Friday, February 02, 2007

Port Eliot LitFest



This is the first of what may be several plugs for the Port Eliot LitFest. I've weaselled my way into this marvellous book festival for the second year running, and am already looking forward to it.(Actually I think they're quite glad to have me - they say they're going to be quoting me on this year's promotional literature, banging on about how brilliant the whole thing is.) I've put a permanent link up, under 'Events'.

For three days each summer the Port Eliot Litfest takes over the huge private estate of the Earl of St. Germans, down in Cornwall. Port Eliot House is your classic, slightly crumbly stately home, set in God knows how many acres of countryside - woods, lakes, walled gardens, the works. It's all very beautiful, and would likely make you want to attack the current Earl of St. Germans with a jealous-stick if he wasn't putting the place to such good purpose. What better use for the house and grounds than to turn it into a haven for the arts and to open it up for such a cracking summer festival? The good Earl is very much involved, too, and if you need a lift from one venue to another it's quite likely to be he who picks you up on his quad bike and ferries you there - your head going up and down like a cocktail shaker, your carefully written notes leaving a paper trail behind you. Noblesse oblige, what?

'Glastonbury for Books' is how the LitFest is often described, and though that's a bit misleading there's certainly a come-of-age-hippie feel about the whole thing. Lots of brightly coloured food stalls, cabaret marquees, fields full of tents, music, poetry, barefoot kids - and books. It's great.

Last year I did a couple of spots - the first a paper-engineering workshop, and the second a talk on writing for children. The latter was mostly geared towards people who were themselves interested in trying to break into children's book publishing. Difficult to know how long one can talk on any given subject, but in my case it would usually be about two minutes, so I was slightly daunted by the forty minute slot that I was given. About an hour and a half later festival organiser Rick Worthy had to more or less drag me out of the marquee, and stick me under a tree where I carried on yakking to anyone who'd listen.

Cornwall is a long way from Yorkshire, but I still managed to bump into a couple of old friends down there - people I hadn't seen for years. I wasn't entirely surprised, perhaps because Port Eliot would be such a magnet for the like-minded. My big mistake was falling in with boogie-woogie man Diz Watson - a great musician. We'd known each other vaguely through a mutual friend, writer and guitarist Richard Madelin, but had never really spent much time together. This weekend we did, drinking sack and carousing into the small hours in the exact way that doctors advise middle-aged men not to.

Port Eliot has some other resonances for me though, from a much earlier time, and maybe I'll put those in a future post.

This year's festival runs from 20-22 of July.

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