Friday, 16 July 2010

Full-on Friday!

Today's the day that we've all secretly been building up to. Every day has had its fair share of well-known names and sold out events but today has been particularly full of them. Our first substitution happened today as well: Lindsay Porter couldn't attend due to illness so Ian Mortimer stepped in last minute to talk about Medieval murders. Pretty much all the Barn events were fully booked and they've been one steward down so I stepped in for the Ian Mortimer talk, which I was very excited about and it didn't disappoint. I sat, captivated, willing the minutes to slow down as he spoke fluently and engagingly on the demise of Edward II, III and Richard II. By far my favourite event of the festival.

Next up for me, front of house duty for the Great Hall on arguably the busiest afternoon of the week - three consecutive sold out events -Antonia Fraser, Ian McEwan and Fraser, Foreman & Nicolson. Two down, one to go. Getting as many people in has, so far, progressed very smoothly, to everyone's delight: people are squishing and squashing and getting very cosy with their next-door neighbours! I've escaped the hall though, because it's stiflingly hot in there and, I hate to say it, Ian's books are rather more captivating than the unfolding event (but I believe a little bit of honesty when reviewing talks is appropriate).

I'd better leave it here as I'm needed back for FOH in quarter of an hour. Another thing to note: it's Jo's last day today so we all wave a big GOODBYE to her in a couple of hours :-( - I'll definitely miss her this weekend, It's been great to be an intern with her!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Sleeping in the rain

So the rain arrived yesterday but really settled in today. I got caught in a downpour whilst cycling to the festival and spent the first few hours in the office barefoot as I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to dry my shoes and socks in the warm server room nearby. Unfortunately they hadn't really dried out by the time I had to go and sell extra books by Rosemary Bailey in the Waterstones tent after her event in the Barn.

As I was standing in the marquee, shivering in my hoody and waterproof, the heavens opened and torrents of water thundered down. We could have been standing underneath a waterfall it was so loud. It was the sort of rain that makes you giggle at the sheer force of it. People rushing from porch to porch look funny, huddled three to an umbrella, skipping over the ground as if they'll keep their shoes and hems drier that way, scarves blowing and newspapers scattered around being turned to mulch.

A quiet day in the box office, really. And then a quiet session stewarding in the Great Hall for Jon McGregor. Quiet because, whilst I sat leaning against the back wall I fell asleep for, I have to be honest, most of the session. Sorry Jon. I did wake up - with a little help from my fellow steward - just in time to be the roving mic and so avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation...

Van Rouge has closed up, the phones are silent and people are eating their dinner. I have half an hour before I have to be back on steward duty for Martin Bell who will be talking about the expenses scandal.

I think it's time to head off for another quick nap in the West Wing lounge - I don't think I'll be able to get away with a snooze in this session....aaand another downpour. Great.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Silent moment = holy moment

Hello everyone and welcome to Tuesday's installment of festival news. This is brought to you in a rare moment of stillness in the box office and I'm slowly coming down from the adrenalin high of trying to fit as many people as possible into the Great Hall for Melvyn Bragg. [Ha, scrap that, I wrote that sentence about 45 minutes ago and haven't touched the keyboard since!]

Melvyn's talk was the most full I've seen so far. Generally people were very happy to squish together and make room - apart from one very difficult woman who refused to move along. Far from backing down, I got caught on a bit of a power trip and was determined to fit someone in next to her if it was the last thing I did! Having the support of audience members around her was encouraging and equally satisfying was a woman who came in to congratulate me on how I dealt with "that b****"! Hectic, but the kind of challenging fun that I like.

Time for a small round-up of talks that I've been to since the last update. Kate Adie, John Lanchester and James Long provided a hugely interesting talk about the banking crisis, it's causes and consequences. All three were knowledgeable, thought-provoking and sharp, with Kate Adie posing the sort of insightful and penetrating questions that took her to the top of journalism.

David James Smith spoke without notes for a good three quarters of an hour about his experiences researching and writing his book about the young Mandela. He dared to rub some of the polish off the great man's image, revealing a man whose passion and commitment to his ideals caused much discord and strife throughout his family life. Focusing more on Mandela's wives, children and grandchildren, this was an intriguing and fascinating talk, reminding us that everyone has shadows in their past.

The afternoon session finished with Jackie Kay reading extracts from her new book, Red Dust Road and taking questions from the audience. I can't remember the time I laughed so much. From her voice impersonations to relating how she fielded questions about her sex life from her just-met Nigerian birth father, she was warm, engaging, funny and open whilst discussing issues of identity and upbringing.

Today has been notable for another reason - the rain arrived and the vibe is a lot quieter outside than previous days. More notably, it has stopped for now - which is important when one is cycling home as yours truly is later on! Other than that, the box office continues. Kate's mum has supplied us with delicious chocolate fairy cakes which we are all enjoying very much, the bookings keep coming and bits of paper continue to fly everywhere. For now, peace has once again descended and I can feel a wave of fatigue starting to lap at the edges of my being. The next event is in forty minutes and the guests will be along soon enough to shake me back to life.

Monday, 12 July 2010

And the show goes on...

Day four is underway at Dartington Hall and we've seen some fantastic talks already in the Great Hall and Barn Theatre.

Friday was lively under bright sunshine: although the festival didn't open until 12, the lawn was dotted with people relaxing in the deck chairs waiting and the office was bustling to say the least! I took a break from the heaving box office to head over to the launch party in the private gardens where wandering minstrels were entertaining Friends and special guests drinking local Sharpham wine. Before long, the queue for Joan Bakewell was snaking round the courtyard - everyone was eager for the 19th Ways with Words to get underway. Michael Dobbs, Roy Hattersley, Michael Bird, Alexander Maitland, Sue Shephard and Martin Amis completed the schedule for Friday. At 6.30, I left with my parents who had emerged, very impressed, from Roy Hattersley's talk for a birthday dinner; that's right, Launch Day was also known in the office as Fi's Birthday!

Saturday brought yet another job for me - stewarding. From my post on the balcony in the Great Hall I herded guests along rows, prevented them from traipsing through the writers' dining room and kept a watchful eye out over the audience whilst listening to the talks - which is an upside to dealing with folks who don't particularly want to "move along".

I was underwhelmed by Giles Coren, and disappointedly so. I love his writing but I'm in two minds about his book. I thought it didn't do him justice, falling into the commercial, turn-you-into-a-celeb-and-show-you-off category; I preferred it when I had to seek out his columns. As much as I enjoyed listening to him - his articulate wit and intelligence still shone through - I thought his talk lacked direction, instead meandering loosely around an image of Giles that has been constructed mainly on the basis of one incident and sculpted as such. As so often happens, but I felt Coren was above this.

PD James with Penelope Lively was a breath of fresh air. Intelligent, insightful and completely in touch with the modern world and open to progression. At almost ninety, this was all the more impressive - and welcome.

Surprisingly, my favourite event was the session on bereavement with Barbara Want and Blake Morrison. It was chaired impeccably by Joan Bakewell, who guided the discussion sensitively and involved the audience as much as possible. What followed was a powerful, moving session that I suspect was very cathartic for many of those who attended.

And so to Monday. I've just been to Soundart Radio studio for a chat with Rob and am about to head off to the Great Hall for a stewarding shift, where I'll get to see Kate Adie and John Lanchester talking about the economy, David James Smith on Mandela and Jackie Kay on identity. Fun stuff!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Hellooooo Dartington!

With the return of Chloe and Videl last week and Rachel, a previous intern, this Monday, the office was feeling quite cosily chaotic. Squeezing past elbows, envelopes, booking forms, show cards, banners and on drastically reduced coffee breaks, the Ways with Words team has been a hive of activity for the last few days.

But that is nothing compared to now. This morning we didn't go to Droridge Farm but cycled (well, Flo and I did!) up the hill to Dartington Hall. Legs shaking and sweating slightly (it's quite a climb) we began to unpack Steve's car and shift the entire contents of the office to a corner of Dartington reception area. It's about a third of the size and with more boxes. We're all set up now and doing various tasks, some normal, some slightly irregular. We're still doing ticket orders and processing payments but, for example, this morning I spent an enjoyable half hour or so erecting a marquee with some very lovely guys from a sports event company. I then continued my handywoman tasks by ensuring that the deck chairs' screws were all tight enough. All in a days' work!

We're gearing up for the arrival of speakers. And as I write this, I can announce with great excitement that Michael Bird has arrived and is currently hanging out in reception. Slightly less exciting is the fact that a huge screen has just gone up in front of our area and so Michael is possibly the only person we'll see with ease....

Next task: press board, and Flo needs the computer to send some emails regarding our Turner prize winners Richard Long and Martin Creed, so I will sign off from here - but I promise to be back soon with more updates from the lively Ways office!

A bientot!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Off The Page - an extra event at Ways with Words!

Sunday 18th July, 6.30pm, Signature Lounge.

Are you feeling inspired? Do you have words and ideas that need airing in public?

Off The Page is a quirky, relaxed, live literature event for anyone who wants to share their creativity. Submissions welcome from anyone and everyone! It can be anything: poetry, a play, monologue, short story, a song, many lines or one line, short or long. Perform it yourself or have someone else read it.

Join us in the Signature Lounge (formerly the Upper Gatehouse room) for some creative entertainment and a drink or two.

To submit your work, email or pop into the box office at Dartington Hall from Friday 9th July.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Happiness is a chocolate covered waffle cone

So my friend said, seconds before she dropped said cone with a wet thud onto the concrete of the ice cream parlour terrace in Cardiff this weekend.

No such misfortunes for us today, with several things to be happy and excited about this Monday morning. The festival has been drawing closer for a while now, but now it has dawned on us that it starts next week! Kate and Flo are having a nice afternoon out in Totnes creating window displays with show cards for all the speakers. Jo has been awarding bursaries and has almost got that finished. Kate's stewarding schedule seems to have ironed itself out and everything feels like it's coming together. And, say it quietly, *the sun is still here*.

If you're a fan of us on Facebook, you may well have seen the event listing for Off The Page.
Off The Page is a quirky and relaxed live literature event for anyone who wants to share their creativity. It can be poetry, a play, monologue, short story, a song, many lines or one line, short or long...anything goes - it doesn't matter if you've been writing for a long time, or consider yourself a casual scribbler.

Come along on Sunday 18th July at 6.30pm to the Upper Gatehouse room to have a few drinks and share your work - or listen to others'. Please submit your ideas and entries to by 9th July. Soundart Radio online will be covering the event as well.

Everything is economics

Tim Harford, economist, Financial Times columnist and author of Dear Undercover Economist is once again sharing his analytical, logical wisdom and sets out to explain why seemingly irrational and chaotic decisions and patterns of behaviour actually do adhere to reasoned, logical economics.

Appearing at the festival on Sunday 11th July, he'll be applying his reasoning to those trivial matters of love and happiness, explaining why economic theory might hold the key to explaining these rocky roads. Given that although comforting, a tub of Ben & Jerry's provides nothing but extra inches, I'd say this talk is definitely worth a listen.

For tickets, call the box office on 01803 867 373 or check out Tim's website for more info.

Monday, 21 June 2010


As I sit at my desk I can hear, from many corners of the country, whoops of delight and chattered excitement at the prospect of an alternative sporting event. The strawberries are red and plump, Pimms is sparkling, the lawns of SW19 are gleaming, fresh and green and young Laura Robson is playing on Centre Court. Hurray for Wimbledon!

This year Ways with Words has an especial interest in the event. Matt Harvey is the first Wimbledon Poet, and has already been busy down at the All England Club. His contributions, focusing on everything at Wimbledon from the food, the weather, the grass, the umpires, crowds, ball boys and girls and the players will be up on his Wimbledon blog at Wimblewords. His first poem, Grandest of Slams, is up there right now.

I think this is a fantastic addition to Wimbledon. So many people, whether they play tennis or not, enjoy watching Wimbledon and Matt will bring out all their various different experiences, in poetry, blogging and random performances at the queue line. His quirky, humourous style should fit perfectly with this most quintessential of British summer experiences, enhancing the tournament's wider appeal and ensuring it stays the Greatest of Slams.

We're looking forward to having Matt at the festival on Sunday 18th July for what promises to be a fantastic evening of poetry and anecdotes from the tournament.

Going back to the crux of the issue, though - who to win? Will Federer claim a 7th title? Will Nadal's hunger prove greater? He certainly looks the most in-form player, and possibly the most raring to go. How will Laura Robson fare on Centre against Jankovic - what a match for her, btw. I don't think she's a no-hoper, she can play fantastically when she wants to so let's hope we see her fine, fighting form and that she enjoys every minute of it. And of course, the annual question on everyone's lips - Will Andy Murray Win This Year? Maybe it's time for another office sweep stake....

In other news, we are steaming head on with publicity for lots of events. A piece of Richard Long's work will be appearing at Torre Abbey's TAMED exhibition, running from July 5th to August 31st. Check out local newspapers for coverage of the festival in the next few weeks.

Ticket sales are on a bit of a boost - chaos reigned briefly on Thursday morning after announcements and ticket allocations got a bit out of sync but the good ship recovered and all is now back to normal! I've been making friends at Totcom printers and am very excited about the colour flyers they are printing for me for the Martin Creed and Richard Long events. Thanks to Mac Pages my designer talents have taken on a rare sheen and I'm optimistic about the finished product!

So off we go into another week. Three left before the festival! The sun is shining and the rat that has been scurrying around the office is nowhere to be seen. All is good. And with that, I must go and stop procrastinating under the guise of blogging...

A bientot!

Fi x

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Peace and quiet and celebrity-style nicknames.

Well, actually, a little less than four weeks now! The phone lines have quietened down and we now have a limited number of tickets newly available for previously sold-out events.

We are learning how hard it is to pin people down! Editors and publicists seem fairly hard to get hold of and there's a lot of pinging and ponging back and forth on the phone. (This should be unsurprising to me having spent three years working in publishing, but there we go.) We're busy trying to get features written in various publications, interviews arranged and flyers created for different groups of people.

A particularly exciting development was learning that the Turner prize winning artist Richard Long, who is coming to Ways with Words on Sunday July 18th is also having a piece of his work exhibited at Torre Abbey from July 5th to August 31st. What's especially good is that my boyfriend's mother, who I'm currently living with whilst down in Devon, is responsible for organising the exhibition, so I'm optimistic about some good reciprocal publicity opportunities there.

I am the sole intern in the office today...Florence and Jo are delivering programmes and Kate has gone off to France for a couple of days. It's very quiet. Although having just said that, Jo-Flo have pulled into the drive. Jo-Flo. Now there is a nickname that I am going to make stick!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A Staff Excursion...

Yesterday the WWW staff were lucky enough to see the Miracle Theatre Company's take on Romeo and Juliet in the grounds of Fingals Hotel, Dittisham. Placed at the front and surrounded by our extensive picnic we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

It was a fun production and the simple costumes and set were used to great effect. The cast of six played all the vital parts, using items of costume, stance and facial expression to convey which character they were playing. The set echoed the stage of the globe theatre with a curtained portico and Juliet's bedroom and the famous balcony scene were played very effectively on top of the portico. The script struck a balance between being true to the original and being accessible, with well-known passages fluently laced together with modern dialogue.

The rain held off and the evening became even more magical when stage lights were gradually introduced with the fading of the natural light. This fitted beautifully with the nature of the play: the sky grew darker with the subject matter! Birds provided the underscore, bats flitted above the stage and it was altogether a wonderful evening.


Tuesday, 8 June 2010


Well, it feels like it's been quite some time since I wrote anything up here. We interns have, for the majority of the last couple of weeks, been ploughing through the treachorous seas of phone, postal and internet bookings and scaling the dizzy heights of Mount PDQ (card payment processing). And, I'm happy to report, we seem to be emerging out the other side, approaching the summit, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Time to turn our attention on to other things. We've all had days out of the office distributing programmes to grateful recipients around the area with an intern you may remember from last year, Charlie. I myself went off to Plymouth for a fun-filled sunny day out, notable for the University of Plymouth's astounding confusion over the whereabouts of its English department...!

We're now focusing more on marketing and publicity and I'm really enjoying thinking of creative ways to promote our speakers. This is where you realise how easy basic marketing is with things like Facebook and Twitter, but it's also good to get involved with other sites and think about where and why you're promoting certain people in certain areas.

We've had a bit of a change in the office, too. Gemma is sadly no longer with us but Florence has arrived, fresh from end of year university exams! We also have Ellie, Kate's daughter who has been roped into helping out and she has been great, picking everything up really quickly and getting stuck in.

Kay and Steve are in France for one of their writing courses and Chloe and Videl (and Theo!) will be here as of Thursday: they have promised to get stuck into box office stuff - something I'm sure we will all hold them to!

That's all for now folks, check back soon for more news from Ways with Words!


Friday, 4 June 2010

More Tickets Available!

Thought you'd missed out on Simon King, Shirley Williams and Melvyn Bragg? Think again!

We have a limited number of newly-available tickets for these events. Call the box office asap as they won't hang around for long - 01803 867 373.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Kiss Kiss!

Isn't kissing great?! Lana Citron, author of A Compendium of Kisses, has written a quirky and fascinating book all about the science, history, social etiquette, symbolism and varied behaviour behind this most simple, yet complex of acts.

And on that note, did you know...

1) The first recorded kiss was traced to 1500 BC in India. Vedic scriptures mention people ‘sniffing’ with mouths and describing lovers ‘setting mouth to mouth’.
2) Using X as a ‘kiss’ sign goes back to when people signed their names with an X, followed by a kiss upon the letter to show sincerity. X was the Paleo Hebrew letter Tav, symbol of the Seal of Hashem representing truth, completeness and perfection. Rabbi Brasch, in his work on the history of sex links it to the symbol for two mouths kissing >-<.
3) Kissing was a sign of rank in Roman and Hellenic times. Equals would kiss mouth to mouth, an inferior would kiss an superior’s cheek. If there was a great difference in rank, the inferior would kiss the ground.
4) Although chimpanzees are known to give pecks on the lips, only humans and bonobos engage in kissing with tongues.
5) Public displays of affection have been banned in many places, Britain amongst them. In early 2009 ‘no kissing’ signs were introduced in Warrington Bank Station – to help ease congestion.
6) The International Scientific Forum states that greeting someone with a kiss on the cheek is more hygienic than shaking hands.
7) Other health benefits include: brain stimulation, boosting self-esteem, helps decrease blood pressure and cholesterol and sharing bacteria can aid your immune system. People who kiss regularly are less likely to suffer from stomach, bladder and blood infections.
8) An orphanage study found that infants who were rarely kissed or held died of a disease known as infant marasmus, which literally means ‘wasting away’.
9) Some parental habits in certain tribes are unusual. The Yanomami of Venezuela have been known to kiss or suck their baby sons’ penises to improve their moods.
10) A human embryo has a mouth and set of lips at six weeks old, or half an inch long.
11) Kissing burns, on average 2-6 calories per minute.
12) According to Alex Comfort, author of The Joy of Sex, “a good mouth kiss should leave it’s recipient breathless but not asphyxiated”.

Lana Citron will be at Ways with Words on Thursday 15th July at 9pm. Tickets £9 and available online or via the box office on 01803 867 373.

Monday, 24 May 2010

I like sunny Mondays

They make heading back to work so much more enjoyable, especially when getting to work involves a glorious bike ride next to the river Dart along a beautiful cycle path! We are a skeleton crew in the office today, and all a little pink from exposure to the hot stuff this weekend! And already we've had exciting goings-on in the media for some of our Ways with Words stars!

Firstly, an adaptation of Martin Amis's Money started on BBC 2 last night. Perfect preparation for his talk on Friday 9th July. Catch it again on BBC iplayer

Secondly, Lucy Worsley spoke to Fi Glover on Saturday Live this weekend. Lucy will be at Dartington on Friday 16th July discussing the court of King George II at Kensington Palace and all the treachery, skullduggery and politics that went on there. Listen again to the BBC Radio 4 show here

Last, but by no means least, you may well have heard Dorothy Rowe on Start the Week with Andrew Marr this morning. Dorothy is speaking at two events at the festival. One will be discussing the notion of lying. The other will focus on, and be a forum to discuss ideas for taking charge of your life. Listen to her on Start the Week here

That's all for now folks!

F x

Friday, 21 May 2010

Ways with Words in Telegraph

Watch out for the Telegraph tomorrow, Saturday 22nd May...they are running a big feature on Ways with Words! We're looking forward to all the publicity and expect the phone lines to continue to ring out through the office through the weekend and on into Monday morning.

Michael Holroyd once stated that the literary festival was dead - here he fights for the opposite corner. Read all about why Ways with Words ranks among his favourite festivals here

General booking has been manic to say the least! Several events have sold out, namely Shirley Williams, Ian McEwan and Simon King and others are running dangerously low, so if you want to see Melvyn Bragg, Anthony Emery, Robert Sackville-West, Martin Bell and Jeremy Hardy, you'd better be quick! No one is calling at the moment so take advantage of the free phone line....too late!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

On your marks, get set....

General booking opens online at 00.01 tonight so I hope you'll all be poised by your computers in order to take advantage of what will probably be the quietest period of booking! Events are selling fast but there is still time to nab a ticket for your favourite speaker or author - not to worry, festival Friends haven't taken all of them in the priority booking week - although let that be an incentive to subscribe next year!

We interns are being truly swamped with the amount of postal votes coming in daily, which is encouraging but needs many a cup of tea and a couple of custard creams (per hour) to keep going with the requisite energy.

Also on the agenda: getting the word out about our bursaries for students aged 17-25 to local schools and colleges, and organising the rota for the stewards who will be helping out at the festival.

And now I'm going to go and calm down after a phone conversation with a very grumpy woman who thought the best way to solve the confusing mess she'd made of her booking form was by shouting at me. A custard cream should do the trick.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Students go FREE at Ways with Words!!

Calling all students! Are you:
  • Aged 17-25?
  • Passionate about books? 
  • Intrigued by new ideas? 
  • Fancy hearing and engaging with the likes of Giles Coren, Ian McEwan, Andrew Motion, Tracy Chevalier, Lynn Barber, Martin Bell and Brian Moore? 
  • Feeling a bit poor? 

If the answer to those questions is 'yes' you could be eligible to attend the festival for free on one of the bursaries that Ways with Words offers to young students each year.

To be considered, you will need to:

  • Have a lively interest in literature
  • Be allowed time off school/college during the period of the festival.
  • Be based in Devon and in full-time education
  • Be aged 17-25

For more information, contact Jo or Gemma on 01803 867373 or, or download an application pack from our webite

Get in touch, people!

Fi x

Monday, 17 May 2010

Back once again for 2010!

Well, hello!

Internal Thoughts is back for Ways with Words 2010. A new programme of events, new speakers and four new interns to share with you their experiences of the run-up to Dartington. Here, we will share with you all the fun, chaos and mayhem involved in organising the ten-day festival, as well as keeping you up-to-date with the latest news and giving you a taste of things to come.

News in brief:

  • Friends of the Festival, alert! Priority booking is well underway with several events selling like hot cakes (Shirley Williams, Ian McEwan) and the boat trip with Kate Adie is already nearly sold out! General booking, and internet booking opens this Thursday 20th May.
  • Check us out on Facebook! New Twitter page to come soon!
  • As well as us interns, WWW has two new additions to the team: Kay's daughter Chloe, and her partner Videl Bar-Kar have joined us from the glamorous worlds of Channel 4 and classical music. Based in London, they bring their media and business experience to help ensure WWW stays innovative and fresh.

Well, that's all for now - I'm just going to play with a few blog settings and then head back to the sea of paper that is the box office table - and general bookings hasn't even opened yet!

Bye for now,