Burnham Market Book Festival

Kathryn CrossThe inaugural Burnham Market Book Festival takes place in November. Kathryn Cross met organiser Rosalind English for an insight into the event which will see some of the country's best-known writers talk about their latest works.Programme and order form at whitehousebooks.co.ukKathryn Cross

When Rosalind English first mooted a book festival in her home village of Burnham Market she found authors and writers were soon queuing up to take part.

While it is an accepted part of being a writer that you need to do the rounds of literary festivals to sell your latest book and get your ideas and thoughts out to the masses, it seems the lure of a weekend on the north Norfolk coast also had a large part to play.

Cultural events are already well received in the well-heeled village among its permanent residents and the thousands who come to visit the trendy independent shops and top restaurants and hotels.

'We had a terrific response from writers,' Ms English explained. 'Chris Mullin MP, who has written an Alan Clark-style diary about the Tony Blair years called View from the Foothills, agreed to come along very early on. He was at the Hay Festival and he packed out 500 people. Anthony Grayling the philosopher, who writes a column for the Financial Times, loves north Norfolk so he was keen to come - a lot of the authors know about north Norfolk and love the area and thought it was a lovely place to come and sell a few books.

'The bottom line is that these days if you are a writer it really does help to do the rounds of the literary festivals because people are so separated by the internet and to see live authors is very exciting.'

Ms English moved to Burnham Market five years ago from London. She had always had an interest in literature from reading English at Cambridge University. She went on to work for BBC World Service and is now an academic lawyer writing an online journal.

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'Literature is deep in my background,' she said. 'When I managed to escape London to this beautiful part of the world, like many people, I began casting around for a project and noticed a real appetite for cultural events.

'The Chamber of Music festival is very successful and often people have ad hoc talks about books and there are loads of book clubs going on. I felt it was looking for an event where you would get professional authors from all over the country to do a proper structured series of events, with structured interviews well chaired and mediated Q and A sessions on a slightly more formal basis.'

She posed the idea to Catherine Bennett, the new owner and manager of Whitehouse Bookshop on The Green, who showed equal enthusiasm as she was looking to raise the profile of the shop and hold events herself.

Another friend, Kathryn Buscall, came on board to help draft a programme and help work out how to group the events together - who should be matched with who.

So the first Burnham Market Book Festival was born and, billed as 'a weekend of witty and provocative discussion, conversation and debate from an exciting range of writers', will take place from November 6 to 8 at The Hoste Arms and features well known personalities such as Kate Adie and Jenny Agutter.

Ms Adie, who has family in north Norfolk and recently took part as a judge at the first Norfolk Dog Day, will be discussing her latest book, Into Danger, which is the result of her worldwide research into what makes people choose jobs that can land them in mortal danger.

Richard Mabey, described by The Times as 'Britain's greatest living nature writer', will talk about the state of English nature with Jeremy Mynott who has written a book about birds.

Allan Mallinson makes Armistice Day on November 8 all the more poignant when he discusses his book The Making of the British Army. The former infantry and cavalry officer has written about the creation and development of Britain's army from the English Civil War to today's war on terror.

Ms English has tried to bring together many different genres so that there is something for all readers; for younger readers, Meg Rosoff, who won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize with her first novel How I Live Now, will bring her latest book, The Bride's Farewell.

Ms English said: 'All the talks will be chaired and mediated by Times journalists and other novelists. Some will be reading excerpts but there will always be some Q and A and discussion.

'I've been to Hay five times and I think the formula works really well. It is a thinking festival, getting people to think while introducing new books but as a medium of provoking interest in lively discussion.

'We are going to be much smaller than Hay but we are testing the water. We have had to turn authors away because we are full but we are only doing a weekend while Hay is a whole week. It has been quite a challenge to fit it all in and only three of us working on it.'

'The most wonderful thing is being able to have it in Burnham Market and to have such a perfect venue in the Moroccan Room at The Hoste Arms. It is quite an informal setting which we will fill with book displays and a seating area with armchairs for the speakers and rows of seats around for the visitors. It is limited but we thought we should start small.'

t All bookings have to be done by post or in person at The Whitehouse Bookshop. A season ticket for the whole weekend costs �80 for 12 events, or each event for �10. Tickets are already selling fast and there will be limited seating. Contact Catherine Bennett on 01328 730270 or email whitehousebooks@yahoo.com. To see the full programme of events visit www.whitehousebooks.co.uk

Programme and order form at whitehousebooks.co.uk