The Primadonna Festival, founded a year ago to give "prominence to work by women" and "spotlight authors from the margins", is calling off its July event at Laffitts Hall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is however asking its supporters to save the date for next year when it will run from Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August 2021. The 2020 Prize, giving a platform to undiscovered writers, will also still be open for entries from 1st May, with the winner to be announced in March 2021.
The Primadonna Festival was created to give a platform for new and emerging writers alongside established names, and give prominence to work by women while still welcoming all genders. Held for the first time in Suffolk last August, it was the brainchild of a group of women from publishing and entertainment, including Catherine Riley, who took on the role of full-time general manager when it became a Community Interest Company (CIC), Sabeena Akhtar, Joanna Baker, Jane Dyball, Catherine Mayer, Kit de Waal, Shona Abhyankar, Jude Kelly, Alexis Kirschbaum, Lisa Milton, Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Sonia Purnell, Monisha Rajesh, Athena Stevens, Cathryn Summerhayes, Sandi Toksvig and Sioned Wiliam.
Explaining its decision to cancel the festival "in physical form", organisers said "the safety of our team, our artists and our audiences remains our biggest priority" and it was calling off the event "in keeping with official guidance regarding the Covid-19 pandemic".
Requesting patience while organisers go through the process, those who have bought tickets will be offered a refunds or the option to reschedule directly.
Nonetheless, the "Primadonnas" have said they "remain dedicated to our mission—to create the world as it should be". Furthermore, emphasising its status as "a community" as well as a festival, it will be running a book club on its Instagram account. This month’s read is Sairish Hussein’s The Family Tree.
It also provided details for 2020's literary prize. This year the theme is "the more things change", and entrants will be asked to submit 500 words on this topic when the competition opens in May. Judging the prize will be author Elif Shafak, joined by broadcaster, author and panellist June Sarpong OBE, and comedian, novelist and television presenter David Baddiel, as well as three "Primadonnas", author Monisha Rajesh, publisher Lisa Milton and literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes.
The longlist of 30 entries will go forward to a team of professional editors at a mainstream publishing house, who will sift them down to a shortlist of five. These writers will be asked to submit a longer piece of 5,000 words, to be judged by the final panel. Summerhayes will again offer herself as the prize to the winner.
Sarpong said: "I am delighted to support the Primadonna Festival for the second year in a row. The mission of the festival is one that is dear to my heart and also crucial for the publishing industry and society at large. Without gender equality in literature so many important stories go untold and so many vital voices go unheard. Primadonna aims to plug this gap whilst also unleashing a powerful wave of untapped female talent in the process."
Further announcements are also to be expected about new Primadonna events and content, which prior donations made will go towards, as well as the second round of its prize and plans for the live festival in 2021. The Primadonnas said: "we may not be able to convene in Suffolk this year, but we are working on other ways to come together, create change—and have a really good time."
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