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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Chipping Norton Literary Festival (Chiplitfest) 2014 (Photo Heavy)

Chipping Norton Literary Festival

My husband and I went on our first, childfree, weekend away in many years at the end of last month. Destination - Chipping Norton, to their Literary Festival. I have looked at the programmes for lots of literary festivals over the last few years but have not felt able to attend due to ongoing health issues,as I suffer with panic attacks and find it difficult to travel away from home. However, I decided to bit the bullet and after tentatively showing my husband the programme, his words 'well book want you want to see and I will take you', I booked a number of events and started looking for a hotel for the night (after securing a weekend of childcare care of my mum).

Chipping Norton is not too far from Worcester and we were there within an hour. The weather was not ideal, grey and odd heavy showers (my umbrella broke and so husband could be spotted going between venues with a very fetching pink, spotty and frilly umbrella), however the close proximity of the main venues meant we never got very wet.

I have met a number of authors and publicists through social networking, however there is only so much that can be discussed in 140 character tweets or emails.  I was pleased to see that a number of my favourite authors would be attending, although it was  a shame that Penny Vincenzi and Jo Baker were unable to attend.

Our first event was a last minute addition to the calendar - Sir Roger Bannister. This was a very interesting talk which was led by Caroline Sanderson from the Bookseller Non-fiction. The event was sponsored by Send Out Cards who gave each member of the audience a gorgeous gingerbread biscuit. There were many memories discussed during the session and the session ended with questions from the audience, who were listening to every word from Sir Roger Bannister as he reimicised the build up to and that most important race of his life.

The second event for Saturday was Haunting Tales and Citadel with Kate Mosse. The event was led by fellow author Fanny Blake, who we saw alot of over the weekend. The first thing I must say is that Kate Mosse had fantastic shoes on! It was really interesting to hear how she develops her stories, entwining truth and fiction to create her books. The session was held in the town hall which added to the atmosphere. My husband, who does enjoy books, although usually on an audio cd, was also very interested in this session and has added Kate Mosse to the list of authors he must try.

The third session of the day was one of ones I was really looking forward to going to, although I assumed my husband would not enjoy it. Entitled Shoot, Shag, Marry with Fanny Blake, Harriet Evans, Veronica Henry, Janey Fraser the premise was that each author would take a character: Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (Harriet Evans), Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre (Fanny Blake) and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Janey Fraser), with Veronica Henry as Chair. The event took place in a Methodist Church - which was full to the rafters and filled with laughter and cheer, along with audience participation as each author stated their case for their character. The overall winner was Mr Darcy as the one to marry, with Healthcliff being shot! It was a fantastic event, my husband even said that he enjoyed it, and he was not expecting to, although I do think he had a soft spot for Harriet Evans.

We remained in the Methodist Church for Spies of World War Two with Elizabeth Buchan, Clare Mulley, Jane Thynne, Jason Webster. Another interesting talk about world war spies. I had read only Jane Thynne's book but have already ordered both Jason Webster and Clare Mulley's books and have moved Elizabeth Buchan's up my to read pile on my kindle. There were many examples given of the lengths gone to by spies, especially women, to get secrets across and it really showed how unrespected women were in the world when men were searched for suspected illegal materials but females were waved on with not a second glance. 

The last event of Saturday was The Grand Chippy Literary Quiz hosted by Mark Billingham (a festival patron) - what a laugh. Teams of six were invited to enter the quiz. My husband and I managed to combine with another team, which I think was a good thing as I don't think we would of done any good on our own. The event was sponsored by Hook Norton Brewery who gave participants some welcome liquid refreshments. 
There were a number of rounds: book beginnings, who am I photographs, initial authors, pot luck and the much loved music round - did you know there was a song all about Bilbo Baggins! The quiz ended in a draw between two teams - the Buchaneers with Elizabeth Buchan, Fanny Blake, Veronica Henry, Harriet Evans and two more authors and another team. The winners were able to choose between three gorgeous hampers: a food hamper, a book hamper and a bottle hamper! This was a fantastic night and the festival organiser, Clare Mackintosh, said it had been decided before round one was even complete that this was going to be an annual event. It was a fantastic event and enjoyed by all.

Sunday morning saw an early start, the venue, the Theatre was a beautiful setting for a chat beween Fanny Blake and Nicci French, entitled One Writer: Two Minds with Nicci French. For those of you who don't know, Nicci French is actually a husband and wife team, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who work together, but alone, to write fantastic crime fiction. They work together to loosely plot a novel and then one will go away to write chapter one, before emailling it to the other who edits it, returns it and then after it has been agreed, the second author will write chapter two. Fanny Blake was a fantastic host and she delved deeper into this partnership and I really enjoyed listening to how the novels evolve and take shape. This is another author that my husband has shown an interest in reading. Unfortunately I did not manage to get my book signed by this partnership as we had to rush over to the Town Hall for Does Opinion Matter? with Tim Dowling, India Knight, Lucy Mangan, Jane Wenham-Jones.

 Does Opinion Matter? with Tim Dowling, India Knight, Lucy Mangan, Jane Wenham-Jones was the one event where my husband said " Didn't think you would go to that sort of thing". The only reason I can think of is that it was 'journalists', however I really enjoyed the event and he was happy in the corner on Candy Crush! It was a lively discussion listened to by a packed out Town Hall. We had had to rush over from the previous event and it was nearly standing room only, trying to find a spare couple of seats together, in the end I found one in the back row and husband lurked at the back! I am not a Guardian reader but I think after this event I will be - I have missed out on Lucy Mangan and Tim Dowling's columns but they sound very good. I have read a number of India Knight's work and was pleased to be able to hear her writing strategies and daily life within the panel's daily life and their own ways of writing their columns.

Our last event was . In Conversation with India Knight and Gill Hornby with Gill Hornby, India Knight, chaired by Jane Wenham Jones. I have read Gill Hornby's The Hive and have reviewed it on this blog. I did not realise that she was Nick Hornby's sister and married to Robert Harris. I loved the book and thought the rationale behind it was very clever where Gill likened the creation of a hive and the hierarchy of the Queen Bee and her workers to the school playground. It was very interesting to hear about her observations and anecdotes from the school playground and I look forward to her next book about Empty Nest Syndrome.  The event was sponsored by The Chipping Norton Tea Set who provided tea and the most beautiful cakes, all served on bone china tea sets, with gilded handles, making this event a very civilised ending to our festival.

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our festival weekend, although the accommodation we had organised for the Saturday evening was not what we expected, however this did not spoil our weekend and we are already organising accommodation for next years event which is being held on 23rd-26th April 2015.

Throughout the weekend the shop owners and villagers of Chipping Norton and the team behind the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, fantastically led by Clare Mackintosh, provided a fantastic event. Between events my husband and I wandered around a food market which was held on both days - i must give a shout out to the fantastic brownies that were sold, the raspberry and chocolate ones melted in the mouth. Downstairs in the Town Hall a pop up coffee shop was staffed all weekend, with teas, coffees and home made cakes. I know on Sunday it was hosted by a local primary school (sorry I have forgotten their name) and they provided a gorgeous spread of cakes and soups.  I also enjoyed rumaging in the local charity shops, adding to my book pile, during the gaps within the timetable.

There was also a gang of Yarn Bombers who brightened up Chipping Norton with their bookworms throughout the town as can be seen below:

We also had a three hour gap between events of Sunday and following a disappointing evening meal at our Saturday night accommodation we had a meal at The Chequers in Chipping Norton. This was a gorgeous meal - we both had burgers (I had Lamb and Darron had Venison). The meals were very reasonably priced, cooked fresh and served quickly. The pub also had a range of local beers and there was a great atmosphere. The landlord was very friendly, chatted to us and was able to give us recommendations for next years accommodation and local attractions.

I should also mention the local independent book shop, Jaffa and Neale Bookshop and Cafe who were at every event giving opportunities to buy the author's books and also providing a 'hub' for the festival.

All in all, my husband and I have had a fantastic weekend, one which we will remember for a long time. My husband has found some new authors to try and I met up with many authors who I have chatted to via Twitter and Facebook (thank you to all of you who knew my blog and commented upon it) and also met new authors who I hope to work with in the future and literary agents and publicists.

My husband has already said that we are going again next year and I am looking into booking accomadation and I can't wait until the Autumn when authors will begin to be announced.

This is an honest and impartial review of our weekend at Chipping Norton Literary Festival.

All photographs included have been taken by my husband Darron Broadhurst.

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