Lowdham Book Festival 2012 (1)
JUNE BRINGS the annual book festival at nearby Lowdham village, a few miles away. I’ve written variously on the subject of the many talks I’ve been to at Lowdham over the past few years and it’s a time of year that I really look forward to. On the festival’s informative website this year, it was mentioned that there would be a change of appearance and format for 2012, and so it proved.
I woke early on the morning of the final festival Saturday on 30th June with a hope and a plan to walk the eight miles to Lowdham. I’d a notion to retrace one or two of the local footpaths I’ve not walked in a few years and arrange for a lift home after the day came to an end. I have some ‘previous’ for this approach, not on foot but having cycled there and back with a friend on occasion. Unfortunately the sight from the bedroom window was not an encouraging one to wake up to, being one of heavy rain.
I decided to drive, not wishing to sit through up to four talks in wringing wet clothes.
Arriving in the village a little after ten in the morning, it was a different scene to the usual annual bustle on ‘final Saturday’. Main Street in Lowdham was very quiet with nary a pedestrian to be seen and tell-tale plentiful curbside parking available. I parked up and made my way to the first of a quartet of talks to be held in the small Methodist Chapel, just down from the village hall.
‘Tourist Trails In and Around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire with Stephen Thirkill’ was the title of the initial session and the sparse gathering I walked into quickly expanded to respectable numbers. Stephen, a reporter from The Chad newspaper in Mansfield, explained with enthusiasm that this was his first attempt at book writing and despite an evident amount of hard work and hours spent, his sense of accomplishment was palpable. It was interesting to hear of the author’s problems and challenges in producing the book. I would have liked a little more systematic description of the great tourist attractions featured in the book.
After a short break and a drink, I returned for the second talk in the chapel ‘The Robin Hood Way’. This was a friendly and again enthusiastic talk by a member of the Robin Hood Way Association, the Robin Hood Way being a long distance (105 mile) walk that wends its way through Nottinghamshire as the title suggests. Being a walker myself, I’ve always been intrigued by the route, it passing through Bestwood country Park which is close to where I live. The walk begins at Nottingham Castle’s gatehouse and ends somewhat appropriately at St. Mary’s Church in Edwinstowe where Robin Hood and Maid Marian were said to have married, this being just a healthy arrow’s travel from a longbow to Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak. The talk focused on the society to some extent and although there was some instruction and comment on some of the intriguing places the Robin Hood Way travels through, again, I’d have enjoyed hearing more about the likes of Fountain Dale, King John’s Palace and Robin Hood’s Cave et al. The talk really came to life when the friendly speaker moved into the realm of these areas.
Lunchtime approached and in the pleasant sunshine I picked up a sandwich at the village Co-op and went to explore what was happening at the village hall – usually the epicentre of events on the final festival Saturday. What greeted me saddened me in some ways. In previous years the hall housed a book fair and cafe with the lawns to the rear of the building being a real treat being set out with marquees which hold book talks and a sizeable second-hand book fair. Stalls selling plants and other items usually dot the grassy area additionally. Alas, as pre-warned via the book festival website, none of these made an appearance this year and what was left was a rather barren-looking compound shuttered tightly. Inside the hall and available for twenty pounds was the no-doubt excellent main event featuring admirable local authors Jon McGregor and John Harvey, with a lunch provided.
Pondering my lot, I tripped over the road the Old Ship for a welcome pint outside on the patio. Commenting on the low-key nature of the final Saturday this year, I was informed that the Lowdham event had lost its funding and was now being forced to make the changes described above – at least for 2012. I’d like to state that whilst disappointed at what I encountered, the team that painstakingly plan the festival and contribute a lot of hard work should be commended in producing what is still an event to be proud of. I do hope however that things can somehow return to normal next year as the old format was sadly missed by me at least.
A report from the final afternoon at the festival can be accessed below
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