One of the first literary festivals to return to in person events this year has recorded a turnout of 4,000 people while operating at socially distanced, reduced capacity.
Sunrise Festival, hosted by Wimbledon Bookfest was held in open-sided marquees on Wimbledon Common from 9th to 13th June, involving more than 40 events featuring speakers including Caitlin Moran, Ed Miliband, Monique Roffey, James O'Brien, Alastair Campbell, Anya Hindmarch, Esther Freud and Reverend Richard Coles. Twenty-five live recorded events are being made available to watch on demand via a £25 festival pass.
Comedian Frank Skinner was due to appear in person to discuss his latest release, A Comedian's Prayer Book (Hodder). Having been instructed to self-isolate in the days before his scheduled event, he instead appeared over Zoom for a conversation with Samira Ahmed on stage and questions from his live audience.
Sunrise Festival also featured a number of events for schools, including Jeffrey Boakye who delivered a talk about black history through music to both a live audience and an online audience of secondary school pupils who watched via livestream.
Wimbledon BookFest will return for its Sunset Festival, running from 15th to 19th September. Confirmed speakers include novelist Sebastian Faulks, illustrator Chris Riddell, philosopher A C Grayling, spoken word artist Salena Godden, broadcaster Robert Peston, and author and mother of grime musician Skepta, Ify Adenuga. The full line up will be announced at the end of July.
Festival director Fiona Razvi said: "We couldn’t have been happier to welcome our audiences back for a live in-person festival allowing them to engage with ideas and new work in a communal but safe way. Our speakers were equally delighted to be off Zoom and reaching their readers in real life. Digital life has taken its toll and the festival mood was certainly high, enhanced by the glorious summer weather.
“We couldn’t have achieved this without cultural recovery funding through Arts Council England, and the generosity of our sponsors, grant funders, and individual donors who have supported us throughout. Running our Sunrise Festival has reminded everyone how important the arts are for our wellbeing, and the need to support and restore our cultural life. We can’t wait to do it again for our Sunset Festival in September.”