Please note: this was written in 2013. Please consult the current (2021) Festilitt website. A reminder to anyone who lives in the area or is visiting that our first Literary Festival will take place in Parisot this weekend (11th-13th October) with a line-up of both French and British authors. This is not a huge event – we can’t possibly compare with the crime literature festival running in Toulouse at the same time. What are the challenges involved in running something like this in la France profonde?
Gina, who runs the Médiathèque (library), first mooted the idea early this year to replace the previous salon du livre, which was felt to have run its course. We had already run some successful author talks at the library on which we could capitalise. But we were conscious of starting late. You need a lead-time of at least a year, if not more. Sought-after authors get booked up well in advance and our first priority was to find them as soon as possible. We were very lucky that we managed to attract some well-known authors.
Running a Franco-British event poses a number of challenges. Three French and three Brits are on our committee of six. All our meetings and communications have to be in French. Just as well, then, that we three Brits speak it reasonably well. Even so, we have some interesting moments of incomprehension and noteworthy cultural differences. French meetings tend to go on for ages with everyone talking at once. Somehow decisions get taken and things happen, although I have to admit to feeling a bit punch-drunk afterwards.
An eclectic programme
We had to put together a programme that would appeal to both French and Anglophone residents and to the varied tastes within those communities. I think we have broadly succeeded with a programme that offers something for everyone.
In addition to the author talks, we have workshops in French for adults about producing a cartoon book and for children about writing their own story on a given theme and turning it into a book. We also have a cookery demonstration – how to make amuses bouches to go with apéritifs. The authors will be signing and selling their books during the weekend.
Exhibition of le Livre de Poche
On top of that, we added another challenge. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the first Livre de Poche (an imprint a bit like Penguin). An exhibition of as many Livres de Poche as we have been able to collect from local people (to date more than 2,500) will be held at the Mairie.
Bravo to Huguette, who has masterminded the operation. This has involved explaining to people what we need, getting them to provide a list of their books (all the Livres de Poche are numbered) and delivering them. Huguette has then had to sort them and put them all in order. Then we will have to make sure we get them back to their respective owners, unscathed, afterwards.
In addition to all this we have had to deal with a host of practical issues. Here are just a few:
- The administration of the ‘meet the authors’ meal on Saturday night (all 70 places are sold out).
- The publicity – putting together and agreeing the design of the programme was a major undertaking. The ether has glowed red as we have emailed every contact we know to publicise the event.
- Ensuring the authors are well looked after and finding hosts to put up those who want to stay overnight.
- Ensuring people know where to go for a bite to eat and priming local restaurants accordingly.
- Getting the timing right and making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time.
- Preparing the various venues for the different sessions.
And much, much more, with which I won’t bore you.
The result of all these efforts remains to be seen. No doubt there will be things we could have done better and things that didn’t occur to us. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed that everyone has a good time and that the weather isn’t too perverse.
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