Sedbergh's Book Town: Festival of Books and Drama

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

NOTE for Published Wandering Educators: A Chance to publicise your new books - Sedbergh England's Book Town mounts a Festival of Books and Drama each year in September. The festival 2009 will have a Travel and Adventure theme. We like to include both professional and amateur writers in our festival and invite Wandering Educators members to either consider a book launch at the festival or perhaps just a talk (illustrated is best). As this is a festival of literature we do want to include those people whose travels have resulted in a written piece or report rather than just those which amount to holiday reminiscences. Please contact the festival organiser Carole Nelson on cnbooktown [at] homecall dot co dot uk.

Sedbergh Book Town


Love books? Me too. Can you imagine, that there are WHOLE TOWNS focused on books? Oh, Dream Come True. Really!

And the Lake District? Yes, one of my favorite places on earth - such a beautiful, beautiful place.

Sedbergh Book Town

Here's your chance to combine the two - a Book Town, and the gorgeous Lake District.

Sedbergh Book Town


Head to Sedbergh, England, this month! From September 5- 21st, 2008, Sedbergh Book Town will have a Festival of Books and Drama - jam-packed full of great literary and theater events! I was lucky enough to interview Carole Nelson, of Sebergh Book Town, for our Wandering Educators.

Here's what she had to say...

WE: Please tell us about the Sedbergh Book Town...

BT: Well, a book town is a town, usually small and usually rural, which has brought together a number of bookshops and other businesses based on writing, reading, publishing and so on. In practice many of the shops will concentrate on selling second-hand books. There are thousands of book enthusiasts whose great joy is to find an out-of-print volume to add to their collections; for them a Book Town is a treasure chest just waiting to be opened. Book Towns have spread around the world from the first one, which was founded by Hay-on-Wye bookdealer Richard Booth in 1961. There are now over twenty towns throughout the World describing themselves as Book Towns or Book Villages.

2 companies run the project Sedbergh, England’s Book Town; they are Sedbergh Book Town Ltd and Sedbergh Book Town Literary Trust.

The Company concerns itself with the premises at 72 Main Street, the Dales and Lakes Book Centre and Sedbergh Tourist Office and with the business creation and advertising for the project as a whole.

The Trust is an educational charity which programmes and runs all of the educational activity we produce. This activity includes two major festivals; the Festival of Books and Drama and our flagship event the Festival of Ideas.

Sedbergh, England’s Book Town is, and will continue to be, an important part of the ‘offer’ put forward by both major tourist areas, Cumbria, the Lake District and The Yorkshire Dales National Park. The physical Book Town will grow as a day to day visitor attraction, whilst the Festivals and other entertainments and education offered by the Trust will attract both participants and respect for the Book Town project.

The Trust will continue to build its role within literature development, supporting writers, readers and literature performers from this area and beyond with imaginative education and events. We will build partnerships with other respected providers of literary education and attractions which celebrate the region’s distinguished literary figures.

Around the world book towns have proved a valuable tool for rural regeneration and to assist the sustainability of small rural communities.

Sedbergh England’s Book Town aims to be the exempla for book towns of the future, not just sustainability but real economic growth and success!

Sedbergh Book Town

Sedbergh Book Town

WE: What is this history of your Book Town?

BT: During the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001 it became obvious that Sedbergh’s town centre businesses and services relied on the revenue
brought in by the annual influx of visitors to be sustainable through the year. Without visitors those businesses could not survive.

The Chamber of Trade decided to explore the possibility of Sedbergh becoming a book town in order to attract visitors, so that even in the event of the countryside being closed to walkers once again, the town itself would be worth visiting.

A Book Town Committee applied for grant assistance to make a Feasibility Study and Business Plan achieving funding from Rural Regeneration Cumbria (now Cumbria Vision) for a 3 year development of the book town starting in April 2005.

The committee then registered a company limited by guarantee, Sedbergh Book Town Ltd.

The company commenced operations on the ground with the Dales and Lakes Book Centre and Tourist Office in 2005 and with a programme of advertising. public relations and marketing.

Sedbergh Book Town

WE: What sorts of events do you plan?

BT: We have the 2 big festivals - you can see the programmes on our website and here is the full listing for September
when we also have a fringe festival for just one day. We also do seminars and workshops through the year. We are planning a Romance weekend next Valentines with the Mills and Boon Centenary exhibition coming here and then a historic re-enactment weekend probably Napoleonic wars which will be great to work a whole group of history lectures and new book releases around.

For this year's Book Town, we have some great events scheduled:
Literary Mayhem, workshops from travel writing to swordplay in Shakespeare plays, and loads of author talks and book launches. Theatre under Fire presents African traditional music and dance. The Bronte Society presents Jane Eyre - talk and film. There will be a Cumbrian Fringe Festival, showcasing the best from Cumbrian writers and performers.

And look for...
Ha Ha Hamlet - direct from the Edinburgh Fringe and Covent Garden – Shakespeare’s Comedy Hamlet, in its original First
Fo-ho-holio Format before it was rewritten as a tragedy with loads of killing at the end. Three street-theatre stars from London’s Covent Garden bring you Hamlet as you’ve never seen it before. In fact, as no-one has ever seen it before! This is Hamlet with all the famous bits, all the well-known quotes (and some completely made-up ones too), and loads of gags that Shakespeare wishes he’d kept in! Starring Ben Langley, Drew Fettes & Mike Raffone

For a complete schedule, please see:

Sedbergh Book Town

WE: Your Book Town is totally unique - what has been the reception of it, from locals and of course from visitors?

BT: Our book town is unique as it is a community company and charity and although the book shops are an integral part of the whole we do not really support them in any way except with publicity. We get around 55000 visitors per year, as measured by the number of people who come through the tourist office door, of course there are many more who don’t visit the tourist office. Most people seem to like Sedbergh which is a beautiful un spoilt place with glorious scenery and very good walking.

Locals have been slowish to catch on but are now beginning to enjoy the more lively atmosphere, of course, there are those who will never read a book so they can’t understand what the fuss is about……

We have seen lots of businesses open often with local owners so we do have an impact on the economy which was our whole purpose at the beginning. Around 10 businesses and about 20 jobs so far.

Sedbergh Book Town

Sedbergh Book Town

Sedbergh Book Town

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

BT: Don’t expect Hay on Wye, you can’t have so many bookshops they outstrip the number of visitors, but we do think that we have a very high
standard and certainly our festivals are gaining a great reputation.

Sedbergh book town

Sedbergh Book Town

WE: Thanks so much, Carol! I appreciate your time and wish you luck on this year's festival! I hope that we can make it to Book Town next year!

For more information on Book Town, please see:

Sedbergh Book Town

Photos courtesy and copyright of Sedbergh Book Town and Mike Chitty