Our Festival dream began in 2014, with the first glimmer of an idea to create something which could be enjoyed by all ages and interests. But what drives anyone to make such a huge investment of time, energy and passion into a public event?

First, the Derby Book Festival story – our co-founders Sian Hoyle and Jenny Denton talk about why they chose to get started and why Festivals are so important. We’ve also spoken to other Festival organisers to get their (often frank and uncomplicated!) take on the world of literary Festivals.


Derby Book Festival

Sian Hoyle and Jenny Denton
  1. Why did you choose to set up the Festival?

We are both keen readers and members of different book groups and, one day, in talking about reading, our conversation turned to book festivals.  We agreed that a book festival was something we would both be interested in attending if there was one locally.  We were aware of the increasing number of book groups in the city and thought that a Festival would be of interest to other people too.  We floated the idea with a number of potential partners in the city and were surprised and delighted that, without exception, they were positive and enthusiastic.

So then it was simply a case of organising the first Derby Book Festival and seeing if we attracted an audience.  Little did we know what we were taking on nor what interest there was out there!

  1. Why are Festivals important parts of our cultural lives?

Whilst Festivals have been around for many years, there has been a surge of interest and support in recent years.   Derby in particular has been building a reputation as a Festival City with a significant growth in the numbers of festivals it hosts each year.

Not only are festivals a great way of bringing people together to enjoy a shared cultural interest – music, film, poetry, dance, art etc., offering them access to a wide range of quality events within a specific time period, they also enhance the profile of a city making it a more attractive place to lie and work.  Derby Book Festival’s success in attracting corporate sponsorship is evidence of this.


  1. What does a book festival offer?

Book festivals introduce people to new ideas and genres. They provide the opportunity for the audience to take a chance on something different which they may not have previously experienced.  They satisfy people’s need to absorb something they enjoy in one big hit – a bit like binge-watching your favourite programme!  People can then reflect on the experience for weeks and months to come.

In the case of books, not only do they celebrate and market books and writing, they offer space for public debate, and perform important social functions as public events.  They can also provide you with your year’s reading material – and an empty wallet!

  1. So what’s next for Derby Book Festival?

We are already planning our sixth Festival but also about to launch our first mid-year Autumn Edition in October 2019.

We are very excited to have a new Festival Director with the ambition and knowledge to take us to the next stage in our history.

We believe that we have the biggest and most successful literary festival in the East Midlands and we look forward to building on that success.

We hope to entice more big names from the literary world to the Festival, continue to present a rich and eclectic mix of authors and genres to enthuse and entertain Derby’s audiences and further develop our successful Community Programme to extend the reach of the Festival.



Leamington Poetry Festival

Mike Took

Why did you choose to set up your Festival?

Mike: I have no aspirations of becoming a hugely famous poet, that is simply something I don’t want to do with my life, and there seems to be no point in just being fairly well-known and selling a few books. My goal has always been to build a broad base of arts-based activities at which I am quite good, so hopefully overall I can sustain some kind of career doing what I love.

With my knowledge of other sectors of the arts industry I have a shrewd idea what will actually add transferable professional credibility to my activities elsewhere, and organising an entire festival, almost irrespective of content, is one of those things. The fact that a poetry festival brings so much joy to some groups of people is not just a massive bonus, it is itself an intrinsic part of me “doing what I love”.

Why are Festivals important parts of our cultural lives?

Mike: I don’t think they are an important part of our cultural lives, although they have become significant in populist terms. There is a brilliant festival ethic of everything being Woodstock-esque: peaceful, communal, celebratory, inclusive etc.

But have you seen the price of a ticket to Glastonbury? Or even a local festival with an obscure reformed 80s one-hit-wonder as the main headliner.

In terms of cultural importance it’s not about celebrating arts or beauty in my view, it is simply about the money, and that’s not any kind of criticism of festivals or organisers whatsoever, it’s just the futile inevitability of living in a capitalist society.

In having a vested personal interest in organising a festival I am just as guilty as any other events organiser, but just because we work successfully within the system it doesn’t mean we endorse it!

We’ll be back soon for more about Festivals with Henry Normal, founder of Manchester Poetry Festival, and Sara Bullimore, who set up Newark Book Festival.

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Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

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Derby Book Festival is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales Number 1159763