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Staffordshire to host new children’s book festival

Families are invited to join Staffordshire’s first ever children’s book festival later this summer.

The ‘Festival of Brilliant’ is being organised by arts organisation ‘OUTSIDE’, together with Staffordshire County Council’s Libraries service, local children, teachers and authors who all share a love of reading.

The celebration will take place at Biddulph Old Hall on 12 and 13 July 2024 and will include readings, talks, workshops, performances, installations and activities.

Champions of children’s books, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and author/illustrator Nadia Shireen, who host the popular podcast about children’s books ‘The Island of Brilliant’ which inspired the festival, will both be at the event to talk about their books. They will also present a special live recording of the podcast, joined by author/illustrator Steven Lenton, and their resident band Ukelele Off Trio.

Victoria Wilson, Cabinet member for Culture and Communities at Staffordshire County Council said: “This will be a wonderful event that will highlight the magic and wonder of children’s literature.

“It’s the first time we’ve done this kind of event and we think it will be a superb way to inspire a passion for reading amongst children. It will also help promote our library offers for children and families while sparking curiosity, imagination, creativity & fun.”

Sarah Bird, creative director of Outside, said: “We believe that books and stories have the power to change the world, so we couldn’t be more excited to have this celebration of brilliant children’s books in Biddulph.

“Biddulph Old Hall is the perfect backdrop, it has such a magical, fairy tale feel. And the festival is a brilliant opportunity to experience this amazing place.

“We’re inviting schools and families from across the Moorlands to join us and a raft of world class authors, illustrators and artists for an incredible festival that will feed their imaginations.”

Festival goers will see how easy it is to draw a seafaring elephant with author/illustrator Ed Vere, and discover if they have what it takes to be the hero of their own film with author/director Christopher Edge.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Book Trust’s writer in residence, will invite festival goers to discover how fascinating factual books can be, and learn about real-life heroes and world changers. Comedian author Samantha Baines will talk about her critically acclaimed children’s books with deaf main characters, and host a fun workshop creating new alien worlds.

Poet Jean Atkin will also be on hand offering Poetry on Demand – poems provided to people on request! In addition, the programme showcases local talent including a poetry workshop with headteacher Charlotte Rowley, a talk from author Jenny Spangler, storytelling with Julie Moss and creative sessions with illustrator Ella Kasperowicz.

As well as authors and illustrators, festival goers can enjoy brilliant literary themed performances. Circus theatre company Tit for Tat bring their high energy show BOOKS! featuring acrobatics and fire juggling. Songwriter David Gibb will present a musical adventure, sharing his hilarious songs and stories, and discussing his most recent musical for families and children.

The Frontline Dance Explorers Team will perform a show where audiences can help bring to life two stories with dance, colour, sound and teamwork. The Magic Lantern, a curious contraption that travels the land telling and collecting stories, will be visiting the festival with storyteller Ian Douglas and puppeteer Jo Douglas. And arts organisation Wild Rumpus will be challenging everyone to add a line to the longest tale to help create The Brilliant Never ending Story.

Further details and tickets are available on the OUTSIDE Arts website with Friday 12 July for schools and community groups (free) and Saturday 13 July for families (£5 per person, under 3s free).

The Festival of Brilliant is made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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