairly small) audience in an almost informal chat about some serious issues, addressed in her beautiful book Fierce Fairytales. These issues included looking at society’s failure to recognise bullying as a product of unhealed trauma, its failure to represent women as abusive as they can sometimes be, and the failure to educate children about the nuances of reality by demonising perpetrators without considering their redeeming qualities or investigating how they became abusive. As Nikita herself explained, she did not write the book of poems to excuse the behaviour of abusive individuals but rather to highlight the harm caused by past abuse to the abusers themselves. She believes in treating the cause so it cannot happen again, not simply treating the results. Despite the solemn topic of conversation, Nikita was able to keep the event light hearted and humorous (especially when Game of Thrones came up in the discussion). And when I met her afterwards, she was supremely nice to me; honestly one of my new favourite people for being so wonderful, not just a favourite writer for her gorgeous poetry.
Another tip I would recommend for newcomers to literary festivals is – if possible - to read the books of events you are going to in advance, because you can read it first with your own interpretation and then with the new perspective gained from the event. This isn’t always possible but it can add a lot of value to your whole experience – plus, you can scamper to the head of the queue and get it signed first while everyone else is busy buying the book!