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A Round-Up of Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature 12th 20th May 2023

The 25th Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature has ended, and we thank everyone responsible for making the event such a great success.  Lynn Goold, Chair of the Board of Trustees responsible for the Festival, Brenda Daly, the Festival director, and the Trustees, there were so few of you, and you all worked tirelessly throughout the entire Festival; all deserve a massive vote of thank from all the festival attendees.  Then there were the stewards, volunteers, Andrea, who led the events in the Parish Hall, the lovely student Eleanor, and so many other helpers, including KP Cabs, Matt and Jodie and Kevin and Ruth.  If I have missed anyone, you know who you are; everything you did is much appreciated.  A huge thank you to you all for creating and running such a splendid festival.

In Fowey, as in most of the country, we have endured a long, grey and wet winter, so it was great that the sun came out in Fowey last week, just in time to welcome everyone to the Festival.  The warm, sunny days certainly contributed to the relaxed and happy atmosphere as everyone enjoyed themselves. 

Sunshine in Fowey for the 25th Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature

After months of planning, the Festival was launched on Friday evening in the Parish Church with a beautiful concert by Jonathan Delbridge, who entertained the audience with music played on the piano and organ.

On Saturday 13th, it was Daphne du Maurier's birthday, so a special day which is always included within the dates of Fowey Festival.  On that day, Professor Kate Williams, Patron of Fowey Festival, gave a fun and fact-filled talk, Secrets of the Royal Palaces, based on her television series of the same name.  

Professor Kate Williams, Patron of Fowey Festival

The week was filled with a wide variety of events, including walks, reading groups, concerts and comedy.  And at the heart of it all were the talks by politicians, broadcasters, historians, authors and many others.  Discussions ranged from the first Saturday when Lennie Gooding talked to Daphne Skinnard about her book A Bite of the Apple and her years working for Virago, the feminist publishing house which celebrates 50 years this year, to Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller, talking at the end of the week about his life and work and his new book Art is Magic.  

The Bookshop Band

During the week, I spoke to some of the people attending the Festival, both locals and visitors.  Discussing the evening events, everyone agreed they felt so much better after an evening of laughter with the wonderful Johnny Cowling.  The Fisherman's Friends were welcomed back to Fowey with tremendous enthusiasm.  Everyone who managed to get tickets for their concert had a great evening.  Lots of people loved The Bookshop Band, and lots enjoyed The People's String Foundation Duo, Jonathan Delbridge, Glorious Chorus and The Fowey River Singers and St Austell Brass Band.  What a great week of evenings out in Fowey.  Then there was Arkangel, who gave a super lunchtime concert in the church.

Returning to the Festival were speakers, including Serena Trowbridge, who led two reading groups and gave talks about the myths, gossip, scandals and secrets surrounding the Pre-Raphaelites, and the Gothic novel and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier within that genre.  Also, Pat Newberry, who talked about the Cornish Country House and provided us with much information that the audience had not previously known, and Kate Aspengren, who spoke about the adaptations of Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca for cinema, television and radio.  Her wonderful, relaxed way of engaging with the audience had many people saying her talk was one of the best they had attended.  Finally, Daphne du Maurier's grandson, Rupert Tower, returned to the Festival after a gap of many years.  He is a Jungian analyst, and he used his professional knowledge of Jung's Shadow Concept to explain the concept to the audience and to apply it to Daphne's novel, The Scapegoat.  This was not an easy subject, but Rupert explained the Shadow Concept so clearly that his talk was fascinating.  You could have heard a pin drop in the Town Hall during his talk as everyone listened intently and then inundated him with questions and comments at the end of the event. 

One visitor I spoke to had been on the Mevagissey Meander Guided Walk.  He told me he had thoroughly enjoyed the walk and had learned much local history about the town from the guide.  He was looking forward to making a return visit next time he is in Fowey.

Everyone will have enjoyed their own programme of events and had their favourites, but overall, the mix of speakers and the range of subjects meant that everyone could find something to suit them.  

Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Path, The Wild Silence and Landlines

There were many stand-out moments during the week.  One took place at Raynor Winn's talk in the Church on Friday morning.  Raynor talked about her third book, Landlines, which describes the most ambitious journey that she and her husband Moth have undertaken, a walk from the northwest corner of Scotland to the south coast of Cornwall.  On that day, the media announced that two well-known and much-loved actors, Gillian Anderson and Jason Issacs, had just been signed for the film of Raynor's first book, The Salt Path.  This is tremendously exciting news and a film we eagerly look forward to.  At the end of Raynor's event, she announced the winners of this year's Adult Short Story Competition and presented the first prize to Iqbal Hussain.

As well as the main Festival, there was, of course, the Fowey Art Trail and Fowey Secret Gardens.  It is an absolute joy to have the opportunity to meet local artists, often in their own studios or workspaces, and to have the chance to buy some of their work, be it a small card or a larger painting or sculpture, ceramic work or piece of jewellery.  This year in St John's Church in Bodinnick, as well as the exhibited work of local contemporary artists, Kits and Hacker Browning displayed Daphne du Maurier paintings.  Daphne did not claim to be an outstanding artist and, in fact, only painted for a short while.  This was during a difficult period in her life when she must have found painting therapeutic.  However, the paintings, which are rarely seen, were good, and it was exciting to be able to see them.

Daphne du Maurier's rarely seen paintings

Fowey River Gallery displayed the collaborative artwork that the Young Writers and Artists Competition winners created with the support of Cornwall-based artist Sean Hewitt.  The piece represents the theme of their competition, which was Celebrations!, and celebrates yachts on the River Fowey.  The work is called Lemon Sails and was auctioned in a silent auction that took place during the week to raise funds for the Festival.

So much happened during the Festival that there are many things that I won't have mentioned and that people thoroughly enjoyed, so apologies for anything that I have missed.  The most important thing to say is that the 25th  Fowey Festival was a triumph, thoroughly enjoyable and a credit to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen.  Thank you.

Ann Willmore, May 2023.

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