Queen’s Park Book Festival: Zadie Smith leads local line-up under new director Thomas du Plessis

Thomas du Plessis. Picture: Queen's Park Book Festival

Thomas du Plessis. Picture: Queen's Park Book Festival - Credit: Archant

There will be a community tent to champion new voices at this year’s Queen’s Park Book Festival.

Zadie Smith, pictured in 2013 at the Women's Prize for Fiction at the Royal Festival Hall. Picture:

Zadie Smith, pictured in 2013 at the Women's Prize for Fiction at the Royal Festival Hall. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Archive - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The idea to give upcoming talent from the area a platform is one of the many changes implemented by new festival director Thomas du Plessis.

Thomas, 31, was appointed in August 2017 and has organised a line-up where half the acts live or grew up locally. Founded in 2011, the festival only took place twice – then and in 2012.

Thomas told the Times: “It is really exciting because this is the perfect place for a book festival. It’s going to be a big celebration ofthe park itself.

“There is so much local enthusiasm and excitement about what is going on and the reception has just been amazing. So it’s been non-stop fun since the beginning.”

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A diverse programme features chats with celebrated authors like Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, a “Happy Birthday NHS” panel chaired by BBC health editor Hugh Pym, and an exhibition on First World War soldiers who lived near Queen’s Park.

The community tent will also feature the Young Poets of Queen’s Park, who at 13 will be the youngest performers at the event, alongside leading refugee writers and events on breaking into publishing, all of which are free.

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“I decided from the beginning we needed to have a tent that was dedicated towards promoting unheard voices and others in the community,” said Thomas.

“It will add a different flavour and feel to the festival.”

The community tent was programmed by writer Hud Saunders, he added.

The festival received National Lottery funding and is partnered with local charities such as Real Action, which aims to improve child literacy. It’s also connected to local schools and has a free ticket scheme.

Thomas said: “Me and my partner have lived here for five years now. We love the local area and that’s why I decided I wanted to revive the festival.

“You can participate in every aspect all the way from decorating tents to coming to events.”

The festival, on June 30 to July 1, will have three main marquees and a kids’ tent.

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