Wednesday 28 September 2016

Window on the world

It's here, it's started! My brain is buzzing, my heart is full. Can you tell I'm excited? The Henley Literary Festival kicked off this week with a host of writers, performers and literary stalwarts. The festival and I go way back. Ten years ago, when it first opened its doors, it took my hand and said, Stop pining for London - look what Henley has to offer! We've been friends ever since.

Comedian Ben Miller asks: 'Is there life beyond earth?'
For one week in the year, I cram my head with knowledge. It's like I'm making up for lost time - and perhaps I am. My biggest regret from my university years was not attending enough lectures. At the time, bed seemed a more inviting prospect first thing in the morning. In my callow youth I took 'learning' for granted. Now, entrenched in the humdrum world of work and parenthood, I can't get enough of it.

Friends often say to me, "Gosh isn't your festival coming up soon?" (Such is my passion for books and literary stuff.) But as I sat this week through sessions on reading navigational signs in nature, Henry VIII's toilet habits and scientific chat about aliens out in space, I realised that this festival goes beyond the book-lover's domain. There is something for everyone and quite honestly you don't have to go near a book if you don't want to. Just sit, listen and soak it all up...

For me, it's also an opportunity to address questions to the authors involved - either creators of fiction or experts in their field. How often do you get to ask a bestselling author about her craft? Or find out why someone wanted to run a 1940s marriage bureau? Or enquire about the properties of green sea-water? It's like being invited to a fascinating dinner party.

In an age where we are constantly time-pressed, where we are bombarded with tweets and YouTube clips, it is such a pleasure to sit for an hour and listen to someone talking about their life's work. For one week, through the prism of publishing, Henley opens a window on the world. The view is fabulous - go take a look!

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