Short and Sweet, is this the Future of the Literary Festival?

Those of you who’ve come along to the Weardale WordFest in previous years will know that our festival events are programmed around a single weekend – the fourth weekend in October – which this year includes Friday 21st, Sat, 22nd and Sunday 23rd.  

You will also know that in the preceding weeks we run a series of workshops, and this year we are especially proud to have them covering pretty much the length of Weardale, from Ireshopeburn to Witton-le-Wear. Also, importantly, all events and workshops are FREE.

So, imagine our interest in reading the article in this week’s Guardian, by journalist Sarah Shaffi – Are Literary festivals doomed? Why big events need to change. Shaffi, a published writer, literary prize judge, and no stranger to the book festival, writes -‘nervousness about the prevalence of coronavirus and the cost of living means the festival landscape is still full of uncertainty.’ It appears that many festivals are having to consider their future viability and there is an expectation that some may fold altogether.

This is not simply about the virus and the cost of living, it is also she considers, about the failure to connect with marginalised communities. Weardale is one such community, isolated and rural, to date it has had little representation in the larger book festivals of our area. Such concerns were at the heart of founder Chris Powell’s vision of a small, sustainable book festival providing easy and free access for visitors, as well as inspiring workshops and the opportunity for local authors and writing groups to showcase their work. 

Thus, the Weardale WordFest was born. It is now in its fourth year. A festival of words, conceived as such, to be inclusive and to throw off the stuffy, highbrow, associations so often made with the word ‘literary.’ We are delighted that it has, to date, weathered the covid storm and thanks to our sponsors and the work of the WordFest team continues to remain viable and to develop and grow its audience, bringing literature into the very heart of its community. 

I think you’ll agree that in our case, short and sweet, as well local, has definitely been the answer. It has served us well and proved sustainable. Dare I say it, we are ahead of the game! 

The team are very excited about this year’s WordFest and already thinking about 2023…. 

Don’t forget to look at our weekend programme, there’s something for everyone from children’s literature to song writing. From author talks to a book fair. We’d love you to join us, booking is not essential

And do sign up for those workshops, as places are limited. They promise to be great fun and amazingly creative. See you there… 

You can read Sarah Shaffi’s article in the Guardian here