As we move towards March and spring shows signs of springing forth, many of us start to look to bluer skies and wonder if we dare chance a festival this year. Each summer, more boutique events seem to be vying with established festivals for advertising space in the Sunday review sections but, though many of them offer a token nod to the literary world, they are almost always about the music. The spirit of Woodstock, it seems, shows as little sign of waning as a Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar solo.
How refreshing, then, to see a festival that puts its focus firmly on writers. The Curious Arts Festival – which takes place in the idyllic surroundings of Pylewell Park in Hampshire from 18–20 July – is to be co-curated by Clare Conville of Curtis Brown’s sister agency Conville & Walsh, and its line-up already reads like a who’s who of the contemporary literary scene. Costa Book of the Year winner Nathan Filer – who will also be a panellist at CBC event The London Writers’ Fair in April – will be appearing along with CBC tutor MJ Hyland, and the festival also features contributions from the likes of Lady Antonia Fraser, Tom Holland, DBC Pierre, Piers Torday, Lottie Moggach, Deborah Levy, Thomas Penn, Rachel Joyce, Owen Sheers, Neil Bartlett and many others.
There will be an early-morning cartoon club for children (held in the Curtis Brown film tent), a breakfast club with journalists and a broadcaster discussing local and national news, magic, garden walks, bibliotherapy, a Saturday-afternoon tea party with festival partner Persephone Books and a pop-up bookshop. Midnight readings of some particularly chilling MR James ghost stories are sure to send festival-goers back to their tents clutching each other’s arms nervously. And though the emphasis is very much on the written word, it wouldn’t be a festival without music. So there will be live gigs every evening, plus late-night DJ sets from HMS Sweet Charity – who only play music found in thrift stores and charity shops.
That’s the good news. The even better news is that early-bird tickets for the entire weekend cost just £75 per person (£50 for under-15s; free for under-sevens). You’ll have to be quick though. This discounted opportunity to attend what is sure to be one of the literary events of 2014 ends on 31 March.
For more information or to buy tickets for the Curious Arts Festival, please click here.