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  • Jacci Gooding

How it all began..

Over the last couple of years The South Warwickshire Literary Festival has plumped up, grown some rather dandy feathers and begun to fly. But how did it all come about? And why?

Here's the story of SWLF

It started with a teddy

Well, looking back, it’s clear to me that the writing was always on the wall, right back to when I used to play Schools and give Teddy and LambPie poor marks in their reading, only to have to sit with them for hours long after bedtime had been announced, helping them learn to read with the aid of a torch under the blankets and my collection of Rainbow Reading books. Top Aspiration was the purple book - or Indigo as it was rather grandly favoured. There were some long words in that book and some feverishly difficult sentences to master. Oh yes, I had my eye on the indigo book long before I could read the word cat.

A small seed was planted

One day I went to a literary festival. I'd ever been to one before and at this particular festival one of the speakers was a well known politician and tickets to see this person were just shy of £100. This bothered me and I began to wonder who was the festival for - the audience or the publishers? Without even buying a ticket I felt disgruntled. Where was the value for the audience in all this?

Then the world stopped

That little seed of discontent remained dormant for a while until 2020 when Covid arrived. Those longs weeks of weirdness when my office door was shut and not a word was written was, as it turned out, a good fermenting keg for SWLF. A virus that spread voraciously around the world devastating so much in its path really brought it home to me that it was now or never. I no longer had that indigo Rainbow Reading book but it had left its mark: it was time to go big or go home. Could it be done? Should it be done?

And I took a giant leap

Somewhere I thought there should be a place for a literary festival that engaged with and supported its audience as much as it would its visiting authors.  Everyone starts from somewhere and how many books are never written or published because that one particular author never got lucky or felt brave enough to give it a go? Thousands probably. Self-publishing has helped redress the balance of course, but not everyone is good at it and it does take a tremendous amount of energy when we’d rather be writing.

Having flirted with a few ‘live lit’ evenings whereby authors would gather and read their work in a pub or bar or wherever, and also supported a self-publisher’s initiative in Stratford upon Avon, it seemed the time was right to launch SWLF. Authors Lynn Macwhinnie and Jenny Heap eagerly climbed aboard the SWLF train not knowing in which direction we travelled - who did in that first year?! - some more calls were made to friends and colleagues and we all gave it a go. And that is it. A story of determination, caution being thrown the wind and lots of laughs being had.

Little festival, big heart

Our team has grown and each new member has brought something of great value to the festival. So on we go. Where to? Who knows. But if you’re looking for a festival that supports its audience, its county Young Poet Laureate, and local authors, you’ve found it.


Jacci Gooding, Festival Director

Photo: Unsplash


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