Wimbledon BookFest to hold physical event in September

Wimbledon BookFest to hold physical event in September

Wimbledon BookFest is running a live, physical event in September, featuring a keynote speech from Matthew Syed.

The festival, entitled Last Days of Summer, will run from 12th to 13th September in an open marquee on Wimbledon Common featuring appearances from inspiring speakers and bestselling adult and children's authors.

Events will have reduced capacities and ticketed entry to ensure it remains safe for everyone, organisers said. The events will also be streamed digitally.

In previous years, the festival has taken place over a 10-day period in October, with appearances from the likes of Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, Graham Norton, Kate Atkinson, Michael Palin, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nadiya Hussain and Ian McEwan.

This year's pandemic has seen most physical events axed but festival director Fiona Razvi said government guidance from Oliver Dowden, the minister for culture, on 11th July changed the ability to host outside events for the performing arts.

She said: "We very much feel that our audiences and partners miss the communal activity of coming together to discuss books and ideas. Festivals and theatres that went digital during lockdown provided a lifeline to culture but is not a substitute for a live shared experience. We sense digital fatigue setting in, and while we will be filming and relaying events digitally where possible, we feel we are able to provide a safe outside space to host a scaled down event.

"We are using government guidelines and working with Merton Council and the Wimbledon and Putney Commons team to ensure the event is safe for performers audience and staff. Social distancing, cleaning, hygiene and strong communication will be the focus of all protocol on delivery. The event will take place in an outside space in an open marquee where the airflow will be good and audiences are much reduced and the summer seems the right time to do it."

She added: "Although much reduced from our usual festival held in October, Wimbledon BookFest’s Last Days of Summer Weekend will provide an opportunity for the community to engage and connect with culture in a live format."

BookFest’s Word Up education programme will run as usual in October and will feature 10 events with authors filmed live and then digitally relayed to participating schools. In celebration of the work of black writers and Black History Month, BookFest will donate a selection of books by black authors to the library of every Merton state school.