With a stellar line-up that includes Clare Balding, Sir Chris Hoy, Carnegie Medal-winner Tanya Landman and poet Tony Walsh (who famously performed at the One Love Manchester concert) Broughton Hall’s first ever Children’s Literature Festival seems to be off to a good start. And that’s before the festival has even begun.
‘It’s a great line up,’ admits Trevor Wilson, director of the festival. ‘We’ve been very lucky. They were all very keen to come and support something in the north. We’ve got about 65 authors coming and we’ll be running about 100 events over the weekend – 50 each day. So it’s big!’
Originally from Oakworth, Trevor has been driven by his love of children’s literature since teaching in primary, middle and secondary schools (both in Yorkshire and as far overseas as the Cayman Islands) and has used his retirement to establish both a flourishing publishing company, Caboodle Books, and an organisation called Authors Abroad, which organises author visits into schools both at home and overseas.
‘Authors Abroad works with about 300 children’s authors, poets, illustrators and storytellers,’ says Trevor. ‘We put them into schools all over the UK to inspire kids about reading and writing. We also work with about 1,000 of the world’s top international schools in more than 60 countries, and we do the same thing there – sending authors and poets out to various international schools.’
So what was his incentive behind organising something of the size and scale of Broughton Hall’s first ever Children’s Literature Festival?
‘We were just a little bit disillusioned with the fact that all the bigger festivals are down south,’ says Trevor. ‘We thought it was time to do something to put Yorkshire on the map. And to launch (what we hope will be) the biggest festival of its kind. We’re working with 200 schools: we’ve provided them with a free author visit, and we’re also running a massive writing competition with them as well. So the idea was really to try and put something of quality on up north, and particularly in Yorkshire, that would rival those festivals in the south.’
Trevor isn’t completely leaving his Authors Abroad experience on the shelf, though. A key component of the festival will be visits by well-known children’s authors – such as TV broadcaster Clare Balding, Olympian cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and Carnegie Medal-winner Tanya Landman – to schools in North and West Yorkshire and Lancashire; at least 50 passionate practitioners will visit over 150 schools in the local community prior to the festival.
At the heart of the festival, however, is a weekend of performances, workshops and literary magic at the Broughton Hall Estate itself. Bursting with the colourful sights and sounds of story-telling and performance poetry, the grounds of the estate will be transformed as passionate writers and artists share their experiences in a series of special events spread across Broughton Hall’s parklands.
‘There are lots of authors, poets and illustrators coming, and we’re also putting on some theatre shows,’ explains Trevor. ‘There’s Alice and Wonderland, we’re doing a Roald Dahl show, we’re doing a Diary Of A Wimpy Kid show, and we’ve also just linked up with Peel Entertainment. They’re putting on a Mad Hatter’s tea party, which we’re hosting in the woods near Broughton Hall. We’ve also got a stage where we’re putting free events on all day every day, so we’re trying to make it as accessible as we possibly can.’
While the Broughton Hall Children’s Literature Festival has the central incentive of inspiring youngsters to read and engage with the different forms of literature, it also stands in support of a deeper cause.
The festival will officially be supporting the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust – a charity dedicated to training teachers how to recognise, and deal with, mental health issues in young children. Sadly becoming increasingly prevalent in schools, mental health is something at the forefront of the festival organisers’ minds when creating the programme and, indeed, the festival itself.
‘It’s all very relevant to what is going on in schools today,’ says Trevor. ‘It’s a major concern in all schools, no matter what they are: primary, secondary, colleges and universities. The funds that we raise from the festival will enable the charity to set up training programmes in our region, as opposed to nationwide, so the money is being ploughed back into our own schools. We’re trying to put something back and the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust seemed a worthy cause to support.’
Yet while they are choosing to tackle some incredibly serious concerns in schools by partnering with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, the ways in which the festival will address mental health are deliberately subtle. With the belief that a real love of reading can have a positive effect on children’s mental wellbeing, their confidence and self-esteem, and their ability to develop empathy, the team behind the Broughton Hall Children’s Literature Festival are determined to fire up children’s imaginations through a variety of different, fun-filled mediums.
’It’s just a festival to get kids inspired,’ says Trevor. ‘We’re opening the festival with a concert in the main marquee. Andy Day has got a band called Andy and the Odd Socks which, again, is a little bit about mental health and about encouraging kids to be individuals. They’re trying to do an odd socks day in schools to encourage kids to be proud of themselves, be confident, and not to worry if they’re different. They’re an incredible band and they’re opening the festival, so that’s going to be very cool.’
‘We want it to be as interactive as possible. It’s got to be fun, that’s the main thing. We want it to be exciting, so that the kids who come and see it will go away buzzing. The authors who will be there don’t just stand and read, they’re very dynamic characters and they’re very inspirational, so the whole point is to really enthuse and motivate kids about reading and writing. We want them to come in and have fun, see as many different things as they can, and just be engaged with reading. That’s what it’s all about for us.’
Don’t miss our top picks from the festival’s programme
PLENTY TO CROW OVER
Play your part in creating the biggest and best scarecrow trail in Yorkshire. Working with over 200 schools in the region, the Broughton Hall Children’s Literature Festival has invited each school to let their collective imagination run wild and design the most amazing scarecrows they can. Follow the Micralite Scarecrow Trail at the festival – making plenty of fun detective work for the kids.
When: all weekend
SOCK IT TO ‘EM
CBeebies star Andy Day and his band, the Odd Socks, are certainly set to open the festival with a bang. With a love of telling stories and singing about all sorts of things – from aliens and dinosaurs to rapping robots and even a groovy hoover – this show promises to be packed with hilarious songs, fun-loving characters, and an important message about celebrating individuality.
When: Friday, 6pm–7pm
WONDERS NEVER CEASE
Immerse yourself in Lewis Carroll’s classic fantasy with this interactive theatre show, designed to evoke children’s imaginations in a way that encourages creative writing, reading and discussion. Colourful, musical and packed full of fun, riddles, adventure and special effects, Alice in Wonderland shows the beauty to be found in disappearing down a rabbit hole to a place full of curious characters, alternative reasoning, and truly bizarre adventures.
When: Sunday, 3.40pm–4.30pm
CLARE THE AIR
Join children’s author and broadcaster Clare Balding as she introduces the first two instalments of her brilliant new animal adventure trilogy: The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop and The Racehorse Who Disappeared. Clare will share tales of growing up surrounded by animals and inspirational stories from the Olympians and Paralympians she has met during her remarkable career. Guaranteed to entertain and inspire the whole family.
When: Saturday, 2.30pm–3.15pm
BAKE UP A STORM
Having played together in various forms for over 10 years, World Poetry Slam Champion Harry Baker teams up with jazz musician Chris Read – bringing a unique mix of comedy, melody, poetry and friendship to the festival. This positive and uplifting show promises blistering wordplay in songs that cover all manner of topics – from pandas and vegetarianism to Robot Wars.
When: Sunday, 12.20pm–1.00pm
The Broughton Hall Children’s Literature Festival will run between 29th–30th September.
For the full line up and ticket information, visit: www.childrensliteraturefestival.org