Tag Archives: London

Need Some Travel Inspiration? Why Not Try One Of These 11 Diverse Festivals From Around The World

Now is the best time to plan your adventures for the rest of the year and travel shows like Destinations (2-5 February 2017) in London are a great way to get a good overview on what’s on offer. At the show you can listen to travel experts, adventurers and journalists, such as John Simpson, Simon Reeve or Phoebe Smith, talk about anything from travel safety to trending travel destinations and get your most burning travel questions answered. Of course, the main question I had for the exhibitors was what fabulous festivals from around the world they loved best and, after doing all the legwork, I put together the below list for you to add to your schedule for the coming year and beyond. Here we go!

travel-panel-destinations-2017

February: Sami National Day Celebrations, Lapland

Sami National Day is on 6 February, it’s celebrated in most of the Nordic countries and is a great way to get acquainted with the age-old traditions of the Sami people. It includes reindeer sprint racing, learning about the Sami language as well as live music. Cities like Tromso, Jokkmukk, Oulu and Murmansk are good places to visit at this time of the year as they have some of the largest celebrations.

May: Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco

This Moroccan gathering of high-profile musicians from around the world is an event which has long been on my to visit list and looks like a magical experience, even if festivals are normally not your kind of thing. You can stay in a traditional Riad, visit the sights during the day and immerse yourself in the most beautiful music from around the world at night. Unmissable!

May: Teheran Book Fair, Iran

Iran has a rich cultural and historic heritage and the fact that TIBF had around 5 million visitors in 2016 proves its importance for publishing in the Middle East. Of course, you’ll need to look into visas and other formalities in order to be able to visit, but the fair has around 600 foreign exhibitors and offers an enticing roster of cultural activities (author talks, writing workshops) to boot.

June: Transilvania International Film Festival, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

While you might be more familiar with the novel about Count Dracula, TIFF is a popular film festival taking place annually in one of the most beautiful areas of Romania. In addition, Cluj boasts a vibrant cultural scene and no less than nine universities. If you’re visiting a country where English isn’t the main language, international film festivals are a great time to travel there as they are geared towards visitors from abroad and often offer fun side events like director Q&As and parties. Just make sure you book your accommodation ahead of time, as it will be super busy.

July: Tibetan Hemis Festival, Northern India

This recommendation came from my friends at Earthbound Expeditions and looks fantastic. Hemis Gompa, the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, is hosting this annual event, which is also a state holiday, and remembers the birth of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan buddhism. There will be traditional costumes to admire and the sacred masked dances (‘Chaam’) by the Lamas are the highlight of the celebrations.

August: Garlic Festival, Isle of Wight, UK

Interestingly, the soil on the Isle of Wight is apparently so good for growing garlic, the island used to even export it to France. With their motto of ‘In Garlic We Trust’ you get to try unusual delicacies like garlic beer (not so sure about that one) and garlic fudge and an learn cooking with garlic with some experts.

August: Udaya Live Yoga and Music Festival, Bulgaria

Yoga festivals have been taking most of Europe by storm in the past few years and having been to Yoga Connects and Soul Circus in the UK last year, I started noticing lots of other wellness-oriented festivals, including Udaya Live in the Rila mountains of Bulgaria. Imagine spending a few days in stunning natural surroundings letting go of your everyday worries, doing workshops with world-class yoga instructors and learning about anatomy, nutrition and spirituality.

August: Sziget – The Island of Freedom, Budapest, Hungary

Sziget (which means ‘island’ in Hungarian) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and seems to get ever more popular. Taking place on an island in the Danube, it’s a week-long party of concerts, theatrical acts and other creative fun where you can see well-known headline acts alongside lots of quirky other entertainment. Interestingly, you can bring ‘peaceful pets’, like your dog or even a ferret, along, but not so sure if they’d enjoy the loud music as much as you will.

September: Lake of Stars Festival, Malawi

This was one of the most intriguing recommendations I got, but alas, like quite a few other festivals this year, they are taking a break and will be back in 2018. So plenty of time to plan your visit. The arts festival offers live concerts, children’s activities and other creative events. It has established links with the UK and is also planning some cultural events in Scotland and London for this year, so keep an eye on their website.

November: Kona Coffee Festival, Hawaii

What better combination than sunny beaches and a festival that celebrates the local coffee culture? Welcome to Kona and its coffee culture festival, which is Hawaii’s oldest food festival and revolves around the history of coffee in the coffee-growing Kona region. The yearly harvest is celebrated with tasting events by artisans, farm tours and coffee art exhibitions.

November: Uppsala Light Festival, Sweden

Scandinavia has long been one of my favourite destinations and while there are lots of festivals in Sweden around Midsummer, our Northern neighbours also know how to celebrate the darker time of the year. Head to the fourth-largest city in Sweden for a winter weekend break and experience the magic of ‘Allt Ljus’ – squares and buildings illuminated at night-time. How much more ‘hygge’ can you possibly get?

Disclaimer: Life is a Festival was provided with a press pass for the Destinatons Show 2017. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the same as the official views of the event organisers.

Fly Away With Me: World Travel Market 2016

Living in London has many perks and one of them is that some of the largest events in any industry take place right here. Of course, World Travel Market, which took over the Excel from 7-9 November 2016, is not exactly a festival as such, but it comes pretty close to feeling like one if you’re a travel addict, blogger, or both. It’s a huge event and with nearly 50000 exhibitors and visitors from around the world and a long list of presentations and networking sessions on offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In order to narrow it down a bit, I decided to focus on four areas this year: Travel Blogging, Creative Tourism, Responsible Tourism and Women in Travel and came away with some fascinating insights from all events I attended.

World Travel Market

Travel Blogging has become a huge growth sector in recent years with destination marketers, travel brands and influencers getting a chance to mingle and learn from each other at a lot of events – plus bloggers get access to the press lounge! On Friday, I attended at two events on mobile and live social media and video. We heard from digital communications experts like Flagship Consulting, bloggers, e.g. Niamh Shields of Eat Like A Girl,  and vloggers, such as Evan Edinger and Hannah Witton, who are using video as a blogging tool and I was impressed with their stories of how it is helping them to connect with their audiences, one video at a time. The next day the focus was on personalisation for bloggers and brands and influencer strategy with presentations from travel brands, such as  Cheapflights and Skyscanner, who work with content creators and shared some interesting details on how each of them manage those collaborations. Traverse hosted all of the above events and they are organising a blogger conference in April 2017, see you there!

World Trade Market Press Centre

Another fascinating session and the one closest to my heart was the Creative Tourism presentation on Tuesday. The title ‘Creative Tourism: A Necessary Update’ didn’t sound especially creative or promising, but the session most definitely was! Caroline Couret, the CEO of the Creative Tourism Network, based in Barcelona, presented a number of fascinating case studies on how destinations from different countries, such as Saint Jean Port Joli in Quebec as well as Ibiza Creativa, can attract creative travellers from around the world. Of course, the challenge remains for destinations and brands working in this market to stay commercially viable while providing options for a target group of highly independent and diverse travellers, an issue which I’ve also experienced in my own niche of festival travel. But how encouraging to see that this area has become such a growth market in recent years and is starting to be taken seriously around the world.

The World Responsible Tourism Awards 2016 were also announced during WTM 2016. This was probably the most inspiring event of all I attended, every single nominee sounded like an exciting forward-thinking business and the winners came from all four corners of the world. The overall winners this year were Lemon Tree Hotels in India (socially inclusive work environment and employment for people with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds) and Tren Ecuador (a community-based tourism initiative supporting local people along a train route), both pictures below accepting their awards. I was particularly impressed, for instance, that all Lemon Tree Hotel supervisors are trained in Indian Sign Language and in the case of Tren Ecuador, how lots of smaller projects successfully combine to create a livelihood for many rural families. Further winners included the Sam Veasna Center in Cambodia (wildlife conservation), the Friends International ChildSafe Movement (responsible tourism campaign) and Elevate Destinations (innovation by tour operator). It was also really encouraging to see how many of the organisations and sponsors had female leaders presenting and receiving the awards.

WRTD Awards

Which also makes for a nice segway to my last focus at WTM 2016: Women in Travel. As there were too many events clashing on the Wednesday, I only made it to the last panel session of the day-long Women in Travel Meetup, but was extremely glad I had done so as it was the perfect WTM closing event for me. The discussion organised by Alessandra Alonso of Everyday Mentor focused on female ‘start-up stars’ and we heard from a diverse group of speakers about their individual projects. One of them was Carolyn Pearson, who started Maiden Voyage, a women’s business travel network out of the simple need of wanting to meet other business women travelling alone and Natalia Komis whose start-up I Am Adventures takes artists, entrepreneurs and social innovators on creative adventures around the world. The panel members reminded the attendees to always concentrate on your own business mission and to make sure to join a network. The informal networking session which followed was proof of the friendly and productive atmosphere with interesting connections made with business women from various countries (more on the blog soonish).

So if you’re an established or aspiring travel blogger, destination marketer, translator (I did meet one other linguist specialising in tourism!) or simply passionate about travelling, WTM is the event for you, see you next November!

Disclaimer: This blog claims no credit for any images used in this post. All three images are copyright to its respectful owners, in this case the the official WTM photographers.

Stillness in the Midst of Chaos: The OM Yoga Show 2016

One year ago I was a brand new yoga convert and attended the OM Yoga Show for the first time. I wrote about my experience as a yoga newbie and have since been doing my best to keep a regular practice going throughout the year. I also went to two excellent yoga festivals in the summer, Yoga Connects near Rugby, and the inaugural Soul Circus in the Cotswolds. The UK has seen a real yoga boom in recent years and the OM Yoga show, which took place from 21-13 October 2016, is always a good place to find out about new trends and take a few classes with expert teachers.

yoga-class-om-show-2016

Having been to a talk by Dan Peppiatt of Yoga Like Water at Yoga Connects in July, I was keen to try out one of his sessions and the first one I took part in was a blind-folded yoga class. Yes, I  know, sounds scary, right? We got each given an eye mask and pretty much hoped for the best! Just listening to the instructor’s voice without any visual queues required quite a bit of trust and finding balance with your eyes closed turned even the most basic asanas into a nice challenge. Do try it at home and see how you feel. Doing yoga blind-folded was definitely a real eye-opener for me!

The second session by Dan I attended was all about preparing your hands and fingers for arm balances and, phew, there weren’t actually any handstands involved in the half-hour session. Instead, Dan talked us through various muscle groups and movements, which are all essential in order to be able to balance upside down or even just for crow pose. It’s ultimately more about technique rather than strength (good to know). It was a very interesting lesson in patience and we learned that breaking any process down into individual steps is a great way of achieving a long-term goal. Something which is not only useful in the yoga world, but does also come in handy in other parts of our daily lives.

rainbow-yoga

Another workshop I really enjoyed was the Rainbow Kids Yoga class (see above) on how to get children of different ages excited about yoga. We went through a variety of ‘journeying’ and other playful sequences including taking the kids, or in our case, a bunch of adults channelling their inner child for half an hour, on a trip to New York (or wherever else takes your fancy) which included riding the ocean waves and flying across the sky. Yep, it took quite a bit of imagination, but we were all up for it and all the laughing, dancing and group bonding most certainly released a lot of happy hormones. What a lovely experience!

After having greatly enjoyed one of David Sye’s sessions last year, I was keen to do another class by the Yogabeats founder this time around too. Driven by rhythmic, fairly fast-paced music and lots of food for thought, it was another memorable workshop, the half hour it lasted flying by in no time. Do check out their classes and charity work online, if you want yoga for body and soul and not just in order to keep fit.

Something quite different, but also a nice challenge is the fairly recent trend of aerial yoga, which was a new addition to this year’s show. As was to be expected, it was incredibly popular and alas there were long queues for it on each day, but it’s  on my list to try sometime, maybe at a yoga festival next year.

Pip & Eugene of Acro Yoga Dance with were also at the show again this year. This brave little girl (see below) was definitely a step ahead of most of us, so great to see the yogis of the future!

acroyoga-om-show-2016

I also made sure I took out some time for talks on meditation and mindfulness, which are all part of a well-rounded yoga practice and something which I still find even harder to make time for than the asana-based work. The first session I attended was by Kat Farrants, founder of online yoga platform Movement for Modern Life and focused on creating a personal home practice. The other was by Neil Seligman who talked about a related topic, how to sustain a daily mindfulness practice. There were a lot of similarities between the two speakers. Both had come from a fast-paced work environment and performance-focused culture and had been keen to find a more balanced lifestyle. So both of them developed a personal approach to include yoga and mindfulness in their daily lives. The secret? Not rocket science, of course. Instead it is about breaking down your practice into bite-sized chunks, creating a dedicated mindfulness area in your home and sticking with it (the hard part, obviously)! It has definitely motivated me to keep up my own home practice, as imperfect as it often is.

In fact, the OM yoga show mirrors quite well what life is like for most of us. There is a lot of noise all around us and we are constantly being pulled in many different directions. The important part is to learn to stay centred amidst the chaos and focus on our personal goals. And just like last year, after three yoga-filled days, I came away with lots of good tips for my personal practice, a few nice product samples and some interesting new yoga contacts. Mission staying motivated for a regular yoga practice most definitely accomplished!

Disclaimer: Life is a Festival was provided with a one day press pass for the 2016 event in exchange for a personal review of the show and mentions on social media. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the same as the official views of the event organisers.

Meet the Music Makers: Belle Roscoe

One of my favourite live music discoveries of 2016 has been Belle Roscoe, an Australian sibling duo who have recently settled in London (at least for now!). I’ve been wanting to interview Julia and Matt ever since I’ve been at a few of their fantastic live shows earlier this year and we finally got around to it. One of the most likeable bands I’ve come across in a long time, they shared some of their experiences playing gigs, recording and touring in the UK and further afield, so read on to find out more about what makes this exciting band tick.

belle-roscoe-1

Life is a Festival: I’m so glad you guys are based in the UK now and looks like moving to London was an excellent decision. Having grown up in Melbourne and lived in Paris for a while, why did you pick London and what do you love about it so far?

Belle Roscoe: Haha we’re not really sure where home is anymore!! We moved to London in March due to the great reaction and support we received from some shows we played in 2015. It felt right to be based here for the next stages for Belle Roscoe. The music industry feels strong and healthy and the energy of the city is intoxicating… We just hope we can survive it, gees it’s expensive!!

Life is a Festival: You seem to have a really good relationship with your manager Megan, how did you find each other and how has it helped shaping your musical career here in the UK and further afield?

Belle Roscoe: We met at one of our first shows in London in September 2014 … Funny enough it was a gig that we weren’t very keen to play! She was in the audience, we started talking post show and we quickly became very good friends. Meg is also an Aussie and is carving out an amazing career as a film producer in London. Quite organically, Meg started introducing us to music industry people in London… We then developed into a great team and Meg took on role as manager, though she prefers to be referred to as a facilitator! Since her involvement, she has created amazing opportunities for Belle Roscoe around the world. We’ve toured and played in Nashville & Memphis, Sweden, Croatia, Germany & all around the UK… In fact we’ve played over 100 shows since March and had an absolute ball doing it. We are super lucky to have met Meg both on a personal and business level.

Life is a Festival: Sounds just perfect! Let’s talk about your music. You’ve got a pretty unique, genre-defying sound, you’re both versatile musicians and your voices harmonise beautifully. What I’m always enjoying most at your live shows is the infectious, positive energy the whole band seems to have, it’s really inspiring! Tell me a little bit about makes you tick as a band and about the band members you’ve worked with since getting to the UK.

Belle Roscoe: Music is something quite innate in us as siblings. We have not been musically trained in any traditional way… We are self taught and as a result we just feel what we play. Sometimes not understanding every nuance of technique allows you more freedom, which in turn lets you feel and enjoy it more, rather than analysing it. We have worked on our performance over time and naturally a live performance improves if you are playing a lot. The performance energy comes from a combination of things. Family upbringing, life’s joys & struggles with the industry and personally and now it also stems from the appreciation of support we now have behind the band. Support and encouragement always helps a band lift. We hate letting anyone down, so that’s probably why get out on stage and try to give it everything we’ve got. The band is also quite international and has a unique chemistry as a consequence. We have a french drummer, an Australian guitarist and an English bass player… Touring together is bloody hilarious!

Life is a Festival: What I love about your music is that there is such a balanced focus on both intelligent lyrics and memorable melodies, which is no small feat to achieve. How do your songs come about, who writes them and how do you go from the initial idea to the final version?

Belle Roscoe: That’s a good compliment. Thank you! We labour over the lyrics so it’s nice when people notice them. The melodies come from our upbringing, we’ve been very influenced by our parents records and great musical taste. We had an intro into the best of the 50s/60s/70s… Dusting off a record and placing the needle always seemed like such an amazing experience! By osmosis we were drawn to bands that offered strong melodies both instrumentally and vocally. As far as the creation of our songs go… Sometimes we don’t even know. We just draw on our own experiences and emotions and find time to write about it. We are both song-writers and often individually come up with a melody and or chord progression and work it from there. We are very honest with one another and have learnt to trust in each other’s feedback and know when a song is working or not. When it does work, we both feel it and we finish the song no matter what… One of our songs, Mary Mary took 3 years to finish!

Life is a Festival: You’ve just been in the studio recording some new material following the release of your limited edition EP ‘Belle Roscoe’ in this country last year and are about to hit the road for your first German tour as well as some very exciting shows in Cuba. Tell me more about what’s planned for the next couple of months.

Belle Roscoe: We recently hit a couple of London studios and are tracking 3 new tracks. It feels great to be back in a studio and creating new songs. Getting in the studio and trying to create what you hear in your head is always a good experience, difficult sometimes. Only the other day we were in the studio, struggling to get a take, everyone was tired and falling apart. We pushed through and the magic happened! Germany is going to be a lot of fun. We are hitting the road with a good friend Jaimi Faulkner – hanging out with him and his band is going o be a lot of fun. We are playing 20 acoustic shows throughout Germany between the 6th and the 24th October 2016. And yes, it’s out first time to Germany! Cuba, how bloody cool is that!! It is going to be such a great way to end the year. We’ve never been there so we are going to dive in head first! Other than the gigs we have booked we plan to also write and record while we are there. We are actually running a very very cool competition for our fans to win the chance to join us in Cuba.  All they have to do is buy some merch from our website and they could win a trip of a lifetime for 2 people! They will come and hang out with Belle Roscoe – watch some shows, smoke cigars and drink rum!! Check out our website and social media for more details: www.belleroscoe.com

Thanks to Julia & Matt for taking the time to answer these questions! Keep an eye out on social media for when and where you can catch Belle Roscoe live in the near future. I highly recommend giving them a listen!

Stretch, Breathe, Laugh, Repeat: The OM Yoga Show 2015

There are many reasons why people get into yoga. Mine was slightly different from the usual ones of finding calm or getting fit. As a festival enthusiast, I had often been enviously eyeing the many fabulous yoga festivals and had always felt a bit left out as I don’t usually enjoy most organised forms of sport and had felt too inflexible to join in. I had tried yoga a few times in the past, an open class in a museum in Australia and a small group class in New Zealand when I was travelling, but I had never really wanted to do it again until this September. Having just returned from a holiday visiting family, I decided to give yoga another go. I searched for some online classes and quickly came across Yoga with Adriene. I told myself I’m going to stick with it for just the one half hour the video lasted and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to do it again. Then something amazing happened. I woke up the next morning and the first thing I thought was, I must try another one of those Adriene videos (and did I mention her adorable dog Benji features in some of them, too, and she is from the live music capital of the world, Austin!). I couldn’t believe it. Trying out yoga once had pretty much instantly turned into a near daily yoga habit – thanks Adriene ;-).

Coco class

Of course one of the first things I did next was to look for nearby yoga festivals, so I came across the OM Yoga Show at Alexandra Palace in London from 23-25 October 2015 (which should really be called the OMG Yoga Show!). The organisers were so nice to give me a free ticket to the show (thanks guys!) and I decided to write a blog post on my first yoga “festival” to show other beginners that it’s all about giving it a go and facing your fears.

On the Friday morning I was super nervous. The programme looked amazing and most classes were for “all levels”, but did that really include the half an hour a day yoga for barely six weeks me? My heart was pounding when I walked through the doors until I found the aroma yoga session with Sophie Bickerdike. I looked around. The people on the mats (women and quite a few men of all ages) seemed friendly enough. Right, I thought, what have I possibly got to lose? I sat down on a mat and have not looked back since!

I ended up trying a couple more classes that day, Dru meditation, yoga for health and wellbeing (run by the British Wheel of Yoga) and Kundalini yoga. All of them were intriguing and each instructor made sure each of us felt comfortable and included. I also loved the general atmosphere at the event. Unlike at many other trade shows, it was all very friendly with lots of enthusiastic smiley people and an incredible amount of tempting colourful yoga outfits, props and retreats on offer.

The next morning I felt completely different than the day before. I couldn’t get to Ally Pally fast enough and was circling a whole number of exciting looking sessions in the programme on the bus. Alas the first class I had picked was totally oversubscribed, so a quick decision was needed and I joined a laughter yoga class with Harish Chavda. OMG! How much fun we had acting like children wearing props such as Christmas hats while actual children were looking on incredulously probably thinking, what are these adults doing?? After such a relaxing start to the day I stayed on the same mat for the Let it Flow class by Tiffany Mackenzie-Shapland. Despite some tech issues (the only downside to the show all weekend), it was a lovely, peaceful session, which left me floating for the next couple of hours. Another highlight of the weekend was the Yogabeats class with David Sye, which made me quite emotional in a good way. Their approach and projects are really well worth checking out and supporting. Beautiful stuff.

Lotus class

I also had a chat with Sirrka Fisk, who has written a lovely children’s yoga book called Ommie and the Magical Garden. The lecture stage at the show had quite a few interesting sessions as well including one by Louise Palmer-Masterson of CamYoga on running a successful ethical business whilst overcoming self-limiting beliefs, which really applies to any business, not just to teaching yoga. As the yoga for horse riders class had sadly been cancelled I headed home a little earlier. This turned out to be very lucky, as I ran into the fabulous Tara Stiles, who owns Strala Yoga in New York, at Finsbury Park station. Another one of my favourite online yoga inspirations, she was super friendly and I just couldn’t believe how much fun I was having this weekend.

There is always the dreaded last festival day and it was no different at OM Yoga Show. I absolutely tried to make the best of it though and gave quite a few different yoga styles a go. I started the day with a raw vegan chocolate making workshop (yes, there were samples and all food at the show was  vegetarian or vegan!) followed by a Dance on Your Fears class by Eleonora Zampatti, who also happens to be on the OM Yoga Magazine November cover. The description had sounded relatively general and I liked the idea of learning to deal with my fears, but had had no idea it was all about arm balances! However, once I was on the mat, there wasn’t really any way of getting out of it, so, to my utter amazement and thanks to Eleonora’s precise and encouraging instructions, I gave Crow Pose a go.  I managed to lift myself up on my beginners arms for about a second at a time and felt like this pose might become a friend much sooner than I could have ever expected. Wow!

The rest of the day was equally enlightening. I took part in a wonderful and fun Animal Asanas class with Jenny Mace, right before which I bought a fantastic t-shirt from My Mantra Activewear with “I just want to drink coffee, save animals and do yoga” written on it – I couldn’t have put it any better! Next up was Yoga Bou with Chaco from Yokohama, using a Japanese stick. I love Japan (travelled there twice) and Chaco made the class super fun while we also got a really good workout. I should have probably called it a day after this session (especially my arms were screaming ‘stop’ at this point), but couldn’t resist the Yoglow class (the only 45 minute one I did) with Michael from Yogangster. Even this early on I’m already a big fan of flow classes and despite feeling sore from three full-on yoga days in a row I managed to stick with it.

coffee animals yoga tee

Alas all festivals come to an end at some point, but luckily OM Yoga Show seems to have two sister events in Glasgow (2-3 April 2016) and Manchester (20-22 May 2016) and now that I’m completely hooked on yoga, there are so many other things out there to try. Acro yoga looked amazing for instance and I cannot wait to teach a few basic animal asanas to my little nieces during the Christmas holidays. So if you, like me not so long ago, think you’re not flexible or patient enough to give yoga a try, just give yourself half an hour or even just 15 minutes a day, do one of the Adrienne videos online and notice how you feel. I completely agree with Tiffany of Croyde Yoga, whose session I attended on Saturday, that trying out lots of styles and teachers is a great idea. You never know, yoga could become your great new passion. It has definitely already changed my life so much for the better. Namaste 🙂

Making World Literature Your Oyster: The Daunt Books Festival 2015

The good thing about living in London is that hardly a week goes by without a writers festival happening somewhere around the city. Not all of them take place in such a wonderful bookshop and are as lovingly curated as the Daunt Books Festival in Marylebone, however.

Daunt window

For the second festival on 19-20 March 2015, bookseller and organiser Emily Rhodes put together an enticing programme of talks and discussions for all ages. I would have loved to be at all the events (smaller scale festivals with only one event at a time are great as no clashes), but sadly work commitments got in the way.

Anthea Bell

The talks I did catch were excellent though. On Thursday I was lucky to be at a conversation between former children’s laureate, novelist and poet Michael Rosen and one of the top literary translators in this country, Anthea Bell (mainly from German and French), chaired by Julia Eccleshare.

The topic was loosely based around fascinating German author Erich Kästner’s work, but also covered various other childhood favourites in translation. You can listen to a podcast of Rosen visiting the Berlin of „Emil and the Detectives“, a Kästner classic originally published in 1929, which was also recently made into a successful Westend production, here. Even just looking at the different covers from various past English editions of the popular children’s book translated from German was fascinating. So was the discussion on the German and English film adaptions of the book. Compared to existing children’s literature of the time, it was a groundbreaking novel and the only one of Kästner’s pre-1945 works to escape Nazi censorship.

Daunt Books Marylebone

On Friday I started my book festival day with some delicious spiced hot chocolate from Roccoco chocolates before the first author event of the day: In Praise of Short Stories. I love short stories and far from being in any way inferior to the novel as a literary genre, they have their own appeal. There are even specific short story festivals, such as the London Short Story Festival or the Cork Short Story Festival in Ireland.

Today’s first panel was chaired by Laura Macaulay, publisher and bookseller at Daunt, and consisted of writers Tessa Hadley, Colin Barrett and Julianne Pachico. Listening to excerpts from stories by each of the panelists and the discussion that followed we were reminded what makes short stories so unique: they are unpredictable, irresistible glimpses into fictional worlds and can be a very rewarding reading experience if we are willing to give them a try. A short story, as writer AL Kennedy puts it in an article, “can offer the artistry and intensity of a poem, the themes and weight of a novel and all in a space so small that there is nowhere to hide a single error.”

My third and last event of the festival was Russians in Paris, about émigré Russian writers of the 1920s and their influence on Russian and foreign literature. Translator and editor Bryan Karetnyk, author Peter Pomerantsev and literary critic and writer Nicholas Lezard discussed Russian literature past and present, the relevance of Paris as a base for so many writers in the 1920s (including the fact that most Russian émigré writers had excellent French) as well as the freedom which a move to another city and country can bring to one’s work. I had never read any books by Gazdanov or Teffi before, the talk definitely piqued my interest in Russian writing, however.

book table

Luckily, there are UK publishers who specifically focus on the world’s literature in translation. These include And Other Stories, Pushkin Press and Peirene Press and Daunt stocks quite a few of them.

If you have caught the translated literature bug and are keen to read more books from cultures around the world in translation, you can take a look at @TranslatedWorld as well as hashtags #TranslatedWorld and #NameTheTranslator on Twitter for excellent suggestions. There is also a useful calendar of literature translation related events (mainly in the UK).

Thanks to Emily for being so welcoming and for answering all my questions on festival programming, preparations and her other bookish adventures. You can read my interview with her here and are welcome to join her monthly Walking Book Club in London.

Meet the Festival Makers: Emily Rhodes of Daunt Books Festival

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.

Emily Rhodes walking book club

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.

Daunt Festival 2015 pic