Guernsey Literary Festival: 2024 Review

8th May 2024
Author Claire Kilroy addresses the audience in the Guille-Allès Library at the 2024 Guernsey Literary Festival.

This year the Guernsey Literary Festival was bigger and better than ever.

Broadcaster Louise Minchin, chef Michel Roux, and cricket legend Mike Brearley were just some of the big-name authors who flocked to the island to celebrate great writing (and even enjoy some sunshine!)

There were 16 events at the Library this year - a record number. Among the speakers were two of the most critically acclaimed novelists in the world today: John Boyne, most famous as the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and Claire Kilroy, whose new book Soldier Sailor has just been shortlisted for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction. John spoke to a rapt audience about his latest novel, Earth, book two in a new literary quartet called The Elements. You could have heard a pin drop as he read the opening pages.

Left: Claire Kilroy with Head of Marketing & Customer Services Adam Bayfield, Festival Director Claire Allen, and Chief Librarian Cornelia James. Right: John Boyne in conversation about his new novel, Earth.

"A fantastic afternoon in Guernsey taking part in the Guernsey Literary Festival. It's my first time here but I'm definitely coming back! Thanks to the Festival and the wonderful audience for coming out on a sunny day."

- John Boyne

Other novelists on show included Guernsey-born Jacquie Bloese, who has followed the success of her debut The French House with a powerful new novel, The Golden Hour, set in Victorian-era Brighton. Meanwhile, crime fans were treated to a panel featuring Anna Mazzola, Mary Horlock, and local favourite Jenny O'Brien; and there were lots of speakers from the world of non-fiction, too, including journalist Cara McGoogan, whose new book The Poison Line investigates the infected blood scandal, and popular memoirist Clover Stroud (who came all the way from Washington DC!) As Clover's event was on Sunday 5 May, we took the rare opportunity to open the Library on a Sunday. Hundreds of people made the most of the chance to come in, and there was a lovely atmosphere throughout.

Left: Novelist Jacquie Bloese in conversation with our own Adam Bayfield. Right: Memoirist Clover Stroud, who was interviewed on stage by writer and podcaster Emma Gannon.


The Literary Festival team work hard to support local writers, and we were proud to host talks from Guernsey history authors Simon Hamon and Andrew Doyle, plus an event called Discovering Local Voices that showcased on-island fiction talent in the form of Nicki Harrison, Rachel Le Mesurier, and Matthew Leach. There was also an event explaining How to Get A Literary Agent with Sam Copeland, one of the leading lights in the publishing industry, which proved extremely inspiring for the many budding writers in the room. And poetry fans enjoyed hearing the work of the winners of the Guernsey International Poetry Competition, which received more than 3,000 entries this year, and was judged by the Pullitzer Prize-winning Paul Muldoon.

For the Library team, one of the highlights of the Festival was meeting author Tracy King, who's a leading voice in the campaign to support libraries around the UK. She credits libraries with "saving her life" during the traumatic childhood she writes about in her new memoir, Learning to Think. After enjoying a tour of the building, she described our Children's Library as "probably the best library space I've ever been in" - which made us very happy! 

"It's not just about the books, it's about having safe space where children can develop their imaginations and feel included. That's the best kind of environment for them, and I loved seeing so many children in there today."

- Tracy King on our Children's Library

Left: Author and library campaigner Tracy King in our Children's Library. Right: The winners of the Guernsey International Poetry Competition with judge Paul Muldoon.


As ever, it was a delight to host a range of Literary Festival events for children. Authors Chris Haughton, Sam Copeland, and Rashmi Sirdeshpande were given a warm (and occasionally riotous!) welcome as they talked about their books, what it's like to be an author, and the joy and power of reading.

"When children see an author or illustrator it makes the book real for them. The children were so excited and they had so many questions. I’m feeling great after meeting them."

- Rashmi Sirdeshpande

Left: Sam Copeland in our Children's Library. Middle: Rashmi Sirdeshpande meets some fans! Right: Chris Haughton speaking to an excited audience.


Our Schools Team also helped to facilitate the Festival's ever-growing schools programme, which this year saw 22 events and more than 3,000 children enjoy visits from well-known authors including Frances Hardinge and Jess French. We also played our part in the Festival's newest addition, the community programme, which involves writers visiting care homes to speak at Tea & Tales sessions. These included an event at Rosaire Court with the Festival's Honorary Chairman Terry Waite, which went down very well with residents.

"I think it’s crucially important for children to meet authors and to realise they’re people just like them. I remember all the author visits I had as a child and they were all so inspiring to me. They really were what spurred me on to believe that I could become an author myself."

- Jess French

Left: Terry Waite with our Community & Wellbeing Lead Jackie Burgess. Right: Author Jess French entertaining the children at Vale School.


And that was that! More than 80 events took place over the two weeks of the Festival, with more than 10,000 people attending - an incredible new record. Congratulations to Festival Director Claire Allen and her hard-working team for putting together such a world-class programme. Roll on next year!

Mark your diary - in 2025 the Guernsey Literary Festival takes place from 28 April - 4 May.