This year’s Guernsey Literary Festival broke all its previous records, with overall attendance increasing by 26% over the last Festival, held in September 2015. In all, 77% of all available seats were filled.
More than 6,000 people attended the 76 talks, workshops and sessions organised mostly in the four days between 10 and 14 May and featuring such big names as presenter and author Clare Balding, novelist Sebastian Faulks, science writer and presenter Simon Singh and human rights campaigner Terry Waite.
Mr Waite’s talk at St James sold close to 500 tickets and the other talks at St James by Clare Balding, Sebastian Faulks and explorer Huw Lewis Jones were also very well supported. There were sell-outs in the new 120-seater Festival Hub in Market Street and talks and most of the performances at Castle Cornet on the Friday night were full.
The Guernsey Literary Festival also organised 18 educational events, 17 of which were in schools, The WriteStuff Awards and six community events, two of which were in the prison, one with the Sports Commission, one with the Youth Commission as well as two shared reading sessions for adults and children.
The education programme, organised by the festival with the assistance of the Schools’ Library Service involved 12 writers and performers going into schools over the four days of the Festival, with Simon Singh speaking to a joint schools audience at the Grammar School and Sixth Form Centre, Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell to a joint schools audience at St Martin’s School and World Champion Slam Poet Harry Baker at St Sampson’s High. In total, 17 schools were involved with the programme and the numbers attending education events were up by 16% on 2015, from 1,800 to 2,143.
The festival hosted a number of talks at Castle Cornet on the Friday evening, which was organised in conjunction with the Museums at Night initiative, an event which featured music and dance and a writers’ fair as well as the ticketed performances. Twelve per cent of attendees were visitors to the island.
Family events included a Roald Dahl Tea Party and the opportunity to meet the Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell at the Guille-Alles Library. The organisers hope they have also helped local writers and aspiring writers by running a number of workshops and one-to-one sessions with authors during the festival.
There were record entries in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition, which is open to poets from all over the world and carries a £1,000 first prize, and in the WriteStuff prose writing competition for local schoolchildren up to the age of 18.
This year’s Guernsey Literary Festival was supported by a record number of 13 festival sponsors and 35 partner organisations. Fifty volunteers were involved this year, in a wide range of tasks associated with a festival of this size.