Border Lines

Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Berwick Lit Fest: a feast of words for autumn

The Friendly Festival in a Historic Walled Town 15th-18th October 2020 hopes to be something for us all to look forward to post Covid-19

Berwick Lit Fest’s seventh season runs from 15th to 18th October 2020. The programme for this year’s Festival is all but complete and looks set to have the widest appeal yet. From world champion slam poet Harry Baker to Borders historian Alistair Moffat; presenter and political correspondent Steve Richards to historian and academic Diarmaid MacCulloch; and garden journalist and social historian Ursula Buchan to poetry publisher and editor Neil Astley – it’s a programme to entertain, engage and provoke debate across age ranges.

Michael Gallico, Festival chair says: ‘The unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic means these are uncertain times for all events and festivals. We very much hope that our community – and communities across the world – will be through this terrible time by October, and that the Lit Fest might be something to look forward to in these difficult times.’

Mike Fraser, Lit Fest programme co-ordinator says: ‘The Festival has grown steadily since 2014 and we’re always seeking to attract new audiences. The Lit Fest is all about words – written, spoken, performed – a blend that’s drawn increasing audiences from across the Borders and beyond.’ Mike says that the Lit Fest seeks to attract more visitors from towns such as Newcastle, Alnwick, Hexham, Edinburgh and Glasgow – all within easy reach for day trippers or weekend visitors – and to engage more book festival and literary festival enthusiasts from both south and north.

Mike explains that each day of the Festival’s run has a themed strand that both day and weekend Festival attendees can track – for example: poetry, history, and writing and environment.  ‘Comedian Katie Brand pulled in an eager audience in 2019,’ says Mike. ‘It’s great to schedule events that attract a cross-section of ages. Slam-poet Harry Baker’s quirky, poignant poems speak of today’s world in a modern, accessible form. Whilst local journalist and author, Christopher Ward, will dip into the world of the Titanic via the story of his grandfather: a violinist in the band that continued to play as the tragic vessel sank.’

Berwick Lit Fest prides itself on the use of the town’s historic sites as venues – from the Guildhall to the Berwick Visitor Centre (the former Methodist Church). Local community engagement and support is also an integral part of the Festival. Michael Gallico says: ‘From day one, the Festival team looked at anchoring the Lit Fest in Berwick – we’re hugely fortunate to  live in such a historic and attractive town – and we aim to help visitors to enjoy every aspect of our location, whilst developing a compelling programme offer. Clearly, we want our visitors to attend our range of fascinating events but it’s also an opportunity for them to get a taste of our town’s beautiful riverside, coast, and historic sites such the unique Elizabethan Ramparts.’

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A historical reenactment on Berwick’s historic ramparts
Berwick Lighthouse at sunset with the town silhouetted behind
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The Royal Border Bridge across the River Tweed with Berwick Castle and the driftwood boat sculpture popular with walkers, children and would-be seafarers

Part of ‘anchoring’ the Festival in the community is the schools programme, which includes events and workshops in local schools; a partnership with Berwick Rotary Club ensures a well-subscribed story competition for children to enter; and poetry reading in local care homes is a fundamental part of the Festival’s community offer.  

For up-to-date information on events, speakers and performers visit the Festival website and find it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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