The South West of France has always attracted writers. Perhaps its something to do with the varied landscape of vineyards and gentle hills, the warm light of cloudless days, not to mention the good food and wine. Put into the mix a group of like-minded French and English speaking book lovers and before long they have created a literary Festival. One that has become one of the most important in the region and has ambitions to rank alongside the best. How did it all start?
Six years ago the pretty hilltop village of Parisot in the Tarn and Garonne opened a new library to serve the enthusiastic readers of its small, rural community. Very soon a creative writing group was formed. Local writers were invited in to give talks and book clubs met over a glass or two to discuss the latest publications on offer. The idea of running a literary festival was raised and turned from ‘No, unthinkable! Who would come?’ into ‘Yes, let’s do it!’
In October 2013, the first festival welcomed a small group of Parisotians, their friends and relatives. They met in the intimate space of the one room library to listen to readings from a few local French and English authors. In the intervals they sipped tea from borrowed cups and ate delicious home made cake – and promised to return next year.
From 2014 well-known novelists who had made their homes in the Midi-Pyrenees were contacted and happily agreed to attend ‘Festilitt’ – the new name of the Parisot Literary Festival. Local artists were invited to display their work, concerts, workshops and a second hand book sale were organised, as well as a ‘dinner with the authors’ on the Saturday evening.
Festilitt now attracts an ever increasing number of book lovers from far and wide. They enjoy a weekend chatting to internationally famous authors over lunch and dinner, attending the free concerts and workshops and leaving with an armful of books. Literary figures of the standing of Clive Ponting (the sinking the Belgrano whistleblower), Laura Barnett, Kate Mosse, Fiona Barton and the late and dearly missed Helen Dunmore, to name just a few have attended. Festilitt Patron Andrew Lownie, a leading literary agent and well known novelist in his own right, generously gave his free time and invaluable advice at a publishing workshop. And who could forget the delightful Robin Ellis of Poldark fame, turned cookery book writer, who demonstrated his skills with a wooden ladle over a bubbling cauldron of soup while at the same time regaling the audience with hilarious tales of his acting past.
From 20-22 October 2017 Festilitt will welcome well known novelist Tracy Chevalier, along with Adam Thorpe, Claire Fuller and new comer Luke Kennard, who is already listed for the Desmond Elliot prize for his first book ‘The Transition’. There will be author talks and workshops on everything from writing to calligraphy . A huge second hand book shop will be in operation, while a large capacity restaurant is reserved for the ever popular ‘Dinner with the Authors’. The days of a small gathering in the library have long gone but the same intimate atmosphere of the very first festival is still there. And the same high standard of teas in porcelain cups, and cakes to rival those from any high-end Parisian patisserie are still served. Not for Parisot the tarpaulins and tents of Hay, Festilitt can boast a whole village complete with its fairytale chateau to accommodate the ever growing number of book lovers.
Website for more information: www.festilitt.com