Exeter Literary Festival returns to our city for 2021

Our book fanatic and resident author, Tilly Lander Williams popped along to the event earlier thsi month, here’s what she thought..

Have you spotted the banners in Princesshay celebrating Exeter’s UNESCO City of Literature status? Seeing them recently, I felt a mixture of pride and nostalgia (when Exeter was first recognised as a ‘Creative City’, I was writing about it pre-pandemic). If anything, the past 18 months have proved Exeter’s love for literature even more. From the success of Libraries Unlimited’s online In Conversation series hosted by Karen Huxtable to the adaptable services offered by our independent bookshops and public libraries, the popularity of the Little Free Libraries and the birth of We Are All Heroes.

Anne Lamott (writer of Bird by Bird) said: ‘books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.’ Isn’t that the truth? 

For that reason, it was all the more special to witness the spectacular event of Exeter Literary Festival. 

The main line-up of the Exeter Literary Festival took place between Friday 5th and Sunday 7th November. Divided into two streams: one aimed at readers and the other at writers, the events were split between Exeter Library and Custom House. Speakers ranged from local, national and international and included: Ann Cleeves, best selling crime writer and creator of Shetland and Vera; Paul Atterbury, forty-year stalwart of Antiques Road Show; harpist and local author, Hazel Prior, whose novel Away With the Penguins was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for 2021; Mike Thomson, BBC Correspondent, talking about the Secret Library in Syria; and Alfie Moore from BBC Radio It’s A Fair Cop.

Now, if only I’d been able to split myself between the whole programme! This year I was helping The Bookery with their pop-up bookshop in Exeter Library’s Rougemont Room (my littlest helped on Sunday too – she felt very important). 

Thanks to Dee Laljee and the team, everyone who attended the author talks could purchase their latest book (nb: if you are reading this and realised you forgot to pick one up, you can order it online -they often have signed copies, too!). 

Here are my highlights:

  • Sarah Turner, aka The Unmumsy Mum, in conversation with Simon Kettlewell, author of Eternity Leave: both hitting the nail on the head with their funny and down-to-earth observations on parenting. 

  • Hazel Prior’s beautiful harp playing with extracts from her feel-good novels – such a unique way to showcase her uplifting stories.

  • The international crime panel: Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Thomas Enger, Will Carver & Antti Tuomainen, talking about their latest books and providing insight on the writing and publishing process. 

  • Crime and thriller writers Ann Cleeves, Mick Herron & Martyn Waites, chatting about their work, inspiration and answering some brilliant questions from the audience.

By the end of the weekend, I felt inspired and uplifted, not just from the excitement of a live event, but from the togetherness of sharing stories. Huge congratulations to Exeter Literary Festival and all the partners involved in making it happen. I’ll be back next year for sure.

P.S. Please let us know what you enjoyed at the festival this year (tweet, tag, or drop us a message on social media @exploringexeter). 

*You can pre-order We Are All Heroes from The Bookery and 100% of the profits go to the Exeter Homelessness Partnership. Read more about it here

About the Author, Tilly Lander Williams

Tilly’s Exeter story starts with an exhibition of The World of Beatrix Potter at The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in the early 90s. As a little girl, Exeter won her over there and then, especially with its proximity to the sea and moor. Tilly now lives in the countryside outskirts, with her husband, two daughters and their various animals. She can mostly be found writing or curled up with a book at home, or walking, swimming and exploring Devon with her family. Tilly loves attending literary events and keeping up to date with the latest books and writing news. She has recently written her first novel.

Tags: , , , , ,