The fourth Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival, co-sponsored by the Bertarelli Foundation, took place from 8-10 June 2017 at the Emma Bridgewater factory in the city and was, as with the previous editions, an enormous success. Over the course of the three days, more than 2,500 people took part in discussions from renowned authors and literary figures, with subjects ranging from talks about great lives, history, heritage, to the environment, literary heroes, politicise, entertainment and family fun.
Opening the Festival Emma Bridgewater and Matthew Rice presented three young people with specially designed trophies for their successful winning entries in the Stoke High schools Creative Writing Competition, before the launch event and opening headliner, Sir Tim Smit, visionary creator of the Eden Project.
Sir Tim was followed by Festival trustee and Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum Tristram Hunt, who shared behind the scenes secrets from the museum’s outstanding collections, after whom Loyd Grossman (president of the Arts Society and the Royal Parks) was fascinating on the value of heritage in a post-truth world. Guests were then treated to a brilliant, funny and musical evening from comedian Alexander Armstrong who rounded off the day one with a tremendous blues rendition on piano.
The Festival Friday was a day of illuminating specialist talks with world experts in their field. Former UK Government speech writer and journalist Julian Glover held a special event with pupils and students from across Stoke-on-Trent at the VIth Form College about following careers in journalism and politics, while back at the venue he discussed his biography of Britain’s greatest engineer Thomas Telford. Later on in the day, former Government Chancellor Ed Balls was grilled about topics including political and family life by former Fleet street journalist Anne Robinson, as well as his high-profile dancing.
The final day of the Festival was a Family day, which started with with a packed magazine making session for children, followed by a theatrical storytellings of popular stories and a chance for local children to meet author Susan Moore. In the afternoon, BBC Radio 4’s Charlotte Green was a gfreat hit, with her tales of broadcasting life, while friends of the Factory Sue Perkins and Anna Richardson spent much of the afternoon chatting with delighted visitors in the factory café before their sell out event, which was the hit of the Festival. Britain’s busiest political editor Michael Crick then provided forensic analysis of the recent UK election result and political situation.
The 2017 Literary Festival was a huge success and the Bertarelli Foundation would like to thank those very many people who worked so hard to make it so. It is a fitting annual event for Stoke-on-Trent, particularly as the city bid to become the UK City of Culture 2021.