Big names help put Hexham Book Festival on the national stage

Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark was one of the big names speaking yesterday at the annual Hexham Book Festival       

Kirsty Wark, who was speaking at Hexham Book Festival, in Queens Hall, Hexham
Kirsty Wark, who was speaking at Hexham Book Festival, in Queens Hall, Hexham

Big names have combined with the Northumbrian countryside to push a town’s book festival on to the national stage.

Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark and Channel 4’s Faisal Islam drew crowds to the Hexham Book Festival yesterday, following former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Tory MP - and reality TV star - Nadine Dorries on Saturday.

Earlier events in the festival have seen crime writer Val McDermid, best-selling historical novelist Tracey Chevalier and comedian Jeremy Hardy appearing in Hexham’s Queen’s Hall, while today will see Ian Rankin, author of the hugely popular Rebus crime novels, in a sold-out event.

Festival director Susie Troup said she was delighted to welcome such household names to Hexham and said the festival continued to grow each year and was attracting people from across the country.

She said: “It’s all going fantastic, we have 4,500 people booked through the course of the festival which is way more than previous so it is all really good and we have a higher profile.

“We had a yurt in the park on Friday and Saturday and had a few events in it and I think it made a difference to the profile of the festival. We have had people from all over the region and further afield.”

The festival is in its ninth year after starting in 2006.

Susie Troup, from Hexham Book Festival
Susie Troup, from Hexham Book Festival

“I think we are attracting much bigger names such as Kirsty Wark and Faisal Islam,” Susie said. “We have a great cross section of interest, it is not just literary, it is books that appeal to everyone, books for children as well.

“It’s got a wider cross section of appeal now, attracting people we have not before. I think just this year we seem to have got over the hurdle, everyone knows we are here.”

Susie added that she believed Northumberland’s location played a key role in attracting both writers and readers to the festival. She said: “It’s fantastic and I think that’s something about Northumberland, I think people want to come to Northumberland, with Hadrian’s Wall and the whole profile of the North East, it’s just somewhere visitors want to come and authors as well,” she said. “It is an interesting area to visit, they come to explore too.

“Jeremy Hardy was here last week and he was going up to the Northumberland coast afterwards to visit Holy Island while he was here. I think it is an attractive place for people to come. It is helping us get into the minds of people in the south, they are realising that we exist and it is helping raise the profile of the area.

“It’s an add-on to Newcastle, they know Newcastle but they do not know how close they are to Northumberland. Authors get on the train from London and they are shocked that we are only three hours away. “We have a lot of authors from Scotland this year which is nice, Kirsty today and we have Ian Rankin this week and Philippa Langley has been, all of whom are Scottish. It is attracting people from across the country.” The festival officially runs until May 8 but there are events on the programme until May 16.


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