Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Greenwich Book Time; Going out A New Literary Festival Is Coming to the Old Royal Naval College. It All Started at the School Gate, Says Co-Director Patricia Nicol

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Greenwich Book Time; Going out A New Literary Festival Is Coming to the Old Royal Naval College. It All Started at the School Gate, Says Co-Director Patricia Nicol

Article excerpt

Byline: Patricia Nicol

JUST over a year ago, at a publishing dinner, a senior publicist asked me: "So, what next?" I had just come to the end of a maternity cover stint on a newspaper's books pages. Emboldened by wine, I told her of my dream to set up a book festival at Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College (ORNC).

She didn't scoff. Instead, she said: "You should talk to Auriol. She loves organising things." At the school gate the next day, I approached Auriol Bishop, creative director of Hodder, then a passing acquaintance, now a woman I know to have a spreadsheet for every eventuality. Twelve months on, no one is more surprised than we are that a week today, the inaugural Greenwich Book Festival, hosted by the University of Greenwich at the ORNC, and part of the Royal Greenwich Festivals, will kick off. Over three days it will welcome 100 writers, including The Miniaturist author Jessie Burton, a double bill of Tracey Thorn and Viv Albertine, Wellcome book prize-winner Marion Coutts, Jon Ronson and Patrick Gale, to a weekend of author talks, debates, workshops and shows.

Many is the time in the past 12 months I have thought of Gill Hornby's hit novel The Hive, set amid a network of mothers at a school gate. I know of west London state schools -- St Mary Abbots on Kensington Church Street or Brook Green's Larmenier & Sacred Heart, perhaps -- where, at the morning dropoff, you can probably broker government policy, then decide who to put up for interview about it on the Today programme. Our school isn't remotely like that -- it's in Charlton, for goodness sake. Yet among our parents we have Eleanor O'Sullivan, from the Royal Maritime Museums' events department, Janet Denne, commercial manager at the ORNC, and Julia Marsen-Dyer, owner of local toy shop Ottie and the Bea. Though this festival will take place in and around a Unesco world heritage site, it still feels like a momentous grassroots community effort.

Wondering how one went about approaching the council for support, I remembered I'd once passed on some Mega Bloks to the children of a councillor living nearby. …

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