BLOG Rachel Carney

NWR Issue 112

The Cardiff Book Festival

The Cardiff Book Festival took place at venues across Cardiff from 28 to 30 October, and was host to a wide array of publishers, writers and literary stars.

Just four months ago a small number of us attended the launch for the first ever Cardiff Book Festival. We gathered on the top floor of Cardiff’s magnificent Central Library, to hear about a weekend that would not only celebrate the literature of Wales, but also bring writers from further afield to participate in debate, discussion and dialogue. Looking back over the last three days, it is clear that the festival achieved its aim. Audiences have been entertained, challenged and inspired with a varied programme of events, including workshops, political debates and children’s activities, as well as interviews with writers of almost every genre.

From Cardiff Contemporary and Artes Mundi, to Made in Roath and the Sŵn Festival, Cardiff is already brim full of cultural events, and many of its residents regularly venture to nearby Hay-on-Wye. This, perhaps, goes some way towards explaining why the city has never hosted a book festival of its own before. The organisers did well to produce a festival which was both stimulating and comprehensive in its scope.

A range of publishers, forms, genres and subjects were represented, with events aimed at people of all ages. There was a strong emphasis on Welsh writing, with a small number of writers who had no clear connection to Wales. But, as the capital city of a country with a strong literary tradition, it surely makes sense that Cardiff’s Book Festival should be the place to showcase the best of Welsh writing. That doesn’t mean, as pointed out by Tom Bullough and Cynan Jones, that Welsh writing must always be about Wales. Cynan argued that the struggle for a definition of Welshness in literature can be distracting, and that people really just want good books to read. Both writers described their desire not to be seen simply as a Welsh writer, emphasising that what they write is designed to have universal appeal.

As with all good literature festivals, this one allowed its audiences to discover the trials and tribulations involved in the writing process. Owen Sheers described his most recent book, I Saw A Man, as an attempt “to write an intimate novel about a globalised world”, and revealed that during the seven years it took to write, he re-wrote the first 10,000 words three times.

It is always interesting, at literary events, to find out how the stories began. Dan Tyte’s debut novel, Half Plus Seven, was inspired by meeting a psychic in New York, whilst Holly Müller wanted to explore her own family’s experience in Nazi-occupied Austria. Jonathan Edwards described the need to just write a poem, no matter what it’s about, whilst Caroline Smith took her initial stimulus from people she’d met through her work at an immigration surgery, allowing ideas and thoughts to germinate over time.

There was plenty of humour, too. Deborah Moggach entertained us with the story of her forthcoming film, an adaptation of the novel Tulip Fever, which has been twenty years in the making. Ron, her milkman, once caused a stir in the local media. Moggach had made a throw-away comment about a cameo role for him, and he had contacted the press. Later, filming had been set to go ahead, when Gordon Brown announced a change in tax law, so that everything was forced to stop. The new film will now be released in February.

Actress and Agatha Christie-fanatic Kimberley Nixon interviewed Sophie Hannah, who regaled us with tales of her Twitter distractions, unusual breakfasts and inability to stick to a writing routine. She did point out that Twitter provides a useful platform for “observing humanity at its most dysfunctional”.
The Cardiff Book Festival of 2016 has been a resounding success, providing a platform for discussion and a celebration of literature in all its forms. The organisers deserve a well-earned break, but I am sure that literature lovers across the city will already be looking forward to the Cardiff Book Festival of 2017.

Rachel Carney is a book blogger at www.createdtoread.com


       


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