Our festival also featured in the Chalfont St Giles Parish Magazine

The rise and rise of the Literary Festival   Literary Festivals started to appear up and down the country around thirty or more years ago.  

Nowadays, every city, town and even large village throughout the UK seems to boast its own annual literary gathering where, according to freelance literature professional and arts marketeer Andrew Burton ‘… it would appear the chattering classes meet to listen to an author, drink some indifferent wine, stand in a queue for the obligatory signed copy of an overpriced hardback then disappear into the night wrapped in a cloak of cultural self-improvement.’  

Well, if that was really all they are about, how does it explain the exponential surge in popularity of Literary Festivals?    

One reason is that they bring like-minded people together face to face. Catching up with the latest episode of your favourite TV crime drama on the train is all very well, but it’s a one-way exchange between voyeur and viewed.  At a literary event, you might get to meet your heroes, find out new things about them, discover writers you were previously unaware of, and maybe even enjoy a chance meeting with people who share your passion for books.  

So what lay behind the genesis of a Literary Festival for Chalfont St Giles? The reason was, in reality, less passion and more prosaic. Fred Nolan, in his (then) capacity as Chairman of the Parish Council asked Kathleen Martin (Chairman of the Revitalisation Committee) to come up with something – anything – which would increase visitor footfall in the village. Checking out their calendars they noted that 2008 marked the quatercentenary of John Milton's birth. With an event of such importance in the literary world, (and the impending visit of Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to Milton’s Cottage), it seemed too good an opportunity to miss, and the concept of a Literary Festival was born.  

With two years to hone their skills, a Literary Festival Committee was established from members of the Revitalisation Committee and others in the villages (St Giles and Jordans) who had particular knowledge and/or connections with the literary world.

The first Chalfont St Giles and Jordans Literary Festival was launched on Friday 9th May 2006. Crammed into this three day event (together with the obligatory writing competition) guest speakers included bestselling novelist Polly Williams, TV and book critic Christopher Matthew, stand up comedienne Gill Smith, and the creator of Morse - Colin Dexter OBE.  

Flushed with success, the committee immediately set about planning for the next festival in 2007 – a somewhat more modest two day event featuring, amongst others, children’s writer Steve Cole, wildlife aficionado Johnny Kingdom, and of course, the regular writing competition.  

Realising that literary festivals do not occur at the drop of a hat, but involve an immense amount of planning and preparation, the committee took the sensible decision to make future Literary Festivals a biennial event.  

So 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 have seen the Chalfont St Giles and Jordans Literary Festival grow in stature and size year on year, and has, over the last five events, played host to a stellar selection of guest speakers including Andrew Motion, June Peters, John Waite, Cheryl Gillan, Lance Pierson, Lord (Douglas) Hurd, Mark Webster, Katharine Hawkins, James Holland, Sir Barry Jackson, Louis de Bernieres, Brian Sewell, Lucinda Hawksley, Kate Summerscale, Robert Hardman, Gerald Dickens, Ken Follett, Dr David Starkey, Elizabeth Proudman, Gabriel Woolf, Rosemary Cook, Lisa Goldman, Linda Hart, Sherard Cowper-Coles, Sally Vickers, Lord (Robert) Winston, Ffion Hague and Nik Powell.  

Adding to the depth and diversity, the festivals also regularly include music and verse, a pop-up shop, and activities such as countryside walks, and informal writing workshops with authors.  

So what’s in store for 2018? The committee are already hard at work preparing for another series of sell-out sessions between Tuesday 8th May and Sunday 20th May 2018. And by the way, the wine will be spectacular. Make a note in your diaries.  See you there!