Ten years of the Chiswick Book Festival

Guest blog by Festival Director Torin Douglas

September 2018

For several years, I had discussed launching a Book Festival with Father Kevin Morris, the vicar of St Michael & All Angels. It couldn’t be that hard, we thought!

The Bedford Park Festival – Chiswick’s biggest community event – provided a good model. We had the venues – the church and the parish halls. We knew how to find speakers and attract audiences and look after them, using volunteers from St Michael’s and elsewhere. We knew how to sell tickets, attract sponsors and use a Festival to raise money for good causes.

We’d built up a good relationship with Waterstone’s in Chiswick High Road and local publishers and publicists – notably Jacks Thomas (then managing director of Midas PR) and her husband Malcolm Edwards (then deputy chairman of Orion), who supplied lots of new books for fund-raising events.

Photographs above: Lady Antonia Fraser; Anthony Horowitz; Jacqueline Wilson; Lynn Barber; Michael Frayn 

In less than three months in the summer of 2009, we put together a programme that surprised us all. I had suggested starting small and gradually building the Festival up. Jacks’ and Malcolm’s idea of starting small was persuading Lady Antonia Fraser, Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson, Lynn Barber, Michael Frayn and more than a dozen other leading authors to take part. The attendances and feedback were terrific and the Festival was on its way. In truth, we had underestimated what it takes to put on a book festival, but with lots of volunteers and goodwill it grew from strength to strength.

For our 10th Festival, we’re delighted to be welcoming back Anthony Horowitz, to talk about his new James Bond book, along with other headliners from previous Festivals: novelist Kate Mosse, historians Max Hastings and Charles Spencer, spy writers Charles Cumming and Jane Thynne, globe-watcher Tim Marshall and Masterchef presenter John Torode, who heads the lineup at our new sister venture, the Cookbook Festival.

We also have well-known authors speaking here for the first time: novelist Joanna Trollope; poet Roger McGough; historian Kate Williams; economist and broadcaster Dharshini David; food writers ‘Deliciously Ella’ Mills and Jack Monroe; and children’s author Julian Clary.

Photographs below: Kate Mosse; Max Hastings; Charles Spencer; Joanna Trollope; Roger McGough; Dharshini David; Ella Mills; Jack Monroe; Julian Clary