Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Festivals and Workshops: Yeovil Literary Festival

Welcome to Elaine Roberts with another in her interesting series about literary festivals and workshops. 

This month Elaine interviews Liz Pike from the Yeovil Literary Festival.

Welcome to the RNA blog Liz. Can you tell us something about the Yeovil Literary Festival, how it came about and how long its been running?
We had been talking about developing the arts in Yeovil for many years and really wanted a Yeovil
Literary Festival, but all dreams need something else to make them come true.  It was a case of waiting for the right people to be in the right place at the right time.  Our wonderful theatre, The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, was developing into a major venue for the West Country with a vibrant new manager, Adam Burgan.  Adam, Marcus Bishop, our Waterstones’ manager, and me, Chair of a local group of volunteers the Yeovil Community Arts Association, who do their best to promote the arts locally, came together and talked.   The seed was germinated.  With complete backing from South Somerset District Council we had our main venue, our theatre.  This is now our fifth Yeovil Literary Festival and it’s growing at a thrilling rate. We have other venues now to add to our theatre, making this a festival to come to for the duration moving between events in The Manor Hotel, The Library and the fantastic Brimsmore Gardens. We can also hold major events in our latest venue Westlands.

Who are your main speakers this year?
We have events by some major speakers on sale early as people tend to come to several events, so buying some tickets in June and July leaves time for when the main programme is published in early September to add to the list of speakers.  Our early speakers are Christopher Biggins at the YCAA Literary Dinner in The Manor Hotel.  There are two major gardeners in Sarah Raven and Monty Don this year.  For children there will be Jacqueline Wilson and Cressida Cowell; for crime thrillers we have Martina Cole, Mark Billingham and David Young. We add Michael Portillo, Joanne Harris, Polly Toynbee, Paddy Ashdown, Suzi Quatro, Jay Rayner, Alan Johnson and Jeremy Vine.  In addition there are the popular Professor Robert Winston, Bon Fogle, Dame Harriet Walter, and three well-known actors George Costigan, Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws.  Those are the early speakers and I know there are many more to follow.

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?
The Yeovil Community Arts Association administers annually the international Yeovil Literary Prize writing competition.  When we hear that people who have been published after entering and doing well in our competition are nominated for Romantic Novelist of the Year, then we are proud.
We hold an event for Yeovil Literary Prize Past Winners at our Yeovil Literary Festival and we meet people who are now published and doing extremely well in the world of books.  Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who won our poetry category a few years ago and is judging our Writing Without Restrictions category this year, has won the Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Year with The Girl of Ink and Stars.  David Young has gained literary success with his books Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf.  Babs Morton and Sophie Duffy are brilliant writers who have several books published.  There are many more who tell us their success stories.

Is there anything to enter, if so could details be provided?
The Yeovil Literary Prize is linked with our theatre and the festival as the people who run our writing
competition are also involved in organizing the festival.  This competition opens on January 1st each year with a closing date of 31st May.  Our entries come to us from all over the world and it’s wonderful to hear the voices from other countries and cultures in the entries.

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?
One of the festival venues is The Manor Hotel, situated opposite the Octagon Theatre.
There is Yeovil Court Hotel and two Premier Inns in the town.  We have The Keep sleep boutique and several B&Bs locally.

What does it cost to attend?
Ticket prices range from £6 up to £25 for the Literary Dinner with Biggins.  We often do an inclusive ticket price with a book, and always have a Members’ rate for people who are members of the YCAA, The Footlights Club at the theatre, hold a Waterstones’ card, or a Somerset Libraries card.  We also give Discovery Tickets for some events that people may not be familiar with when they purchase tickets for major speakers.  To listen to an ‘unexpected’ speaker really widens horizons and these tickets are appreciated.

Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?
Yes. We are now mid-July and many tickets for our early events have been sold. Once the main programme is launched in early-September there are queues out of the door at The Octagon, and, of course, tickets can be bought on-line.

How much time does it take to organise the festival?
It’s rather like a jigsaw. It starts immediately after the last one. We each beaver away using our own skills and contacts, then by May we know how the whole festival is coming together. There is still time for last minute speakers to become available and then we promote them alongside our programme.
We like to include local groups with a Mini-Art exhibition, the Yeovil Floral Society with Yeovil In Bloom enhance the festival with floral contributions. Our local library always supports magnificently, and we have pop-up Waterstones at every event.  It takes teamwork and Yeovil is blessed with people with the ‘can do’ attitude needed to launch a successful festival.

Dates for this year and possibly next.

Thursday 26 – Sunday 29 October 2017.
2018 dates TBC.

Link to website:

Email for queries:


Elaine Roberts
Elaine is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and the SWWJ and is currently working on a family saga. She has sold short stories worldwide and enjoys attending RNA events such as the London chapter and our annual conference. Elaine is a great fan of writing retreats either week long by the sea with friends or one-day retreats with fellow writers in her hometown of Dartford. Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called WriteMindWritePlace.





Thank you Elaine and Liz for an interesting interview and good luck with the festival, Liz.




1 comment:

Patsy said...

That's a varied selection of speakers.