Festival’s leading literary talent attracts an international audience

A key speaker at this year's Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival: Dame Hilary Mantel

A key speaker at this year's Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival: Dame Hilary Mantel - Credit: Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Festival’s leading literary talent attracts an international audience

Thousands of people from across the world tuned in to see some of the country’s leading literary talent at this year’s online Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival.

Considered a great success, the first ever hybrid virtual and physical festival attracted more than 11,000 unique page views of the 31 events since they went online from September 16.

East Devon viewers were joined by people from the USA, Canada and Australia to see this year’s line-up, that included headliners such as TV presenter Sandi Toksvig, behavioural scientist and activist Dr Pragya Agarwal, and bestselling author and creator of Midsomer Murders, Anthony Horowitz.

There were two sold-out events in front of a socially-distanced live audience that featured Festival President and twice Man Booker Prize Winner Dame Hilary Mantel, and veteran BBC broadcaster James Naughtie. These events were recorded and later shared online for all to see.

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Annie Ashworth, the festival’s artistic Ddirector, said: “Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival is such a valued and well supported event, so it was unthinkable not to do something this year.

“Taking the events online was a challenge, but has been so worth it.

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“We thought it important to bring the festival to people’s homes free of charge to make it as accessible as possible.

“We’ve reached audiences we might never normally have and we have given people lots to enjoy and to get them thinking, which is much needed at the moment.”

Younger viewers were not forgotten and were entertained by a host of talent as part of the festival’s education outreach programme. Normally, the festival organises visits from authors and illustrators for schools in East Devon, but this year it arranged for several virtual events to be enjoyed at home or in the classroom instead.

Annie added: “Such was their success that we’re considering some virtual events for future festivals too!

“But of course, we can’t wait to be back in Budleigh live as usual next year, if we can.”

For anyone who missed out, almost all events will be available to view online until September 30 at www.marquee.budlitfest.org.uk and are free to access.

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