I have always loved reading and whilst growing up, infuriated my brother by preferring Anne of Green Gables to Action Man! I am an adopted Northerner, having grown up near Bakewell in the Peak District. Study and work took me to Leicester, Frankfurt, London and Leeds before I stepped away from my legal career as an independent barrister to raise a family near Malton, North Yorkshire. Through those relocations I acquired a good understanding of the geography “up North” and as an avid reader and appreciator of the performing arts, I have developed contacts at the various festivals, venues, bookshops and literacy organisations who operate in Yorkshire, Humberside and Teesside.
I was a member of a book group (yes, one of those wine-drinking think tanks that didn’t spend much time discussing books, but great fun all the same), when it was suggested to me that I should launch a book festival in Malton. Ready for a challenge, I created our first festival in less than six months with an incredible team of like-minded bookworms. I am proud that for eight years Ryedale Book Festival delivered opportunities for cultural engagement by its rural community. I hope that the lessons I have learned about event management may be of value to other young festivals and venues who lack experience of the publishing sector.
Unwilling to dig out my wig and gown whilst the children were young and mindful of the unpredictable hours I had worked as a Crown Court advocate, I elected to gain relevant experience through various part-time roles in book sales with Waterstones and customer services, PR, licensing and business development with other employers. I feel privileged to have met some very interesting and creative people through the events I organised and now I can’t envisage doing anything else.
In this super speedy digital world, good communication skills and original ideas are valuable. An appreciation of the written and spoken word can only help to enhance our literacy skills as well as broaden our minds and spark our imaginations, so I believe that reading is important, not only to children, but to us all. Book events are an excellent opportunity for us to listen, learn, question, be inspired and enjoy being part of a live audience in a way that few other experiences can match. To compensate for the fact that face-to-face literary events are not taking place due to Covid-19 I have launched a podcast called Books For Your Library where you can hear me in conversation with authors and illustrators and order a dedicated signed copy of the featured titles from the online bookshop. Since the pandemic I have been supporting library services in the Yorkshire and Humber region develop their events programmes and coordinated the Big Jubilee Read regional activities in 2022.
I love working with artists and people who enjoy books and reading. I have always been a good organiser, and am someone who has the energy and vision to bring people together and make things happen. If you are still reading this epistle do get in touch – I look forward to creating a successful event with you, or perhaps presenting an event for your organisation.
A selection of the artists I have had the pleasure of working with:
Michael Morpurgo, David Almond and Lauren Child
Lizzy Stewart, Tim Hopgood and Marcia Williams
Maggie Harcourt, E R Murray and Melvin Burgess
Erica Wagner, Lucy Foley, Susie Steiner and Julia Chapman
Leanda de Lisle, Rowland White, William Fiennes and Amanda Owen
Ian McMillan, Mandy Coe, Hollie McNish and John Hegley
Tony Husband, Su Blackwell and Matt Sewell
Arthur Smith, Cat Weatherill and Austentatious
The Bookshop Band, Eboracum Baroque and Coope, Boyes & Simpson.