Review of Dorchester Literary Festival 2016
With over 2500 visitors, the DLF’s second year proved that the Festival is now an important part of Dorchester’s cultural life. Expanded to five days and over 20 events, including several sell-outs, the Festival followed and built upon the pattern of diversity established last year, and we were delighted by the response from visiting authors, the audiences, sponsors, advertisers and supporters.
Lord Dannatt launched the first day’s programme with his History of the British Army from 1945, and then Penrose Halson discussed True Stories from a 1930s Marriage Bureau with William Boyde. The day ended with our now familiar Hardy Today panel, with novelists Rachel Joyce and Dinah Jefferies in discussion with Tony Fincham on the subject of strong women.
The second day was held at Kingston Maurward college, and the talks had a country theme. John Challis started the day, talking with Steve Harris about his life and the restoration of his medieval house. James Macdonald Lockhart then gave a riveting and powerful talk about his book on British birds of prey, Raptors, a Journey through Birds. Brain Bates took us back to Dorchester in the Great War, and then Robert Penn demonstrated literally the title of his book, The Man who Made Things out of Trees by bringing along everything that had been made from his ash tree. The day ended with our patron Tracy Chevalier in conversation with Penny Strong about her book At the Edge of the Orchard, and about apples and cider-making.
On the Friday, John Wright continued the country theme by bringing to life The Natural History of the Hedgerow, and then Helen Rappaport took us back to the dramatic days of autumn 1917 in Petrograd, aided by Jason Goodwin. The history theme was maintained by Damien Lewis with his story of Hunting Hitler’s Nukes: The Secret Race to Stop the Nazi Bomb, a gripping adventure story delivered in a breath-taking manner. Victoria Hislop, aided by Steve Harris, then entranced her sell-out audience with her intriguing and romantic mystery story, Cartes Postales from Greece. Alison Weir explored the complex life of The Lost Tudor Princess and then Sir Tony Robinson brought the day to an end before another sell-out audience, discussed his autobiography, No Cunning Plan, with Paul Atterbury.
Daphne Selfe, elegance personified, delighted her audience as she discussed her autobiography, The Way We Wore, with Lucy Ambache, and offered exciting insights into her stylish life. Next came a thrilling performance by Dr Julia Shaw as she talked about The Memory Illusion, leaving the audience uncertain about their own memories. Judith Miller, in conversation with her Antiques Roadshow colleague Paul Atterbury, took us on a journey through her life as a writer and publisher of antiques and art books. The day was closed by the ever-popular Crime Time event, with Ann Cleeves in conversation with Minette Walters
Also on the Saturday were several events for children, organised by the Dorset County Library, and a writing workshop run by Allie Spencer.
First up on Sunday was Elisabeth Luard, who took us through her life as a traveller and cook , discussing Squirrel Pie and Other Stories with Jason Goodwin. Next came the father and son pair, Anthony and Ben Holden, whose anthology, Poems that Make Grown Women Cry, had many reaching for their handkerchiefs, thanks to the dramatic reading of some of the poems.
Kate Adie closed the Festival in splendid fashion, as Paul Atterbury took her through the extraordinary story of her life via her Desert Island Books, in front of another sell out audience.
The Festival’s success was gratifying for us, but that success reflected both the great support received from our audience, and the hard work from so many, not least our great team of volunteers. Now we are planning the next Dorchester Literary Festival, to be held from Wednesday 18th to Sunday 22nd October 2017. So, watch this space.