One of the things I love most about writing for my blog and this column is the people I meet. People who are getting on with their daily lives, have that light bulb moment and just go for it to create something wonderful in the city. People like Cathy Moore, founder of the Cambridge Literary Festival.
Cathy first came to the city to read History at Newnham College and was only the second person from her Liverpool comprehensive school to make it to the University of Cambridge. She also loved English and books so after graduation, Cathy built a career in publishing before taking some time out to be with her young family. A spell in teaching followed but Cathy returned to Cambridge and books, working part time in Waterstones and running their programme of events. That’s where she met writer Ali Smith and as the two of them chatted about the Hay Literary Festival, they wondered why there wasn’t a similar event in Cambridge.
Within months, Cathy had created Wordfest, doing everything herself and setting up twenty four events in three venues. That was back in March 2003. “There were about sixty literary festivals then”, Cathy tells me, “and now there are around four hundred in the UK, so we’re all in competition for the authors.” Wordfest grew, events regularly sold out and initiatives like the debut writers panel made it truly a festival for writers as well as readers. After gaining charitable status, Wordfest rebranded as Cambridge Literary Festival in 2014. It now brings Spring and Winter festivals to the city as well as one-off events through the year and since 2017 has delivered the Wimpole History Festival in partnership with the National Trust.
These days, Cathy isn’t doing everything herself! She and her small team have an office in Downing Place and they have strong support from patrons, media partnerships and sponsors. A band of volunteer stewards welcomes the many thousands of festival goers and enables events to run smoothly for both authors and audiences. More volunteers are always welcome so if you’re interested in giving your time (and enjoying some volunteer perks!), contact the team through the website.
Festival venues this year include several beautiful university spaces which are normally hidden from public view. Refreshments will be available at most of these so you can grab a quick drink and a snack between events. Heffers run a bookstall and there are author signings too.
I’m really excited for this winter’s Festival; it’s always a fun, buzzy weekend and the packed programme truly offers something for everyone, including a brand new Murder Mystery Musical from Sophie Hannah which sounds intriguing! You’ll find details of what’s on and a booking facility through the Festival website at www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com
This post is part of my “New in Cambridge” column in the November issue of Velvet Magazine. Read more on http://www.velvetmag.co.uk