Havant Literary Festival in doubt without more support

ARTS Author Miriam Halahmay, David Willetts MP with poet Naomi Foyle and mayor Cllr Gerry Shimbart at the opening ceremony of the Havant Literary Festival. Picture: Steve Reid (123428-422)
ARTS Author Miriam Halahmay, David Willetts MP with poet Naomi Foyle and mayor Cllr Gerry Shimbart at the opening ceremony of the Havant Literary Festival. Picture: Steve Reid (123428-422)

City MP appointed to accounts committee at parliament

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THE future of Havant’s literary festival is in jeopardy unless new people can found to run it.

Over the past five years Havant Literary Festival has attracted big names such as Lynne Truss, Fay Weldon and Kate Summerscale.

But the amount of behind the scenes support has dwindled with just two volunteers running this year’s event.

A meeting has been called for next Monday to discuss the future of the festival, where all the options will be debated.

Valerie Bird, the current chairman, says the festival regularly punches above its weight. She added: ‘Visitors to festival events have boosted the local economy and Havant is establishing an enviable reputation of a vibrant literary community where visiting authors are assured of a warm welcome.

‘It would be a tragedy if all the volunteers’ hard work in establishing this solid foundation were to be squandered through lack of an ongoing commitment.

‘In these difficult economic times, towns need to find ways of selling themselves and surely anything which attracts visitors, enhances a sense of place and raises the profile of Havant at a regional and national level deserves official support?’

Since the festival began in 2008 there have been 500 events in the town centre, Langstone, Leigh Park, Bedhampton, Emsworth, Hayling Island and Waterlooville.  

Founding director Lucy Flannery drew attention to the work HLF has done with local schools, nurseries and libraries.

She said: ‘The festival is so much more than just a book-selling event. One of the aims has always been to promote literacy and a lifelong love of reading. Some of the storytelling sessions and workshops we provided have genuinely changed lives.

‘Joe McQuilken, the Young Portsmouth Poet Laureate, attended a creative writing course with festival patron Stella Duffy when he was still at school.

‘This year he hosted an open mic as a successful poet in his own right. Inspiring young people and showcasing the wealth of talent which exists in this area is what the festival is all about.’

The meeting is at the United Reformed Church Meeting Place, Elm Lane. Doors open at 7.15pm for meeting at 7.30pm. Email havantlitfest@gmail.com