Who organises the Chiswick Book Festival?

Organising a book festival is a phenominal amount of work. There are many volunteers to give their labour to ensure the smooth running of the festival each year but there are two people who bear the responsibility for organising it all.

Torin Douglas is the Director

Douglas was the BBC’s media correspondent for 24 years and has reported on media issues for over 40 years. He left the BBC in 2013 and now speaks, writes and chairs events for a range of media, arts and academic organisations.

Since he left the BBC he has been able to put more time and energy into directing the Chiswick Book Festival, but his involvement in arts and community events in Chiswick goes way back before he ‘retired’. He has been organising and promoting the Chiswick Book Festival, the Bedford Park Festival and events at Chiswick House, St Michael & All Angels Church, the Arts Educational Schools, the Tabard Theatre, and Chiswick Library for years. In recognition of this work he was awarded the MBE in 2013 for ‘services to the community’ in Chiswick.

Torin has lived here with his family for more than 30 years and now dedicates most of his time to raising money for charities and churches by bringing together performers, writers, arts lovers, local businesses and volunteers to enhance the social and cultural life of Chiswick. Read a full profile of Torin here.

Jo James is the Author Programme Director

Jo James has been in the book trade for more than 25 years, firstly as a bookseller and bookshop manager of an award-winning independent, and then managing the events for the bookshop chains Ottakar’s and Waterstones. She has created and produced events with speakers ranging from Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, to David Beckham, JK Rowling, Sir David Attenborough, Michael Palin, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson.

Jo also helps to run and programme a number of festivals, including the Times & Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, The Stratford Book Festival, the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival (part of the Destinations Show at Olympia), Live at the Hive (an arts festival in Worcester), the Cheltenham Science Festival and the Oxford Science Festival. Jo is also the Author Programme Director of the Chiswick Book Festival – 2020 will be her fifth year in the job.

Although now living in Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, Jo has strong family ties to Chiswick and the surrounds, “My parents had their first home together in Chiswick, and I spent six happy years living here whilst working for Waterstones. It’s such a lovely area, with so much going on. I love it, and look forward to my regular visits.”