Since co-founding Conville & Walsh in 2000 Clare Conville has agented some of the most prestigious writers of our time. This year she has curated an exciting new entry in the UK’s literary calendar. The Curious Arts Festival will take place in the grounds of Pylewell Park in Hampshire from the 18th to the 20th of July, when the family seat of the Barons Teynham will play host to a succession of writers and musicians from Craig Brown and Rowan Pelling to Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit.
whitefox has two free tickets to the festival to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, simply email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries will be pulled out of a hat at the end of the week. Good luck!
While some of our finest publishers battle it out in Seattle in the hopes of securing a future for our trade (and by extension our culture), I find myself engrossed in the small print: train times to Lymington, the dietary requirements of very special authors, where Joan As Policewoman is going to sleep on Saturday night and anxious, secret googling at 3.20am in the morning to look at next week’s weather forecast. Yes, you will have guessed it – I am co-curating the Curious Arts Festival at Pylewell Park which runs from 18th-20th July and if ferocious discounting by Amazon doesn’t get me first then surely the combined levels of anxiety, adrenaline and good old-fashioned madness that are essential to propel one through organising a festival surely will.
A fair question would be: why do it? Surely life as an agent at Conville and Walsh is busy enough? To be truthful: yes it is. At this stage in the run-up to next week’s launch I can’t really remember why I said I’d do it apart from the fact that Paddy Keogh, my partner in crime, is charmingly persuasive. However, if I can find the time to stop and think about it I do believe passionately that there is a direct correlation between the unstoppable rise of the literary festival culture in the UK and the increasingly boringly transactional way people buy books. In challenging times authors, agents and publishers must change the way they think about how they find readers.
Authors have to become “authorpreneurs” and actively seek out new ways to promote themselves, often without quite enough support from their publishers and agents. Publishers have to become impresarios, coaxing “influencers” and the press into taking interest in the books in the first place and constantly looking for new and interesting platforms to promote them. Curiously, a festival at its best can offer everybody a new experience and I believe that the devil is in the detail, even if it does mean getting up at 4.30am to start sending e-mails, because a sense of detail is something that a Seattle algorithm can’t supply. So our aim for our artists, writers, and musicians alike is that they will arrive at Pylewell Park and have an incredible stay: the beds will be comfortable, there will be flowers and chocolate in their room, and drinks and meals will run throughout the day courtesy of The Feast of Reason. Children and dogs are welcome too.
We also aim to ensure that our paying visitors have a marvellous time: a dazzling programme of events, a beautiful camping site in the incredible grounds of the park with unbelievable views of the Solent, delicious food and drink and a wonderful and comfortable pop-up bookshop run by Waterstones, Lymington, where there will be hourly signings (but where you can also snuggle up in an armchair and read a book).
In addition, Curtis Brown will be running a film tent, there’ll be loads of activities and events for children including A Jabberwocky Hunt, a Pestival Walk and donkey rides. If you want to take a different journey through the festival, breathing lessons, life-drawing classes and bibliotherapy are all available. Our aim is to make Curious, unique and unforgettable, a place, rather like one’s own bookshelf or a gorgeous local bookshop, where the familiar, the much loved and the fresh combine. We want Curious to be a festival that artists, guests and visitors will return to again and again, part of a vibrant culture that the great and the good of international publishing are trying so hard to preserve on our behalf. So, do join us!