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Cheltenham Literary Festival

This was one book-tastic weekend!

It kicked off on Friday with a talk by David Crystal as part of the Birmingham Literary Festival.  I managed to go to this thanks to my university, who took us to see Crystal discuss eloquence and good public speaking.  It was a fascinating talk and felt like I learned so much about public speaking and speeches.  After the talk, there was an opportunity for me to get my book signed by David Crystal and a chance to tell him how much he inspired me to study English at university.  I have started reading his book, The Gift of the Gab, and like the books I have read of his before, it is so far both informative and humorous.

As soon as that event finished I travelled to Cheltenham to attend the Cheltenham Literary Festival.  This was my first visit to this festival and I really enjoyed it.  It had a great atmosphere and was located in the heart of the town.

The first talk I attended was Feminism Rules, on Saturday, with a panel of young adult feminist authors.  The panelist I was most interested in was Holly Bourne as I recently read Am I Normal Yet?, the first book in her Spinster Club trilogy (read my review here).  All three authors were very passionate and opinionated on feminism, and I particularly enjoyed it when they had opposing ideas but still the same end goal.  It was interesting to see in practice how there is no right or wrong way to feminism, as long as we all agree in the same core message: everyone should be entitled to a happy and healthy life no matter what gender they are.  After the talk, I got a chance to meet Holly Bourne and get my copy of What’s A Girl Gotta Do (the third book in the trilogy) signed by her.  I am now so excited to read the second and third books!

That same day, I went to a talk with Sara Pascoe, a comedian who has a strong interest in female sexuality, relationships and body image.  This led her to write a book called Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body.  I wrote a review of the book which you can view here.  It is a mix of her secondary scientific research and personal anecdotes.  This includes an account of her abortion, something she said, in the event, that is important to talk about in order to educate young women about sex and pregnancy.  The talk was absolutely fascinating and hilarious – Pascoe is a comedian after all!  She was also incredibly down to earth and was quite willing to sign my copy of her book and pose for a photo with me.

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On Sunday I attended a workshop by Emma Gannon about building your own online brand.  This was in a different format to the other events I went to at the weekend as it was a lot more hands on.  Emma Gannon taught us the most important aspects to consider before creating and marketing your own online brand.  There was even room to share ideas and get feedback from Emma on some individual ideas.  It was great to be in a room with so many creative people with so many innovative ideas.  I also bought Emma’s book Ctrl Alt Delete, which is her autobiography about growing up with the internet and eventually using it to build her career.  I am looking forward to reading it.

The last event before returning home was a talk by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, about her book Girl Up.  I had previously read this book and reviewed it on the blog (you can find that review here) so I had been really looking forward to hearing Bates talk about the issues covered in her book in more detail.  In the space of an hour she covered so much about the importance for good sex and relationship education for all ages at school, the need for feminism – especially for young girls and the increasing support networks for women who experience sexual harassment or assault, or simply everyday sexism.  It was awe-inspiring to hear her talk so passionately about issues that affect so many women all around the world.  I loved the way she not only touched on the negative and shocking parts of society, but also celebrated the amazing things other women have been doing to stand up for themselves and others.  From reading her book and listening to her speak, I definitely feel inspired to consider the way I can help others who are less fortunate than I am or those who are suffering due to sexism and a lack of good quality sex and relationship education.

Overall, my whole experience of the Cheltenham Literary Festival (and the talk by David Crystal beforehand) has changed the way I think about so many aspects of life and society.  It has also increased my love for books and for reading, despite me loving them so much already!  I would definitely return next year if I get the chance to!  I am hoping that I can also go to the Hay Literary Festival next year as I went in 2015 but couldn’t go this year due to exams.  Maybe, just maybe, next year can top this year for fantastic book events.

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