How to write up the Words by the Water festival? I had a lovely time, saw some interesting talks, met Carol Ann Duffy and barely restrained myself from buying my own bodyweight in books. The festival organisers who awarded me the bursary sent me a list of question so -because I have a week's worth of work to catch up on- I'm going to reproduce the answers I sent them here.
What did you get out of your experience at Words by the Water?
I was especially interested to attend Sarah Wise's talk on Victorian mental healthcare, which provided a fresh perspective on a research paper I am currently writing. Other highlights included Sara Maitland who writes a genre of non fiction I didn't know existed but totally want to read and Mrs Moneypenny, whose advice has got me drawing up a five year plan.
Who inspired you?
It's unfair in a way to pick a favourite moment in a week jam packed with highlights but Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson are the example that stands out. Carol Ann Duffy was unforgettable: calm, commanding and completely unpretentious. To hear her live was a privilige and my high point of a festival. Sharing the stage with her, John Sampson managed to make the audience sing Over the Sea to Skye. Hearing a hundred voices fill the darkened auditorium was truly magical.
Did you learn something new?
I learnt that the Necropolis in Rome was buried by early Christians and, in its pagan days, families would come to their family tombs to have feasts with the dead.
Did you meet anybody new?
Everyone was very helpful.
Is there anything you can think of that could make it better?
I honestly can't think of anything that would have made the week better. Everyone was completely lovely and the seats were great. It might have been nice if there'd been a small, informal mixer to meet the other bursary recipients and thank the staff though.