Marlborough’s annual literary festival given author’s seal of approval

This Is Wiltshire: Judith Kerr with competition winners Atticus Henderson and Alex Deadman Judith Kerr with competition winners Atticus Henderson and Alex Deadman

THE annual Literary Festival in Marlborough is here to stay and will go from strength to strength.

That was the pledge of its chairman, novelist Mavis Cheek, when she opened the third festival on Friday.

The 2012 LitFest was the biggest so far, attracting top authors, including Judith Kerr, who wrote bestselling children’s book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

On Saturday, Mrs Kerr, who was born in Berlin in 1923, went to St John’s School to talk about her work and her life, which included escaping from Nazi Germany.

She talked of how her family fled from Berlin the day before the Gestapo arrived to arrest them and although she was allowed to take one toy, she had to leave her favourite pink fluffy rabbit behind, which inspired her autobiography When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

After her talk Mrs Kerr, whose late husband Nigel Kneale was a TV scriptwriter and wrote the sci-fi series Quatermass, presented prizewinners in a competition run by the LitFest for schoolchildren.

Atticus Henderson, seven, from Ogbourne St George Primary, won the under eights Look Who Came to Tea drawing category and Alex Deadman, ten, won the eight to 11s writing contest.

Festival spokesman Fran Del Mar said: “Judith Kerr may be 89 years old but she had us all transfixed. She was absolutely brilliant.”

Several of the authors’ talks were sell-outs and after Friday’s opening ceremony it was standing room only to hear 2010 Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson. One of the most popular events of the weekend was a tour of Libanus Press publishing centre in Silverless Street, established 30 years ago by Michael Mitchell.

This year’s LitFest was about encouraging children to appreciate writing and literature and on Friday children from primary schools enjoyed storytelling at the town hall. But grown-ups were not left out and as well as a creative writing workshop by Stephen May, there was the chance to listen to Michael Frayn, Aminatta Forna and Ginny Bailey.

Mavis Cheek added: “This year's festival surpassed all expectations with both audiences and authors telling us how much they enjoyed the events and how impressed they were.”

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