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Queen's Park Book Festival: Stellar line up awaits visitors to two-day book fest

PUBLISHED: 07:54 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 07:54 20 June 2019

A captivate audience at the Queen's Park Book Festival 2018 Picture: Cathy Teesdale

A captivate audience at the Queen's Park Book Festival 2018 Picture: Cathy Teesdale

Archant

There's something to suit all tastes as the borough's biggest book festival returns to Queen's Park.

Thomas du Plessis, director of the Queen's Park Book Festival. Picture: Nathalie RaffrayThomas du Plessis, director of the Queen's Park Book Festival. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

Queen's Park Book Festival is taking over the picturesque park on June 29 and 30 for a weekend of literary lusciousness.

With more than 80 authors in 30 events on three main stages, one of which is free, it's hard to believe this enormous event is only in its second year since its revival.

Big names include Booker Prize comic fiction winner Howard Jacobson, comedian Francesca Martinez, radio DJ Simon Mayo and former Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The daughter of the late great poet Seamus Heaney, Catherine Heaney, will read some of his most memorable works and discuss an upcoming documentary.

The late Seamus Heany, photographed at his home in Dublin by Antonio OlmosThe late Seamus Heany, photographed at his home in Dublin by Antonio Olmos

There's also a children's tent to ignite the passions of younger visitors.

Thomas du Plessis is the man responsible for relaunching this festival after hearing mention of its former glory days at a Queen's Park Area Residents' Association (QPARA) meeting in 2017.

"I found out in the summer of 2017 that it had existed and realising it had so much potential I revived it," said the 32-year-old, who works full time for the National Youth Orchestra, "This is my thing on the side. I love literature and I always wanted to create an event that involved local authors and celebrated literature in all its forms, I thought it's the perfect way to bring people together."

He set up a committee in November and launched the first festival in June 2018. "I worked like I'd never worked before. There was so much goodwill, we just worked non stop."

A volunteer takes a break at the Queen's Park Book Festival 2018. Picture: Cathy TeesdaleA volunteer takes a break at the Queen's Park Book Festival 2018. Picture: Cathy Teesdale

He has four clear goals: "I wanted to attract authors of the highest calibre, established authors, household names.

"I also wanted it to be a platform for local writers, there is so much local talent around here, reach out to people who wouldn't normally come to a book festival and for the festival to be an annual sustainable presence."

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With QPARA's help and support he put the word out that he was restarting the festival. He created a committee of people who had connection with authors, publishers and writers and "literally just started contacting them, everything to writing to them to tweeting them asking if they wanted to take part".

He added: "You need to get a lot of people behind you in order to agree for it to go ahead, not only community support but also permission from the City of London Corporation (who run the park). The fuel of this festival is voluntary good will and voluntary effort. That's how it all started, just a frenetic amount of work."

In January he created a charity, NW6 Arts, the vehicle which now delivers the £50,000 event.

The park transforms into a tented village with its own pop-up bookshop where children can redeem the £5 ticket for each show they attend. Adults can buy a day ticket or weekend pass which gives access to two stages where they can listen to authors covering fiction, comedy, health, cricket, politics, poetry and more.

There is a free Imagination Studio from 11.30am to 3.30pm both days where young people can design and create their own stories with an array of materials to colour, paint, sticker and glitter their masterpieces.

The free community tent that played host to a 13-year-old spoken poet in 2018 has a strong line-up of local talent this year including journalist and writer Shyama Perera, internationally renowned paediatrician Anthony Costello, comedian and actress Francesca Martinez, actress Juliet Cowan and author and artist Alexander Newley.

Thomas added: "We want to make the festival a place people can stay for the afternoon so there's plenty of food and drink. It's an amazing park - there's the café, a children's play ground, a petting zoo with pigs and chickens, a nine hole golf course, it's a real day out.

"If all this festival does is attract people who would naturally come to it then I don't feel I've achieved my aim.

"I want to bring people who would never dream of coming to a festival. I want to find ways to encourage them to come to give them the opportunity to see something they haven't done before because it's fun and there's so much variety.

"The most exciting thing is discovering authors you've never even heard of and events you know nothing about.

"Unexpected discoveries that you find, that's the purpose of a festival."

Day pass £18, weekend pass £34 available online or at the box office at the event. Children's events are ticketed separately and available online or at Queen's Park Books. Visit queensparkbookfestival

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