The story of Newark Book Festival
The first Newark Book Festival took place in July 2017 – a two-day event bringing authors, illustrators and readers together for a programme covering many writing genres with events for all ages to enjoy. This debut Festival, a natural successor to the earlier Books in the Castle event, proved that there was local appetite for a literary event in this historic Nottinghamshire market town and that people wanted more.
Now a mainstay in the Newark cultural calendar, each year the Festival grows, encompassing more talks and workshops, an ever-expanding literature market, street theatre and entertainment, a Festival pop-up shop and a blossoming schools and education programme – all taking place in venues across the town, including the Palace Theatre, library, town hall, the castle grounds and even on the River Trent.
We aim to share good writing, encourage reading, support writers and offer the opportunity to meet authors through an inclusive and accessible programme of events. We want the Festival to challenge, inspire and fire imaginations both young and old, celebrating and showcasing the world of books as well as local writing talent.
Welcoming readers and authors to Newark
To date we have welcomed over 9,000 audience members to Festival events, many from the local Nottinghamshire region, as well as those who have travelled from other parts of the UK and internationally to attend the Festival.
“The Festival goes from strength to strength- wonderful for the town and for all of us who love reading!” Festival attendee, 2019
We have built on-going relationships with authors who enjoy the friendly Festival atmosphere and enthusiastic audiences. Past festivals have included events with writers Matt Haig, Joanne Harris, Mark Billingham, Sophie Hannah, Alison Weir, Lucy Mangan and Carole Matthews. Our vibrant family programme has included events with children’s authors and illustrators Michelle Harrison, Lucy Rowland, Mark Chambers and Katherine Woodfine.
In 2019, we developed the first Newark Book Festival schools programme engaging with eleven local schools and 1,200 primary school children through author visits and workshops encouraging the young people of Newark to become life-long readers.
“I just wanted to share what an absolutely amazing and inspirational day we had….What a brilliant opportunity!” Teacher at local Primary School, 2019
This video of highlights from the 2019 Festival, produced by Dave Clancy, offers a flavour of Newark Book Festival.
Newark Book Festival Re-imagined for 2020
In 2020 we had plans to take the Festival on tour to reach a wider audience, with a satellite programme of events and workshops taking place in nearby Edwinstone, the home of the legend of Robin Hood and the iconic Sherwood Forest. Sadly, the worldwide pandemic has meant that these plans had to be adapted slightly but we took the opportunity to re-create and re-imagine the Festival, splitting it into five Chapters taking place from July 2020 – March 2021.
The Chapters have included Literary Walks, writing workshops, a Literature Market, Family Trail, commissions from artists including Storytime with Rhubarb Theatre and Reading Newark a new work by Nottinghamshire poet Leanne Moden plus the online production of our Community Launch Flashmob We Are The Champions. Alongside this we successfully delivered an online programme of 13 events to our audiences in Newark and beyond, working with webinar partners I Am In Print. Chapters 4-5 were our schools programme and online Children’s Festival Day on Feb 27th – welcome to the Imaginarium.
Looking towards the future
As a not-for-profit community organisation the Festival is funded through grants, donations and sponsorship. Since 2017 we have developed on-going relationships with local businesses and been a recipient of Arts Council England funding. Our Festival Friends help to support the Festival, as well as a growing army of volunteers donating their time to make the vision a reality.
We have ambitions to return to hosting live events, talks, panels and workshops in Newark once again in 2021. Watch this space for programme information as it is announced. Join our mailing list and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for regular Festival updates – just search Newark Book Festival.