For 18 years Shrewsbury Bookfest has brought the world of books alive for children, giving them the chance to meet inspirational authors and create a grass roots literary culture that is the first of its kind.
This year the festival welcomes an eclectic mix of authors and creatives from April 28th – May 7th for talks, workshops and interactive storytelling, tickets to which can be bought here, but move fast as they are quickly selling out!
We caught up with the festival co-ordinator, Joanna Hughes, to hear how Bookfest has grown from its humble beginnings in 1999 to now attract the biggest names in literary entertainment.
Tell us a little about the history of Shrewsbury Bookfest.
Back in 1999, a small group of friends thought it would be fun to invite some favourite children’s authors and illustrators to come for a weekend in Shrewsbury, to talk about their books and their lives and give local children a chance to meet them. And so they did. It was such a success that families asked for it to happen again the next year … and the next … And so the Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest May Festival was born; the first – and for many years the only – annual literary festival for children in the country.
And here we still are, 18 years on, having brought almost every leading figure in children’s books to Shrewsbury. Every event we hold gives children the chance to meet their literary heroes and discover their own creative potential in the process.
That our May Festival continues to attract the generous support of leading local businesses is testament to just how popular and well-established it has become. The fact that so many leading lights in children’s literature appear so regularly on our programme demonstrates the respect we have won among authors, illustrators and publishers alike. And most importantly of all, the consistent, enthusiastic and wonderful support of our audiences ensures the festival remains popular, inspiring and FUN.
What can we expect in 2017?
Shrewsbury Bookfest has always been an independent, not-for-profit organisation, run primarily by a small group of volunteers. In 2007 we obtained charitable status. In 2009 we won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the equivalent of an MBE and the highest award that can be given to a voluntary organisation.
Through a series of regular projects with schools and families, Shrewsbury Bookfest’s aim is to bring the world of books alive for children in Shropshire; to inspire, entertain and enthuse them with a life-long love of reading.
Shrewsbury Bookfest’s May Festival 2017 is being kicked off by Clare Balding, ready to set the festival off at full gallop with her wonderful tales of her childhood, her dreams and ambitions and of course her new book for children. Aardman Animations make a welcome return to show us how to make ‘Gromit’ and how we might become animators ourselves, while Harry Potter fans must make room on their timetable to explore his magical world with ‘Professor Potter’. Renowned Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown guarantees gales of laughter during his action-packed event which promises to unlock the artist in all of us, while the timeless tale The Tiger Who Came to Tea, will be brought to life with a very special visit from a very lifelike wild animal ... CBeebies’ presenter Ben Faulks invites us to wade in our wellies through a very muddy adventure, while two award-winning, gifted dream-weavers – Katherine Rundell and Emma Carroll - will be revealing their innermost magical secrets in a panel event. And finally, a child’s ear for rhyme can’t be denied, so ‘Let the Good Rhymes Roll’ will spark your young ones’ innermost poet.
If you were going to recommend three key events, which would they be?
Clare Balding because it will be such a treat to hear as good a speaker as she come to Shrewsbury to share her life story with a young audience; an opportunity to work with a world class model maker such as Aardman and finally hear and ask questions of two dynamic, inspiring and talented storytellers in Katherine Rundell and Emma Carroll.
Tell us something about Shrewsbury we wouldn’t know.
Shrewsbury was transformed into Victorian London for the 1984 filming of Charles Dickens's classic tale, A Christmas Carol. Shrewsbury was one of Dickens's favourite places, so it was appropriate that the film should be made there. The money he made from the book paid for him to get out of debt and out of debtors' prison. The grave of Ebenezer Scrooge can still be seen in the churchyard of St Chad's Church in Shrewsbury.