The organiser of the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival is hoping to raise £1,000 for local school libraries this year through ticket and book sales.
The festival, based in south-west London, was set up in 2015 by director Amanda Brettargh and is run as a non-profit operation. All of the surplus money from ticket sales, as well as the receipts from book sales, is donated to five local schools to spend on books. “One thousand pounds would be a new high for us; we gave away around £200 in year one but have been growing ever since,” Brettargh told The Bookseller.
“We went from 20-odd events in year one to about 48 in year two, when we sold 5,000 tickets. Then in year three we sold more than 70,000 tickets. Last year we sold £16,000 worth of books, which makes us London’s largest children’s literature festival.”
The company also donates artwork from visiting illustrators to schools (one auctioned an original Axel Scheffler print from the first festival for £2,500) and organises a free programme for primary schools, offering free author events for around 3,000 schoolchildren.
This year the festival will run on 12th–13th May and participating authors include Andy Stanton, Frances Hardinge, Rob Biddulph, Benji Davies, Abi Elphinstone and Axel Scheffler. There will be a special “in conversation” event with Judith Kerr and John Burningham, and the festival will host a stage adaptation of Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort series.
Brettargh and her team are also programming events for children with special needs, so Ross Montgomery’s event about his new novel Max and the Minions (Faber Children’s) will have a sign-language interpreter and respeaking (real-time subtitles), and several sessions will have “relaxed spaces”. “Children who, for whatever reason, need extra time or resources during their visit will be provided for: that could be having an ante room so they can go in and out [of events],” she said. “Often having the room darkened is problematic, so we might have partial lighting in the space.”
The authors and illustrators who take part in the Barnes festival are all paid according to Society of Authors’ guidelines but Brettargh and the organisers, as well as the 600 volunteers, are all unpaid. When asked why she gives so much of her time for free, Brettargh said: “One year there was a little boy stuck up a tree with two books, one under each arm. When we finally got him down he said he didn’t want to stop reading. It’s those moments that make you realise it’s all worth it.”
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