Yes, the circus has left town. The Linen Press team have gone their separate ways, taking fond memories of St Clementin’s blue skies, marquees, Didier’s Bar, and the enthusiastic groups of French and English folk in bright summer clothes who stood around near the three venues and book shop in the courtyard below the church. For three days everyone talked books.
This festival was special. It was small scale, meticulously organised and warmly welcoming. As you passed a huddle in the bright midday sun, or another in the shade of a tree, or a full table at Didier’s Bar, it was hard to tell who were the authors and poets, who the visitors, who were passing tourists. Only the ever-present and ever-helpful organisers stood out, slightly strained, ushering people to the right places and holding the reins of this ambitious event from morning until night. Do read Glyn Pope’s moving Blog written the morning after.
We stayed in a spacious, secluded gite and for four days talked Linen Press. We picked flowers and raspberries and ate round the big dining table and talked Linen Press. It is rare that we get together like this. The exchange of ideas was concentrated and exhausting, but we gained so much more face-to-face than from the flitting back and forth of often rushed emails. We covered new ground and came up with creative ways to promote women writers. I had imagined that the two husbands who came with us would take themselves off for long walks, but they joined in, contributing valuable ideas and suggestions. Thank you Keith and Manohar! Extra thanks to Keith for being the chauffeur. He drew the short straw.
The audiences were warmer and more receptive than any I have spoken to. Juliet Bates and I talked about A Sense Of Place; Paris in The Missing and Kenya in White Lies. Rhona Scullion, my redoubtable and loyal intern, did a double act with me, describing what it’s like backstage at Linen Press and how we manage as a very small publisher. Hema Macherla talked about Breeze from The River Manjeera and Blue Eyes, moving the audience to tears as she told them about the plight of women in India. She spoke with passion and promised to continue giving voice to women who are shunned and abused. She was described by many as the star of the show.
And finally heartfelt thanks to Glyn Pope. He first invited me to bring Linen Press to the festival almost a year ago, and has maintained communication ever since, sending updates and information. He welcomed us like long lost friends. You did a fine job, Glyn. If ever you want a full time job marketing books for Linen Press, just let me know.