Guernsey Literary Festival: 2023 Review

16th May 2023
Guernsey Literary Festival: 2023 Review

The Guernsey Literary Festival returned with a bang this year, with a huge total of 65 events celebrating the joy of books.

Big-name speakers included David Dimbleby and Dan Walker, and we were delighted to host 10 fantastic events at the Library with novelists, poets, and local writers.

Our first event was Discovering Local Voices, a panel discussion with authors Mya Roberts, Jill Chadwick and Nicholas Rowe. They each shared insights into their writing process and how they went about getting published. This was followed by a talk from Jag Sherbourne, a retired maths teacher whose memoir Clouds in My Guernsey Sky was written after an email from a stranger raised questions about her family's past. It was fantastic to have a full house in the Hayward Room to hear Jag talk about her book.

 Ready for the first of 10 events at the Library (left); Jag Sherbourne on stage in the Hayward Room with her publisher Steve Foote from Blue Ormer (right)


The main week of the Festival kicked off with the awards ceremony for the Guernsey International Poetry Competition, which had a remarkable 1,600 entries from all around the world. Many of the winning poets travelled to the island to read their poems and receive their prizes - including the first-prize winner, Owen Lewis, who came all the way from Chicago! The event was followed by a wonderful talk from the competition judge, renowned poet Jackie Kay.

"Thanks for having me and congratulations to all the chosen poets. Hope you enjoy seeing the poems 'on the move' on the buses in Guernsey!"

- Jackie Kay

Some of the winners of the Guernsey International Poetry Competition with judge Jackie Kay (left); Jackie Kay on stage in the Hayward Room (right)


Next, our own Head of Marketing Adam Bayfield chaired an interview with acclaimed novelist Liz Hyder, who's now writing for adults after her first book was named Children's Book of the Year in The Times. She discussed what it's like to write for different audiences, as well as sharing some tips for the aspiring writers in the room. The following day, Adam hosted another event with author Abigail Burdess, talking about her thriller Mother's Day. She discussed why we enjoy dark things so much, and why there aren't as many novels about motherhood as you might expect.

Liz Hyder on stage with the Library's Head of Marketing Adam Bayfield (left); signing books after the talk (right)


As ever, we were delighted to host a range of children's events as part of the Festival. On the Saturday we welcomed bestselling author Onjali Rauf for a moving discussion of her new book Hope on the Horizon, which invites us to discover everything there is to know about kindness, empathy, friendship, and fighting for the things that matter. Later that day, award-winning novelist Sita Brahmachari talked about the environmental inspirations behind her latest book Where the River Runs Gold, and we had lots of fun doodling and making seed packets.

"Thank you to the Guernsey Literary Festival, the Guille-Alles Library and all the souls who came to listen to my event. A dream beyond a dream."

- Onjali Rauf

Onjali Rauf meeting keen young readers after her event (left); doodling away with Sita Brahmachari (right)


We're very proud to play a role in the Festival's ever-expanding Outreach programme, which this year included a workshop in Les Nicolles Prison plus, for the first time, three Tea & Tales events in local care homes. Meanwhile, our team helped to facilitate 17 events with visiting authors in schools. It was a privilege to take the Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho to a multi-school event at Amherst, where he and the students created poems about buildings and the sun. Afterwards Joseph hotfooted it to the Children's Library where we signed him up for his very own library card - the 163rd he's collected as part of his nationwide Library Marathon, an epic mission to join a library in every local authority in the UK.

Later that morning we spent a magical hour in our Board Room treating some of the authors to a special viewing of Audubon's The Birds of America, one of the rarest books in the world and the jewel in the Library's collection. It was a delight to share the book's magnificent works of art with authors including Terry Waite, Paul Sexton, Joseph Coelho, and self-confessed bird nerds Huw Lewis-Jones and Liz Hyder.

"One of the MANY things I loved so much was that all the outreach and education parts of the festival are fully integrated, it’s not a tokenistic add-on but absolutely a key part of what you do - and the fact that you proactively go out, not just into schools but into care homes and the prison, honestly, I can’t tell you how rare and special that is."

- Liz Hyder

The Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho talking to students at Amherst school (left); authors enjoying a special viewing of Audubon's The Birds of America (right)


What a fantastic Festival it's been. It keeps getting bigger and better - more than 7,000 people attended the events this year. Congratulations to Director Claire Allen and her team for putting together such a terrific programme, and thank you to the volunteers and the sponsors who make it all possible. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to play our part. Roll on next year!

Mark your diary - the 2024 Festival takes place from 1-5 May.