First Shute literary festival a big success

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 November 2016 | UPDATED: 08:49 23 November 2016

Laurence Anholt (left) and festival organiser Paddy Magrane3

Laurence Anholt (left) and festival organiser Paddy Magrane3

Archant

The first Shute Festival of Literature and Landscape proved a huge success - with a second one already being planned.

More than 200 visitors enjoyed two days of stimulating and inspiring talks, film showings, workshops and discussions.

The festival brought together an eclectic range of speakers, ensuring visitors enjoyed a rich variety of topics in the intimate and beautiful surroundings of Shute Church, lit professionally for the occasion by Axe Valley student Jed Holmes, of Simply Stage.

The festival made more than £500 profit, which will be shared equally between St Michael’s Church maintenance fund and Shute Primary School’s garden campaign.

A separate £300 was raised from coffee, tea and cake sales – money that will further boost the church’s maintenance fund.

Some sponsorship has already been secured for next year’s event.

Festival co-director Samantha Knights said she was delighted with how the festival was received.

“We could not have hoped for a better opening weekend,” she said. “We’ve had amazing feedback, with visitors bowled over by the stimulating speakers and the intimate, rural location.”

Greta Stoddart opened the first day, reading from her moving and life-affirming third collection of poems, Alive Alive O. This was followed by historian Andrew Lownie speaking about the slippery and enigmatic Guy Burgess.

Afternoon highlights included Laurence Anholt reading from his new and now prescient YA Crossover novel, The Hypnotist; Paddy Magrane talking about the links between Freud and crime fiction, and Deborah Dunham revealing the extraordinary story of the restoration of a neglected garden in the heart of Kabul.

In the evening, there was a poignant talk from BBC Syria correspondent Diana Darke, about her personal experience about life in Damascus.

Historian and classicist Bijan Omrani opened Sunday’s events, talking about Afghanistan’s rich culture and history.

Next up were the founder of Bradt travel guides, Hilary Bradt, and guide contributor Janice Booth.

Later, audiences enjoyed documentary maker Simon Deeley’s enthralling film about Argentina’s obsession with psychoanalysis, an extraordinary account of Amazonian exploration by a leading botanist and former director of Kew Gardens, Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, Robert Twigger discussing the multi-layered Himalayas, and Jason Webster talking about the dark Mediterranean underbelly at the heart of his crime novels.

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