This year it goes online! The co-director of Stroud Book Festival takes on The Raikes Journal’s 20 Questions
As if trying to help write another successful chapter of a book festival during a pandemic was not enough, this week Louise Brice also takes on The Raikes Journal’s 20 Question challenge.
There is probably never a year in which staging what has become one of the county’s most applauded cultural events does not at times feel like a battle, but this year probably wins hands down.
Unflinching in its commitment to the magical world of books, Stroud Books Festival, a charity and business, has taken the brave leap to embrace the digital world in order to reach its ever-eager audience during the ongoing pandemic.
For the co-director, whose passion for books is matched possibly only by her passion for living and breathing in life in the Five Valleys, it is indeed what business people call ‘challenging’.
Which is why the festival, a joyful celebration of all things literary (and whose patron is one Ian McEwan no less) has launched a Crowdfunding campaign.
This year the event already has names including Dara McAnulty, the 16-year-old naturalist and environmental activist,Joanna Trollope, the best-selling novelist, Kei Miller, an award-winning Jamaican poet, Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Plath, Machael Cashman, actor and co-fouder of Stonewall, designer Cath Kidston and a special tribute to Stop Ecocide founder, polly Higgins.
Amidst all this Louise Brice, co-director of this year’s festival, found time to take on The Raikes Journal’s 20 Question challenge.
Question: What is your favourite film or series?
Answer: I love the film Truly Madly Deeply with Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson - a proper weepie! I’ve also always loved The Wizard of Oz.
Q: You’re hosting a dinner party and can invite any three guests from any time in history. Who would they be and why?
A: Gosh… Michelle Obama (for her energy and positivity), Adele (for her incredible talent as well as her potty mouth) Romesh Ranganathan (for his deadpan humour).
Q: What is the best bit of your job?
A: It is a privilege to work with such a brilliant range of people who all make Stroud Book Festival special, not least the authors and artists who make our events so inspiring and entertaining.
I always enjoy our annual Schools’ Day, a day of events and workshops specially programmed for Gloucestershire primary schools. Last year we hosted over 700 Key Stage 2 children at the Subscription Rooms in Stroud.
Q: What is the worst part of your job?
A: Having to think very carefully about the Book Festival finances all the time (although sometimes this is a blessing: great creativity can come from small budgets!)
Q: Who was your childhood hero or the person you looked up to?
A: Growing up I loved the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Roald Dahl and Gerald Durrell.
Q: Where is your favourite place in Gloucestershire?
A: Up on the Commons, Minchinhampton or Rodborough. My happy place!
Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out now?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember that when you talk about your place of work good PR starts at home. Be sincere, but as my husband’s granny always says, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!
Q: Was there a mistake or piece of bad luck which changed things for the better?
Q: What is your favourite piece of music?
A: God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. Bliss.
Q: What qualities do you look for in a new member of staff?
A: A smile, a willingness to help, a passion for books!
Q: What is your favourite pudding?
A: Pavlova. I’m also quite partial to Winstone’s ice cream (blackberries and cream, to be precise).
Q: Has the coronavirus pandemic changed how you see the world?
A: Absolutely! We’ve all been isolated in lockdown and yet, somehow, I think many of us have made better connections and forged stronger friendships than before. I’m thankful for my health and for those who work so hard to look after us all. In recognition of this, we’ve decided to make our Stroud Book Festival online programme free to everyone this year.
Q: If it was in the name of pleasure – would it be car, bicycle, walk, run, swim?
A: A walk, particularly if I have my dog, a small black working cocker, with me.
Q: What is the best thing about living/working in Gloucestershire?
A: I’ve always loved Stroud, for all its idiosyncrasies and independence. In a nutshell, I love how it seems to have its own beating heart.
Picture courtesy of Britt Willoughby Dyer
Q: If you could wave a magic wand to achieve what you wanted to at work, what would it be?
A: That we’d have a bigger budget for the Book Festival so that we could invite all the countless authors and artists we admire.
Q: What’s your biggest frustration?
A: Never having enough time to read all the books I want!
Q: If you could start again and had to do something else, what would it be?
Q: Cheltenham Festival, any of the town’s others festivals, Giffords Circus, Stroud Fringe, Gloucester Rugby v Bath, Three Choirs Festival, Cirencester food Festival, evensong at Tewkesbury Abbey, or Newent Onion Fayre? And why?
A: This is so hard! I love the Fringe, I love Food and I love the Circus – all three please!
Q: If you had to recommend a pub or restaurant in Gloucestershire, what would it be and why?
A: The Woolpack in Slad. Such a special place, steeped in history. Plus the food is delicious. Although, do book ahead!
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: Sitting in the Woolpack in Slad, sipping a pint, reading a book, waiting for a delicious plate of food!
Q: What would you like to be remembered for?
Louise Brice has worked for Stroud Book Festival since 2017 and this year is a co-director of the Festival along with Caroline Sanderson (programme director) and Shannon Newton (head of fundraising). She has worked in publishing for nearly 20 years. This is her fourth year managing the marketing of the Stroud Book Festival, a role which includes liaising with authors, schools, libraries, venues, local organisations, organising and maximising press coverage, managing printed materials (flyers, banners, posters etc) and running the social media campaign – all on a shoestring budget! The Festival runs from November 4 to 8, online, and at the end of July, launched a Crowdfunder to raise funds to make Stroud Book Festival free to all this year.
To find out more visit www.stroudbookfestival.org.uk.
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