Stroud Book Festival: We Want To Be Free! – Caroline Sanderson Blog

Stroud Book Festival: We Want To Be Free! – Caroline Sanderson Blog

Just over two years ago, I took on the role of Artistic Director of Stroud Book Festival. A proud Stroud resident since 2015, and a freelance writer for more than 20 years, I have spent all my working life involved with books one way or another, as a bookseller, publicist, author, books journalist, editor, reviewer and broadcaster.

My involvement with Stroud Book Festival dates from 2016 when the first festival took place, under the auspicious directorship of acclaimed children’s author Jamila Gavin, and later of Rachel Levay. With the Stroud Valleys home to a plethora of writing talent, it was a Festival just waiting to happen.

Five years on, and the Festival has grown year on year, with more than 4500 people attending our 2019 events. In 2020 we were all set to celebrate our fifth birthday when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Cue a total rethink and the decision to stage the 2020 Festival (4-8 November) entirely online. Whilst we’d always rather be welcoming authors and book lovers in person to our wonderful Stroud venues, our online Festival gives us the exciting opportunity to reach audiences far beyond the verdant green hills of the Stroud Valleys.

With events with such stellar names as designer Cath Kidston, novelist Joanna Trollope, prize-winning Jamaican poet Kei Miller, actor and politician Michael Cashman, TV comedian Ben Miller, and acclaimed author Raynor Winn already confirmed, as well as contributions from a host of local writers, the 2020 Festival is already shaping up to be special.

However, we urgently need your help because this year we want to do something extra special. At the beginning of August, we launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000 to make our 2020 Stroud Book Festival free for everyone, regardless of age, income, location or vulnerability to Covid-19.

It seemed to us the best possible response to the current crisis. As customers of the wonderful Yellow-Lighted Bookshops know, books provide a vital lifeline to a world outside the bubbles we have been living in, and to ideas that empower, entertain, promote diversity and creativity, and allow us to visit other lives and other places beyond our own experience.

Whilst a limited online Festival will go ahead regardless, we have no ticket income and little business sponsorship this year. Reaching our crowdfunding target means we will be able to bring you an online programme of the highest quality, and what’s more, make it free for everyone.

At the time of writing, our crowdfunding campaign stands at just over £6000 with only 9 days left to secure the remaining £4000. We’d be hugely grateful for your donations, however small. If you would happily have bought tickets for Stroud Book Festival 2020, please consider donating the amount you might have spent. If every one of the 400 people who attended our Ian McEwan event last year gave £10 for example, we would be home and dry!

You can donate by following this link: (do check out our rewards for various levels of donation).

With huge thanks and very best wishes

Caroline Sanderson

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