A Day in the Festival Life of a Literature Programmer

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes at The Bath Festival?  While the festival would have been happening, we’re sharing a series of articles from our festival team and partners to give you some insight into what goes on to make the festival happen! Below is a day in festival life from Literature Programmer Kate Abbey. If you are able to help the festival continue by donating please click here.

With approx. 15 literature events running each day in several different Bath venues, my day starts early and sees me heading straight to the Assembly Rooms Green Room – our purpose built marquee that is our home for the duration of the 10 day festival. Mads, Head of Literature Programming, and I look at the day ahead over a coffee, checking audience numbers, author arrival times and special tech requirements. We meet with the venue event managers to brief them and say hello to our amazing army of volunteers. Mr B’s Emporium run our brilliant festival bookshop at the Assembly Rooms and it’s always tricky not to lose yourself browsing their amazing selection.

Above image: Mr Bs Festival Bookshop

Our first authors tend to arrive around 9.30am and the process of introducing everyone and sorting out sound-checking begins. There’s always lot of chat in the Green Room, it’s a very special place to hang out and meet your writing heroes/heroines. I’m lucky enough to be able to sit in on as many events as I can get to over the festival and each day sees us running between venues to catch as much as possible. I also sometimes chair events, talking on stage with an author is a fantastic experience, whether it’s talking about kayaking down the Amazon with Helen Skelton (top of page photo) or finding myself taking part in an impromptu tango with Anton du Beke!

There are also normally some panic points during the day. Two that stand out for me in 2019  are Jonathan Freedland ringing me from Bath Spa train station to say he had arrived for his event but couldn’t get in a taxi to come up to the Assembly Rooms until he had filed his Guardian column. Theresa May had resigned during his train journey and he was frantically rewriting! Sara Cox was travelling to Bath by car but got stuck behind a tractor and was 15 minutes late arriving. A total pro, she ran straight from the car onto the stage, slipping her mic on as she walked through the venue.

Above image: Sara Cox on stage at The Bath Festival 2019

The days are long and crazy but an amazing culmination of what is generally 6-9 months work to bring over 100 amazing authors, journalists and writers to Bath. The fab memories are almost too many to mention. Last year I stood by the side of the stage listening as  Mark Kermode and his band The Dodge Brothers played a fantastic set for a hugely appreciative audience, watched in awe as Nicholas Parsons kept the audience in the palm of his hand telling stories about his amazing career, got some advice on dealing with my teenager from psychotherapist Philippa Perry, talked about the myth of a happy life with Professor Paul Dolan, laughed along with the Forum audience at Jo Brand’s take down of Donald Trump, discussed my current favourite books with Elizabeth Day, cuddled Caroline Criado Perez’s dog whilst she was on stage and helped the Austentatious crew iron their costumes.

Above image: Mark Kermode and The Dodge Brothers at The Bath Festival 2019

We generally finish around 10pm, after the last book signing has been completed and the last taxi ordered. There may well have been a gin & tonic (or two) drunk by that point!

Kate Abbey, Literature Programmer

We need you help so we can continue to bring the best of music and books to Bath through The Bath Festival and Bath Children’s Literature Festival, as well as our all year-round creative learning outreach programme. Please donate to our #BackBathFestivals crowdfunder campaign.

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