I’ve been pretty rubbish with literary festivals this year, thanks to a combination of a wedding, no money and erratic organisational skills. I didn’t squat in a wood listening to under-tens performance poetry at Bestival; nor hear Kazuo Ishiguro hold forth at Oxford; nor belly laugh with David Sedaris at Edinburgh. I’m not even making it to Cheltenham this month, although it is starting to rival Hay as the must-go big-name book bacchanal.
But I did make it to one: the first First Story Festival, held a couple of weeks ago at Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire. It was as far from self-satisfied-middle-class-echo-chamber-with-overpriced-organic-icecream as you could get, and frankly, I suspect it was the best.
At First Story, two genial evenings of author talks and Q&As – from Michael Morpurgo and David Nicholls, no less – sandwiched an admirably ambitious day where 500 school children got “an infusion of poetry and prose workshops, readings and talks from some of Britain’s best published writers and performers”, all focused on getting them to write: there and then, themselves.