OIR: Cumbria is most definitely open for business . . .

Article published on February 24, 2016.

. . . says Linda Hepworth as she prepares to resume her seat, G14, for this year’s Words by the Water Festival.

In their usual resilient way the people of Cumbria worked hard to recover from the devastating floods of late 2015. And the Words by the Water festival is a cultural highlight for the area with something of interest for everyone. As always, I have treated myself to festival passes for all ten days so am looking forward to being immersed in words and ideas, and meeting like-minded people. For the fourteen years I have been attending – since it started in 2001 – I have been content to just sit back and enjoy the experience. But now I am one of Our Intrepid Reporters™ I was able to put some questions to Festival Directors, Kay Dunbar and Stephen Bristow, their answers revealing how they bring together so many interesting people to share thoughts and ideas with enthusiastic audiences.

When did the planning start and how do you choose speakers?

Probably about a year ago, some events earlier, some later. Sometimes we approach publishers and/or authors, and sometimes they approach us – all methods! Mainly we are looking for people who will bring in an audience – for everyone’s sake.

And themes?

Some themes are followed – but in the Studio theatre rather than the Main House. Audiences [there] seem to prefer non-fiction. We aim to be eclectic but as we rely on ticket sales to finance the festival everything needs to contribute.

And getting speakers in the right place, at the right time?

The logistics of organising over a 100 writers are huge but we need to be efficient. Members of staff help! The nearest railway station to Keswick is over fifteen miles away but we have volunteer drivers [when needed]. We use the same hotel each year for our speakers [but] the weekends can be a problem [because] each year the

percentage of writers staying depends on where they live.

And how do you choose chairpersons for each talk?

We have a group of volunteer chairs who have particular interests and experiences and we send them the programme to select events. One of our staff provides advance reading and more detailed briefing where needed. Plus our festival book shop is run by a local independent book store; the owners, and their staff, work non-stop throughout the festival!

Your home-base is Devon – this is Keswick . . . ?

We visit several times during the year. The festival requires six people working for a year to cover all the points above. Logistics play a large part, as well as general alertness to ideas/books/magazines and the rest of the media to keep informed.

And pre-festival publicity?

If only it was possible to say what is most effective!

See what Linda’s most looking forward to here.

Linda’s festival reports will appear on nudge and if you fancy being one of Our Intrepid Reporters then email info@newbooksmag.com


Words by the Water Festival, 4th – 13th March 2016   


The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler


When The Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea

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