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Island to hold book festival for the first time - acclaimed writers set to attend

News | Published:

  • Connections: Jersey Festival of Words to include talks and workshops with leading writers,
  • Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and local novelist Will Smith taking part
  • Event organised by former Deputy Jennifer Bridge

A NEW page will be added to Jersey's cultural calendar this autumn following the announcement that the Island will hold a major book festival for the first time.

Featuring dozens of talks and workshops by acclaimed writers, including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and local novelist Will Smith, Connections: Jersey Festival of Words will take place between the 30 September and 4 October. Organisers hope that it will capture the interest of bookworms in Jersey and further afield.

Jennifer Bridge, the woman leading the festival committee, says she wants to establish Connections as a permanent event to rival the best book festivals in the British Isles.

'I am very, very excited about what we have got planned. We intend this festival to be annual and that it's going to grow, and we want it to be embedded in our cultural calendar. I would like the festival to be on the map with all the other good literary festivals,' she said.

The former politician, who spent six years serving as Deputy for St Helier No 2, and who now works as a teacher, says that the event will cater for all ages and reading tastes.

'The ethos is about inclusivity. The first thing we agreed was that we want a festival where everybody feels there is something that appeals to them. We want no one to feel like that's not for people like me. We spent time researching the top ten best-selling books at Waterstones and we are trying to explore as many of the Island's interests as we can.'

That word – inclusivity – is very important for the 46-year-old, as one of her two children has severe dyslexia. 'The festival was deliberately not called a literary festival because we wanted to have a phrase that was more inclusive as we wanted it to celebrate the written word in its broadest sense, so that we could include the digital world, graphic novels and cartooning as well.

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'I'm meeting the Dyslexia Association to make sure we get everything right in terms of making sure people who find reading challenging are able to attend. So, for example, two of our events are about books that have been made into films. We are also looking at having some events in Polish and Portuguese.'

Ms Bridge, who was asked to be chairman of the festival six months ago, said that she had been amazed by the number of hidden writers and literary groups in the Island – and that the festival was a chance for Islanders to come together and share their love of the written word.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will visit Jersey to take part in the festival later this year

'Reading is the ultimate virtual reality simulator. There is no computer that can beat the power of books, but reading by its very nature is a very solitary activity.

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'What has been amazing about organising this and getting together the committee, is all of us discovering the huge wealth of literary talent and literary interest in the Island. Whether it's book clubs or poetry, it has been happening in discreet groups or in isolation and this is an opportunity to bring these together. That's why we are calling the first festival Connections because that's what it's all about – making those connections, between the people, between authors, between ideas.'

Another aim of the festival, she says, is to help reshape the identity of the Island.

'I think it's going to provide a huge intellectual stimulation in Jersey and I think it's going to help redefine the way we see ourselves. The Island is seen from outside as defined by the finance industry so when you are not a Jersey farmer, you are not in the finance industry, who are you? I think it's going to create a buzz, a feel-good factor that will benefit all of us, but will benefit visitors, the economy and society as well,' she said.

And although it is early days for the festival, Ms Bridge says that she hopes that it could help to develop a different approach to tourism in Jersey.

'I would like if we could get to a point where we are marketing ourselves as a festival Island. It would be great if we could have one festival after another. Our festival has some serendipitous timing as the Tennerfest will also be on and we will have some visitors for the Jersey marathon and I hope that people will perhaps prolong their stay. With Culture moving to Economic Development that can only benefit the Island, which will help existing festivals grow in breadth and depth.'

Jane Hawking

During the festival the former wife of Professor Stephen Hawking will answer questions on her two books, Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen and Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the second of which inspired this year's Oscar-winning film A Theory of Everything.

Will Smith

Renowned Jersey comedy writer Will Smith has penned scripts for the Bafta-winning British political satire The Thick of It and the US political comedy VEEP. The Old

Victorian began his career as a stand-up comedian and for several years in the mid-2000s he took acclaimed solo shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The 43-year-old recently released his first novel, Mainlander, a thriller about a schoolboy who goes missing in Jersey. He has previously written the non-fiction works How To Be Cool and The Joy of No Sex.

Carol Ann Duffy

The first woman to be appointed as Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy's works, which tackle subjects such as oppression, gender and violence, are studied by thousands of GCSE students every year. The Glaswegian poet and playwright has received a number of major accolades including the T S Eliot Prize in 2005 for her Rapture collection and the Whitbread Poetry Prize in 1993 for Mean Time. Since becoming laureate in 2009 she has famously written poems about the Achilles tendon injury that left England footballer David Beckham out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and a sonnet about the UK parliamentary expenses scandal.

Holly Smale

Children's writer Holly Smale is best known for her Geek Girl series, which follows the fortunes of 15-year-old Harriet Manners as she embarks on a modelling career. The first novel of the six-book series was the UK's number-one debut teen novel in 2013, and it won the the 2014 Waterstones Children's Book Prize in the young adult category. Smale (33) also won the 2014 Leeds Book Award and has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize.

Rachel Bridge

How to Make a Million Before Lunch author Rachel Bridge is a writer for the Daily Telegraph. She is an expert on small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs and has written four other titles, including How to Start a Business Without Any Money. She is the former enterprise editor for The Sunday Times and helped businessman and Dragons' Den judge Peter Jones to write his book, Tycoon.

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