Words by the Water, Keswick’s yearly literature festival, is going from strength to strength.
Author talks, poetry readings and cultural debates are on the increase across the UK: if there was ever a time or a place for a literary festival it’s now. The Lake District’s Words by the Water, then, really does have everything going for it. Returning for its fourteenth year, it’s an already seasoned event, claiming a loyal group of celebrated speakers and patrons that newer festivals would kill to have on their books. As if that wasn’t enough, the full nine days (7-16 March) are based at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick – a venue with a magnificently scenic backdrop very difficult to match.
"This festival has a loyal audience – and you can see why"
Fondly thought of as a festival of ideas, Words by the Water shows off another packed programme of history, politics, fiction, contemporary culture, poetry, philosophy, science and religion this year, featuring a line-up of writers and thinkers ready to challenge and enthral those who come to see them talk. The standard and calibre of speakers is set high, with names from the world of television and radio pouring in over the week – including Melvyn Bragg, Stuart Maconie, Count Arthur Stron, Jeremy Paxman and Andy Kershaw to name but a few.
Highlights from the world of politics include Ann Widdecombe, Melissa Benn, Roy Hattersley, Jonathan Aiken and Alan Johnson, while Germaine Greer is scheduled to talk about the Queensland dairy farm that she took on in 2001 and how it awakened her to the impact of deforestation. Royalty descends on Keswick as Princess Michael of Kent arrives to speak about her novel The Queen of Four Kingdoms; and notably, leading historical novelist Philippa Gregory – author of blockbuster The Other Boleyn Girl and latest novel The White Queen – will discuss her fascination with the Tudor period to (we predict) a packed out audience.
With more than 100 events in the five-star literary line-up WBTW director Kay Dunbar says “visitors compliment the programme every year, but many people are saying that this is the best line-up we’ve ever had, which is great to hear.”
This festival has a loyal audience – and you can see why. In the intervals between speakers, listeners can peruse the pop-up bookshop, enjoy some of the homemade cakes in the café or take a casual stroll around the lake to take in the dramatic landscape. WBTW is always a casual affair but, on closer inspection, the conversations going on are hotly contested. It is this continued debate that shows the success and importance of a festival like Words by The Water. Our busy life schedules don’t always allow us time to engage with complex ideas or in-depth cultural debate; that job is often left to academics. However, Words by The Water provokes its audience with curiosity and stimulation, promising to stretch the mind and provoke engagement with contemporary thoughts and ideas.
And there’s no stopping where an idea might take us – after all, they are what change the world. So, Words by The Water may very well alter how we see things, even for a short while.