Monday, 26 July 2010

Port Eliot Literary Festival

Since my last posting I have had two holidays: or rather, a week in Normandy followed by two days at home to do the washing etc. and then a weekend at the Port Eliot Literary Festival in St Germans.  My sister has lived in St Germans for several years but is moving away next week so she very kindly invited me to join her at the festival.  The festival combines literature and music and also has lots of traditional fair type attractions.  And the food is very good!

There was a flower show with classes where you had to use weeds and wildflowers.  Here are a couple of examples:

As you can see from the label in the background this was an arrangement in a Wellie boot while the photo below is of the class for a garden on a plate.  It reminded me of the local flower show we used to have when I was a child when we spent all morning constructing gardens with mirrors for ponds and moss for grass and then returned in the afternoon to see if we had won a prize of a shilling, sixpence or threepence - plus a posh card of course.

The Port Eliot grounds are wonderful as they stretch right down to the river.  Fishing was an alternative activity and on Sunday afternoon when the weather was really good a lot of children went swimming in the mud.  I couldn't get a close up photo but this should give you the idea.  The tide was right out and started to come in rapidly just after this.

The talks were held in the usual assortment of marquees in different parts of the garden.  The two I enjoyed most were Margaret Drabble and Grayson Perry.  Margaret Drabble was interivewed by Rosie Boycott.  She read from her 1965 novel 'The Millstone'  which the woman sitting next to me and I could remember reading the first time round.  It has just been republished.  She then went on to discuss aspects of feminism with Rosie Boycott who, amongst other things, was the founder of Spare Rib magazine.  It is sometimes good to be reminded of what we all fought for in our youth!  They also talked about the different pressures on women today, the daughters who in theory have been able to have it all.  Margaret Drabble's new book The Pattern in the Carpet: a Personal History of Jigsaws sounds really interesting but unfortunately the festival bookstore did not have any copies.

I then went to the Persephone books stand.  I discovered Persephone books a long time ago and have a couple but I had rather forgotten about them and it was good to be reminded of their interesting list.  I realised that I had heard quite a lot of them in various forms on Radio 4.  The books are beautifully presented.  Some of them were illustrated by very famous artists/illustrators and they all have endpapers taken from textile and wallpaper designs of the decade when the original book was published.  I was very pleased to see that they are planning to publish a book of these in the autumn.  It will be called Diary: The Persephone Ninety and will feature ninety endpapers with details of each fabric and the first line of each book. What a treat for textile lovers!

The highlight of the festival for me was the next talk I went to.  This was Grayson Perry.  He was ostensibly being interviewed but the interviewer did not need to prompt him much as he is obviously a skilled and experienced performer as well as artist.  He talked about consumerism as a kind of religion and of its influence  on art and showed slides of the scarf he made for the Tate Gallery and the Westfield Vase.  Go to to see the vase and his Walthamstow tapestry.  I also liked the medal he had made for the British Museum exhibition 'Medals of Dishonour' in 2009.  This depicted Our Lady of Bond Street complete with designer carrier bags.  Grayson Perry described himself as a collagist who cannot bear to leave any space blank.  He says he will fill any spaces in a work with marbling or patterning of some kind.  That is an interesting concept for quilters as perhaps we use quilting for the same purpose.

When I look back at the programme I realised that I missed quite a few interesting things at this festival but maybe that is because I had not been before and the various venues were not well signposted so I kept getting lost.  And did I wear wellies?  No.  Crocs were OK.  It rained on Saturday evening but it wasn't a mudbath (apart from the banks of the river.)

In my next posting I will write about Normandy and the Impressionist Festival exhibitions.

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