I spent last weekend in London, driving from my home in Wiltshire through Friday afternoon rush hour traffic to Hammersmith where I stayed for two nights with my daughter. From there we travelled across the city to attend the Greenwich Book Festival being held at the Old Royal Naval College on the banks of the Thames. This glorious venue is just one of the aspects of a friendly and vibrant festival that makes it so special.
Taken from Wikipedia:
The Old Royal Naval College is a World Heritage Site managed by a registered charity to “look after these magnificent buildings and their grounds for the benefit of the nation”. The buildings were originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, which was designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1696 and 1712. The hospital closed in 1869. Between 1873 and 1998 it was the Royal Navel College.
Originally the site of Bella Court, built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, it was rebuilt by Henry VII and was thenceforth more commonly known as Greenwich Palace. As such, it was the birthplace of Tudor monarchs Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The palace fell into disrepair during the English Civil War and was demolished in 1694.
Since 1998 the site has had new life breathed into it through a mix of new uses and activities and a revival of the historic old site under the management and control of the Greenwich Foundation. The buildings are Grade I listed. In 1999 some parts of Queen Mary and King William, and the whole of Queen Anne and the Dreadnought Building were leased for 150 years by the University of Greenwich. In 2000 Trinity College of Music leased the major part of King Charles. This created a unique new educational and cultural mix.
As well as being of historic interest I include these details as the University of Greenwich supports the book festival. The ambience of the site is enhanced by the wonderful music that drifts across the lawns from the Trinity Conservatoire.
Such aspects are in addition to the location across the Thames from the Isle of Dogs, and the imposing presence of the Cutty Sark on the western edge. When booking the events I planned to attend over the weekend I made sure to allow plenty of time to explore and enjoy these features. That the weather was kind throughout was an added bonus.
I will be writing in more detail about each event attended but post this as an overview and introduction. Book Festivals vary is scope and cost. I believe that Greenwich offers an excellent experience as well as being good value.
There were numerous free workshops and creative outlets provided for children of all ages, from very young to young adult. As well as favourite characters and authors there was storytelling and a variety of shows. Interest in art, theatre, dance and music were catered for. Hands on advice was provided on drawing for graphic novels including comics and Manga. Exclusively for the adults, author interviews and discussion panels represented a range of literary output including commercial, history, genre-defying, experimental and poetry. Ticketed events typically cost around £6 per person. If purchased early it was possible to buy an all events pass.
One of the more expensive events was the Festival Party on the Friday evening. I was pleased to discover that the bar provided here did not take advantage of its captive audience and was reasonably priced. Such details matter in an attendees overall impression and willingness to return.
Mobile food and drink vehicles, including a tea room in a double-decked bus, were parked up alongside the main venue lawn on the Saturday. I learned that, due to its heritage value, bunting on the building had been banned. Children climbing up onto the window ledges caused some consternation but they were undoubtedly having fun.
Helpful volunteers provided directions to events. The pop up bookshop was run by the local Waterstones and stocked books written by participating authors who remained on hand for signing. It was an open and friendly festival with authors, publishers and organisers wandering freely rather than hiding out in the Green Room.
My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the festival and found much to discuss afterwards from the panels attended. The best recommendation we can give is that we hope to return.
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