Festivals are all about people and creativity. In a new series of interviews we ask some of our favourite “makers” to tell us a little more about their creative projects, inspirations and passions. First up is Emily Rhodes, director of the Daunt Books Festival.
Life is a Festival: It’s the second year of the Daunt Book Festival and after a successful first year the line-up for 2015 looks very promising again. How did the festival come about in the first place and how did you get involved personally?
Emily: Thanks! I’ve been bookselling at Daunt for a few years and love the lively atmosphere of our literary talks … so I thought why don’t we have a whole festival? It would be so much fun! Everyone seemed keen on the idea, so then it was just a case of making it happen.
Life is a Festival: There is a lot of work which goes on “behind the scenes” to make a festival happen. Who else is involved and how long do the preparations take?
Emily: We couldn’t do it without the wonderful support and encouragement of so many publishers and authors – if everyone I asked to take part said ‘no thanks’ then we wouldn’t have much of a festival. The Howard de Walden Estate were also behind it from the start and great at putting me in touch with people and helping to make it so Maryleboney. I began thinking about the line up in August-September, but even before that were the beautiful limited edition bags to sort out with Re-Wrap and the brilliant designer Will Grill, who came up with this year’s fun, playful design.
Life is a Festival: How do you go about choosing authors for the festival programme and matching the right writers and interviewers to get a good discussion going?
Emily: It’s a bit like planning a party – I think of all the authors and critics I would like to see (and who I think our customers would like), think about what they might have in common, and match them up. I also look at what new books are coming out and see if I can draw out any common themes for discussion. It’s always fun when you get authors embarking on a larger conversation about what they’re passionate about rather than just summarising their books, so the chemistry between speakers is vital.
Life is a Festival: Are there any personal favourites you are especially looking forward to this year or are particularly excited to have secured for the 2015 line-up?
Emily: Ummm… all of it! I’m especially thrilled to have got Michael Palin on board. He is in such demand, so it was lovely to think that the shop meant enough to him to get a yes. I am also very excited about the opening ‘choosing your heroines’ event with Samantha Ellis, Anne Sebba and Alex Clark – a great chance to think about some inspiring women; oh and Owen Jones and The Nature Cure … there’s lots and lots to look forward to.
Life is a Festival: Finally, you run a very popular “walking book club”, tell us a little more about this unique project and your book blog EmilyBooks.
Emily: I love walking and I love reading; working in the Daunt’s right by Hampstead Heath, I realised rather a lot of our customers felt the same, so I thought why don’t we go for a walk on the Heath and talk about books? So we did. It’s really taken off, I think because it’s so much easier to talk when walking side-by-side with everyone, looking at such amazing views and getting all that fresh air, and it means that nobody can dominate the discussion as there are so many conversations going on at once. I love it! It’s also a good chance to highlight some older books – many of which risk falling of the reading radar, slightly correcting the usual reading/bookselling focus of sticking to those which are newly published. And I started my blog because I wanted to give myself the space to think about everything I read – like a reading diary. Then it was a very pleasant surprise to find that other people read it, and to build up some connections with like-minded bloggers.
Thanks very much to Emily Rhodes for the interview and check out Daunts Book Festival, which takes place in London 19-20 March 2015.