The ‘In Real Life’ Return of Newark Book Festival

Newark Book Festival tote on Newark Town Hall balconyNewark Book Festival is back on the Nottinghamshire market town’s cultural calendar this summer, and we have plenty of in person and live-streamed events for all ages to enjoy.

Launched in 2017, the festival has found a home amongst the secret gardens, vibrant arts venues and historic heritage spots of Newark. The second weekend of July brings with it a lively mix of author talks, creative workshops and family book trails, with more independent artists and sellers joining the family each year.

The book festival also promises tea and cake, because no literary event is complete without the comforting blend of a fresh brew, a homemade slice and a good book! It is the tonic we all need following a tough 16 months of uncertainty and isolation.

Last year’s festival battled against this isolation by adapting to a digital environment. The team worked hard to find new ways to connect with audiences by live-streaming events; the reimagined 2020 festival hosted a virtual programme packed with author talks, workshops and panel discussions; a series of mini, interactive ‘chapter’ celebrations included our fun-filled Children’s Festival Day, ‘Welcome to the Imaginarium’.

From sponsors and fundraisers to publishers and stall holders, the festival has always thrived on the strong community spirit in Newark, whether we are face to face or screen to screen. We have missed our local venues and businesses, which include Newark Library, the town hall and the Palace Theatre, as well as lots of wonderful independent shops and cafés. We are looking forward to seeing them again (along with some new faces) in person this July. Once more, we have adapted and reshaped, placing the wellbeing of the community at the heart of our carefully planned programme of socially distanced events.

So what can our visitors expect this year?

Events will take place over one long weekend (Thursday 8th – Sunday 11th July) but, this year, we are thrilled to be delivering a large proportion of events in real life. Some events will also be live-streamed to ensure as much access as possible, whether our audiences are outside strolling or inside scrolling.

As always, there is something for all ages to enjoy, from fascinating heritage poetry trails and interactive community exhibitions, to street theatre at our family-friendly ‘Wonderland’, and pop-up book stalls at our bustling ‘Literature Village’.

Create your own kindness - Newark Book FestivalFamilies won’t be short of fun activities to attend; for youngsters, we have the Tale of the Whale family book trail; Storytime with author and illustrator, Izzy Wheeldon; all kinds of exciting adventures with Rhubarb Theatre; an exploration of ‘Marvellous Machines’ with author, Alom Shaha; and ‘Stories Before Bedtime’ with Caryl Hart. Slightly older children may wish to join the ‘Create Your Own Kindness’ session with Becky Goddard-Hill; and there are exciting masterclass and interview opportunities with the Young Journalists Academy.

For history fans, we have a captivating literary walk around Newark with Felicity Whittle; the ‘A River Runs Through It’ exploration of the River Trent’s role in Newark’s rich history; an author talk with bestselling non-fiction author, Sharon Bennett Connolly; and a film showing of ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ by Alan Sillitoe.

Aspiring writers may wish to join our creative writing workshop with Mahsuda Snaith; or seek guidance on crafting beautiful books with ‘The Book Typesetters’; there will be advice and audience poems at ‘Wine and Words’; Cathy Bramley will be discussing romance fiction and her latest novel, My Kind of Happy; and Fosseway Writers will be talking with local authors, A.E. Warren and Tom Fremantle, during ‘Inspiration to Publication’. You can also learn all about writing authentic ‘Villains and Heroes’ with bestselling authors, Stuart Turton and Sarah Ward.

Rabbit Hole book cover by Mark Billingham - Newark Book FestivalFor crime and thriller fans, we have an author interview with David Baldacci; Sophie Hannah will be reading from her latest Poirot novel, while discussing the essential elements of writing crime; author of Private Investigator novels, Nick Quantrill, will be in conversation with crime writer, Philippa East; and Tim Rideout will be interviewing thriller writer, T.M. Logan, sci-fi and fantasy author, Andrew Bannister, and award-winning thriller writer, Mark Billingham.

Finally, music fans will be treated to a fascinating interview with Nottingham-based family, the Kanneh-Masons, as well as a short, live musical performance at Palace Theatre.

This past year has provided lots of challenges and opportunities; many of us have relied heavily on our love of literature, and some of us have discovered new interests and passions along the way. We are so excited about this year’s collaborative and inclusive programme of accessible events, which aims to inspire, showcase and support, whilst inviting our wonderful community to share their stories.

Books have been a source of comfort, joy and companionship for us over the past year and a half. Let’s celebrate them together!

Guest written by Lauren Westwood.