Sam and Marcia

Hastings Litfest is in its second year and we’re excited about the programme (as if you didn’t know that already!). All of the Fest Team are volunteers and we thought it would be great to introduce you to our Co-Founders and Co-Directors

Marcia Woolf

and Samantha Davey

We asked them a few questions:

Why a Litfest?

Sam: Because literature, words, the creation and transmission of thoughts, emotion, ideas, dreams via the written medium is and always has been one of the most important things in my life – and I wanted to celebrate that in the town I call home.

Marcia: A literary festival was something I felt I could achieve for the town. Events don’t just happen – somebody needs to have to the idea, put in the work, find the resources and get it started.  In the present economic environment, we can’t rely on ‘the powers that be’ to do stuff for us: and, in fact, most of the things that happen in Hastings were started by individuals who saw an opportunity or a need or a gap in the market, and then got on with it!  I like a challenge.  When Sam and I got to know each other I realised that she was quite a force of nature! – she’s organised, reliable, full of ideas – and has personal strengths that I lack (tact and diplomacy especially!) plus we have that happy thing – a relationship where we don’t argue, but is focused much more on sharing out the tasks we’re each best suited to, keeping each other updated, and being very determined to find good ways of handling whatever problems or opportunities turn up.

Why ‘In Other Words’?

Sam: The theme “In other words” is about presenting alternative views and perspectives – whether this is a dystopian warning about the future or a challenge to accepted views of the historical past.

We have sought to find voices that have not always been listened to or in some cases, voices that have been silenced or forgotten – and to provide a platform where they can be heard.

We also want our visitors to use their time at LitFest to explore their responses to these ideas with us – possibly at our interactive panel sessions, at our workshops, or through Q&A sessions with authors at our events.

Marcia: After the first festival, there were really two options: to stick with our first tagline Writing for Writers, or to move onto another theme. We’d had some feedback that suggested the Writing for Writers title was maybe a bit off putting for those who are readers rather than writers too, so we opted for an annual theme that will change with every festival.  In Other Words is intended to reflect the diversity and ‘alternative’ feel of the festival, plus it sits very well with the unique culture of Hastings, which is distinct but also very varied and inclusive.

How Do I Get the Most Out of Litfest?

Sam: Be prepared to move outside your comfort zone by going to some of the events that offer insights into ideas or concepts that may not be familiar to you.

There’s a whole range of talks, discussions and workshops, delivered by world class authors, writers, academics and experts in their field.  If you want to find out how to use punctuation to make your writing grab your audience, get the detailed low-down on how the Radiophonic Workshop makes the sounds that send Doctor Who audiences rushing behind the sofa, or would like to know exactly why hundreds of thousands of birds were being massacred to satisfy the vanity of nineteenth century women, Lit Fest gives you the opportunity to explore and discover all sorts of fascinating and sometime challenging experiences and ideas.

I would also recommend planning your time so you can enjoy the beauties of Hastings and St Leonards. I’ve personally been to Literary Festivals where I have tried to do so much that it has all blurred in to one and the quality of my experience has been affected. So why not spend some time with a book down on the sea front or in one of our parks and open spaces?

Marcia: I’d say, bring an open mind and allow more time than you think you need, because – aside from the fabulous range of festival events! – you’ll meet people and get into conversations and have fun wandering around the town finding all the little pubs and shops and interesting nooks and crannies that make great photographs… Wear comfortable shoes (the pavements aren’t meant for high heels); chat to strangers; buy lots of books!

Why Hastings?

Sam: Our town has a remarkable literary heritage – in addition to our patron Sir David Hare who was born and grew up in the area, the list of writers and authors who have lived and/or written in Hastings and St Leonards is quite remarkable – and it seemed only fitting to bring a festival of literature to a place that has been such a fertile place for great writers – and great writing.

(If you want a list here’s a starter for ten – H. Rider Haggard, Edward Lear, John Keats, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Aleister Crowley, Noel Streatfeild, Robert Tressell, Beatrix Potter, George MacDonald, Coventry Patmore, Sheila Kay Smith, Catherine Cookson, Grey Owl,  Simon Mawer, Christopher Priest, Maggie Alderson, Sally Gardner, Jane Harris, Catherine Johnson, Paul Burston, VG Lee, and David Gemmell)

What is wonderful is that this is still true today and we at LitFest are delighted to be able to showcase home-grown local talent – from internationally renowned writers, journalists and authors to new writers just starting out.

Marcia: The town desperately needed another festival.  Plus I live here, so it would be a bit weird organising one somewhere else…

Tell Us Some More About Yourself and Something We Didn’t Know

Sam: I’ve written one novel – a dark, supernatural thriller called Angels of Islington, published in 2017 – and have two more on the go at the moment – one set about 30 years into the future, the other taking place over 1500 years in the past.

My favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Angela Carter, Susan Hill, David Mitchell (no – not that David Mitchell), Stella Gibbons, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, HG Wells and Charles Dickens.

Something you don’t know – I failed my Brownie Guide flower arranging badge at the age of seven (the only one in the whole troupe to do so) and since then have had an irrational and deep-seated loathing of roses and gypsophila.

Marcia: I’m a very private person.

Come and meet Sam and Marcia at Litfest this year or please feel free to ask anything about Litfest here.