Monday, 20 September 2010

Festival 1

Jack Underwood, Luke Kennard (in the foreground) Vahni Capildeo, Agnes Lehoczky and Nathan Hamilton, first event. Packed out. Full Circle exhibition in the background.

The very first Wymondham Words is over. I have run series of readings before but I've not had to do with a festival in a concentrated three days. I try to remember how it came about.

On one or two occasions in the past I had written words for music to be performed at the music festival here. The music festival was going strong and still is. As ever, it is the work of a core group of enthusiastic, hard working, energetic and efficient people. It's that way round - committees rarely have ideas, it is people with ideas that get together to form committees. In a small town like W a few is all it takes. The people have to have a range of skills, contacts and functions, as well as a belief, or at least reasonable hope, that the town could take to the project in mind. More on that in another post.

The music festival was well in place by the time I was asked to construct a programme. There was not much money but in any case there was a desire to draw on essentially regional talent. Of regional literary talent there is no shortage - the university, the art school, the sheer beauty and cheapness of the place is attractive, partly to artists already established, and partly - through institutions that draw on those artists to teach people who would like to be artists - to people who then make or do not make immediate reputations, but who work at doing so. The Writers Centre in Norwich is fully aware of this and works as a generating hub.

Not that it could fund this festival. I can't speak for the other members of the committee, I can only thank them, so I speak for myself alone. What I would say to anyone asked to take on something like this is: Don't do it! Then I'd hesitate a moment and say: Do it!

For me the difficulty has been all the other work. The completion of two long translations, the teaching of a week-long residential course, the complete refurbishing of the room I like to think of as a library room-cum-C's office which was in chaos for six weeks because of damp treatment and re-plastering. Then there was (and still is) the art collaboration project, the various commissions and articles, travels, readings, conferences, and our fortieth anniversary for which we took four days off. Social life went by the board generally. The timing of the festival was nine days before the start of the university term.

Everything that is successful is a pleasure and source of energy afterwards and so has this been. As to programming, asking people to do things for less than the going rate is embarrassing, but it can be done and had to be done. (I have been invited this way myself and have invariably agreed, if the date was free.) Parts of the programme could be entrusted to people who were going to perform but had a circle of fellow writers they could invite. Other parts had to be put together depending on availability. Then there was timing and organisation of the venue. For me there was the business of preparing to chair, or at least to introduce, every event, bar those arranged by groups like the schools and the library that made their own arrangements to work round ours.

This is a dry little entry written by a tired man and it lacks any literary punch or style. I'll try to supply more of that next time, with some views on the events, not so much reviews as thoughts around them. That is this week's main task.

But there is a little post to put up after this one. The development of Marlie, the awakening face, the wonder and puzzlement of coming into the world of sensible objects.

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