Hey, friends! As Jove and I talked about in the Women and Words podcast last week, I did manage to track author and editor Victoria Villaseñor down and she graciously blogged her thoughts about the Bold Strokes Books festival in Nottingham. This was the 8th annual there, but this year was different because of horrific events that occurred in Manchester and London.
She told me she was a little worried about including her thoughts about that, but I told her that what happened was no doubt on the minds of people at the festival, and acknowledging it doesn’t detract from the festival, but rather recognizes our connections to each other, to our communities, and helps us with solidarity in the face of such terrible occurrences.
Here’s Vic with her thoughts.
At 3am on Sunday morning, my phone started buzzing. Because I have family in the States, I don’t turn it off at night, just in case there’s an emergency. It was my mom, saying she loved me, and she was worried about me because of the stuff in London.
Because it was 3 in the morning, I didn’t really register it.
But the next morning it became clear. Only a couple of weeks after the devastating terror attack in Manchester, there’d been another in London. It left seven dead and many injured.
That was Sunday morning, the second day of the 8th Annual Bold Strokes Book Festival in England. Needless to say, our ride to the event was a quiet one. We’re in Nottingham, about two hours away from London, but when something like that happens, especially in a country this small, the ripples of fear, anger, and confusion are felt everywhere.
This year, authors Michelle Grubb, Anna Larner, Lesley Davis, Jane Fletcher, Robyn Nyx, Crin Claxton, Rebecca Buck, Brey Willows, Amy Dunne, I. Beacham, and Matt Bright all took to the stage to talk about various aspects of writing, and to share some of what they’ve written recently. I don’t think there was an author there who didn’t have the London event in the back of their mind throughout the day.
We do the event each year to bring together Bold Strokes authors from all over the UK (and those who’d like to join us from elsewhere). For eight years we’ve been getting together to do our own LGBT book festival, because there wasn’t one anywhere else in the UK after the York Lesbian Arts Festival folded. We do it for the authors, to give them exposure, and for the readers, who get to hear about great new fiction.
And we do it so we have a safe place to get together and talk about queer fiction, a place where we can relax and simply be ourselves as we discuss the books we like to read and write. In a time when the concept of community has come into question, when the world can feel overwhelming in many ways, this is our yearly pilgrimage to a haven of books and authors who are part of a literary community which focuses on the positive stories of LGBT people.
On Sunday morning, I was reminded how important safe spaces are. I kept the tears from falling as I greeted everyone when we started, but the room wasn’t as full as it should have been. Indeed, the streets outside were far quieter than they usually are on a Sunday afternoon. Many people stayed home rather than head into cities.
Still, we moved forward with our day. We still laughed. We still talked. We still had lunch at the local lesbian-owned pub, another safe space to sit and chat the afternoon away. We discussed writing and writer’s block. We discussed new ideas for new novels on new ground. We really were a community in that moment, a safe space of ideas, sharing, and people from different backgrounds all coming together because of the power of stories and the safety we find between the pages of a book.
The streets won’t stay quiet for long. This country has a long history of ‘just getting on with it’ as they say here. And next year’s Bold Strokes Book Festival, May 5th-6th, will include a ton of authors from the States, too. I hope you’ll plan on joining us to celebrate the strength, the fun, the safe spaces, that coming together this way can bring.
And if you’re interested in seeing photos of this year’s event, you can find them on the 2017 gallery page.
Find more info about Victoria and her editing awesomeness at Global Words.
Though the Bold Strokes Books festival, 2017 is over, you can still find out about all the goodness at the website.
And you can start planning for the 2018 event, because they’re already getting ready for it! Check it out!