Inaugural literary festival a great success

THE great and good of the literary world have hailed an inaugural book festival a huge success.

The first Ayot Literary Festival took place on Ayot Green, with a programme featuring some of the best known authors and writers around.

Alexander McCall Smith, Prue Leith, Tony Parsons, Conn Iggulden and Darren Shan were among the literary heavyweights who all made appearances over the weekend, giving talks on their work, meeting fans and signing copies of their books.

It began on a rainy Friday evening with a packed marquee listening to a talk by Alexander McCall Smith, author of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series.

And the best-selling novelist liked what he saw at the festival.

“This was my first visit to Ayot Green and I am very impressed with it,” Mr McCall Smith said.

“Literary festivals provide a relaxed environment for people to meet both authors and others with literary interests.

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“I think the Ayot Festival is going to be very good – the place is right.”

Saturday saw Conn Iggulden and illustrator Lizzy Duncan talking to children aged seven and over, before chef-turned-writer and food critic Prue Leith took to the stage.

“I have never visited Ayot Green before – it is really pretty,” Ms Leith said. “This festival is so professionally organised. It feels as if it is in its fourth year.”

Other names to appear on the bill were Barbara Erskine, Jane Johnson, Tony Parsons, Adele Parks, Will Hutton, Simon Scarrow, Jake Wallis Simons and Nicci Gerard and Sean French, otherwise known as crime writer Nicci French.

Such was the success of the festival, that plans are already underway for next year’s event.

Festival director Fiona McIntosh said: “In addition to the wonderful response from the authors, we have had so much supportive feedback from the public, all of which expresses the hope of a repeat performance in 2012.

“We are already getting interest from some outstanding authors, so the answer is a definite yes.”

Click on the gallery above to see Abbi Kemp’s pictures of the event.