Reflecting the range of events on offer, Pheebs reviews a host of bookish events from song writing to journalism with a few novels in between.

Seeing the ChipLitFest banners back in Chippy was a wonderful sight; there was a carnival mood in the air and heads were held high as attendees walked between venues for events. Jaffé & Neale presided in the pride of place, as ever, with their excellent cakes and tea, and ChipLitFest proved, yet again, that it is a huge success.

I kickstarted the Saturday with the wonderful John Dougherty, with his event of writing a ‘Festival Song’. The aim of it was, as the name suggests, to write a song about ChipLitFest as the result of audience collaboration and participation. Although a children’s event, I can truthfully say that there were many (by which I mean almost all) parents and grandparents joining in and shouting out, often more enthusiastically than the kids. By the end of it, we had indeed composed a catchy tune, complete with lyrics from a chorus and three verses, which we were able to sing all the way through. It was an infectiously mischievous and happy event, in which it was impossible not to feel good. I came away singing the song we had learnt, making several passers-by give me a funny look.

A fleeting stop in Jaffé & Neale’s gave me a quick boost in energy, easily achievable when surrounded by delicious food and even more delicious books, and then I was off to ‘New Voices 2018’. Hosted in the local Methodist Church, the atmosphere was very relaxed and content, with three authors, Sarah Franklin, Guy Gunaratne and Mahsuda Snaith, being hosted by Joe Haddow. Deeply personal and honest, with many witty instances, the interview was engaging and insightful, heavily featuring the authors’ excellent books and exploring the crucially significant themes central to each of them; including the impact of terrorism and radicalisation, the position of individuals in secluded societies and finding individuality in complex family and friend relationships. Touching and contemporary, it was a valuable experience.

After that, it was my pleasure to attend the writing workshop on ‘Journalism’. Resources were provided for us, so that we could revisit the workshop material in the future, although Danny Lee answered many quite specific questions on the spot. Journalism isn’t often covered in literary festivals as it is a significant way outside of the mainstream narrative fiction which is the usual focus. However, ChipLitFest incorporated not just journalism, but also other fascinating literary areas, such as nature writing and even how sound can be represented on a page (more on this in Sunday’s post!). The workshop itself was incredibly useful; covering a range of issues from sources to article structure. It gave a friendly approach for newbies such as myself to the world of reporting and encouraged us in thinking about how we might report on a topic and, just as importantly, get the attention of the media in order to make them buy our article. Overall, I found the workshop informative and responsive to the participants’ needs; exactly what is needed for an interactive and educative experience.

Another children’s event was next: hiking up to the ACE Centre Nursery school, I was able to see Peter Bunzl’s event about his Cogheart series of books, with two novels out already and a third on the way. There was, like in the series, a heavy theme on robots and mechanical elements, with a dress up challenge competition, whereby two kids, representative of the ‘Bleep’ and the ‘Bloop’ team, could put on one robot garment for every correct answer to quiz questions that their team answered. It was great fun, and although there was a heavy emphasis on robotics, there was also a bunch of tips and facts on designing characters, plot features and settings based on inspiring sources, and on how to find those sources.

My final event of Saturday was the Barbara Pym event. A sizeable cluster of us congregated to form a pretty large book group to discuss Pym’s novel entitled ‘Excellent Women’. Led by Pym expert Andrew Male, the event was highly captivating as different interpretations flew around the room. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back yet motivated atmosphere created by the constant ability for everyone to pitch in with their own opinion. It helped me to appreciate the book in a lot more depth and with a greater understanding, and it was lovely to see how Barbara Pym enthusiasts and rookies alike interacted with such eagerness and fervour. It provided a charming end to a fantastic (yet tiring!) day at ChipLitFest.

That was Saturday; Sunday awaits!

Click here to read Pheebs' review of Excellent Women