Countdown starts to first Ayot Literary Festival

PUBLISHED: 17:48 04 June 2011 | UPDATED: 13:00 05 June 2011

Conn Iggulden. Picture by Ben Gold

Conn Iggulden. Picture by Ben Gold


LATER this month, some of the UK's biggest authors, journalists and commentators will come to the Hertfordshire countryside near Welwyn Garden City, to sit under a marquee in a little village green and discuss their views on life, love and literature.

The first-ever Ayot Literary Festival will run from Friday, June 24 to Sunday, June 26, and tickets are selling fast.

Hardly surprising, when you take a peak at some of the names confirmed to appear at the event – Alexander McCall Smith, Darren Shan, Prue Leith, Tony Parsons and Adele Parks, to name a few.

So how did such a galaxy of cultural superstars come to be involved in a fledging literary festival in the small village community of The Ayots?

Festival director Fiona McIntosh, a former publicity director of HarperCollins, said it wasn’t easy.

“Some friends of mine were discussing ways of making better use of the Ayot Horticultural Show marquee,” she said.

“And someone came up with the idea of a literary festival.

“It seemed a good idea, so we began to follow it up. Feedback so far has been very positive – it just seems a great fit for the area.”

But she added: “We soon found that it is not easy getting something like this going without a track record.

“For weeks we only had one author.

“It began to look like a non-runner.

“Then suddenly it clicked, and publishers started taking us seriously, and the offers of some really good authors rolled in.

“The icing on the cake was getting Alexander McCall Smith, who is a big attraction at festivals worldwide.”

McCall Smith will be the first speaker on the Friday evening, when he will discuss his biggest selling series to date, the No1 Ladies Detective Agency, as well his latest book, A Conspiracy of Friends.

The discussion will be chaired by Caroline Jowett, arts editor of the Daily Express.

Saturday will see cook-turned novelist Prue Leith discuss her latest title, A Serving of Scandal, while Hertfordshire-based writer Conn Iggulden, author of The Dangerous Book For Boys series, will make the first of two festival appearances, this time accompanied by the illustrator of his children’s books, Lizzy Duncan.

Later that day, writers Barbara Erskine and Jane Johnson will discuss their mutual love of mythology before economics commentator Will Hutton puts forward his radical arguments on transforming the country’s political and financial systems.

After Conn Iggulden’s second appearance, best selling novelists Adele Parks and Tony Parsons will close Saturday’s festival.

Sunday’s programme includes crime writer Nicci French, children’s author Darren Shan, history writer Simon Scarrow and promising young writer Jake Wallis Simons.

Tickets are available now.

Call 01707 326865 or visit

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