Book Amp No.3

The newsletter for literary event organisers

…in which we explore new musical avenues, show our age by complaining about ticket prices, celebrate new festivals and hopefully come up with a few programming ideas that will make your festival sparkle.

Thanks for reading…. Mathew and Julian

On the Record

An unexpected, but very welcome, development to come out of the vinyl revival is a new wave of spoken word and musical collaborations being released by record labels (on heavyweight vinyl). Our favourite from 2019 has been the Faber poet Will Burns and the electronic musician Hannah Peel who came together to produce the album Chalk Hill Blue. It was released on Caught by the River’s record label Rivertones who have blazed a trail in this area with releases by novelist Melissa Harrison amongst others. Will and Hannah have performed at a number of festivasls over the summer and most recently at the Barbican where support came from another intriguing project On Vanishing Land that was released by super hip dubstep label Hyperdub. OVL is an audio-essay by Justin Barton and the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher that evokes a walk along the Suffolk coastline in 2006, from Felixstowe’s container port to the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo. It combines their words with music from a whole range of artists including syth legend John Foxx. Earlier this year Justin Hopper’s book Old Weird Albion that explored landscape, memory and myth along the South Downs was turned into a haunting album The Chanctonbury Rings with the help of musician Sharon Krauss and the Belbury Poly was released by Ghost Box.

There is also a current Kickstarter campaign from the folk label From Here Records for a concept album based around Tom Cox’s book of short stories Help the Witch. And earlier this year The Shining Levels released an album inspired by the Ben Myers novel The Gallows Pole. These records tap into a tradition of spoken word albums that pepper the collections of many a music head - from Richard Brautigan’s recordings for the Harvest label to John Betjeman’s wonderful albums Banana Blush and Late Flowering Love.

This is definitely a growing trend - but like any new scene it needs name? What should we call it? Spoken Weird? Vinyl Voices? All of these projects are perfect festival fodder.

p.s. We were also fans of The Other Half a show from 2015 that combined words and music. The story was written and performed by Mark Billingham and the music by alt country act My Darling Clementine.

p.p.s. In a parallel development we really enjoyed this piece in the Guardian about the new wave of dub poets by Harley Brown that highlighted a whole bunch of new acts like King Midas Sound and Moor Mother.

continuing out musical theme…

Small Wonders No2: Rough Trade Books

Started in 2018 by Nina Hervé, this publishing offhsoot from the famous independent record label has so far specialised in producing beautifully designed pamplets with authors ranging from Memorial Device novelist David Keenan to the poet Joe Dunthorne, the music journalist Emma Warren to everyone’s favourite collage artist Cold War Steve. Promising to provide, ‘printed matter for the counter culture’ there aren’t really any other publishers in this space - Nina is happy to arrange group events with the authors and publishes the pamplets in sets of four often with a theme that runs across all of them. They worked with the William Morris Gallery last year to produce a set specially for them, and this November are taking over Soho Radio for a week’s worth of shows with their authors - they are always interested in collaborations. You can email Nina: and read a longer interview with her by me here.

(I can personally vouch for their good taste as i am one of their authors!)

New Festival Alert Part 1! Paisley Book Festival

Congratulations to Jess Orr and Keira Brown who are co-producing the frst ever Paisley Book Festival 20-29 February next year. The festival has taken radicalism as its theme, in part due to the 200th anniversary of the 1820 insurrection by Paisley radicals (mainly weavers) that demanded improved working conditions. The inaugral programme is announced at the end November this year.

New Festival Alert Part 2! The Vicarious Festival is a new festival dedicated to travel writing

Created as a celebration of cultural diversity and the transformative power of storytelling, Vicarious is the UK's only travel literature and photography festival. It is taking place at Sparkford Hall in Somerset from 11th to 13th September, 2020. The programme will feature 38 talks and workshops, along with book signings and live music throughout the  weekend. Attendance is being capped at 400 in order to maintain a relaxed and accessible ratio of authors to "inquisitive minds", as festival goers are being called by the organisers.  "We want to create a space that encourages conversation about what unites us all," explains festival co-founder, EmmaLucy Cole, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. "Nurturing a better understanding of unfamiliar cultures is at the heart of the festival's ethos, and the value of that really seems to resonate with people," Cole continued. The travel authors already confirmed as Vicarious Festival speakers include William Atkins, Julian Sayarer and Rory MacLean. The event will also feature BBC2 travel presenter, Alice Morrison, along with Nick Jubber, Jonathan Chatwin, Noo Saro-Wiwa, Peter Fiennes, Monisha Rajesh, Dan Richards and Zahra Hankir. The geographical breadth of the speakers' travel experience ranges from China to Morocco, Eastern Europe to the deserts of North America, and West Africa to Iceland and the Middle East. 

How Much?

Setting the right ticket price for an event is notoriously difficult. In the last few years we seemed to have sailed past the £10 ceiling with mid-sized festivals all charging £15-20 as the norm. However, I was amazed to see the prices of some of the events listed in the Sunday Times this past weekend; Phoebe Waller-Bridge £30-50, William Dalrymple £30. Yvette Cooper £42, Emma Thompson £35 and Elton John £54-60. Many now include the book as part of the ticket price (in an effort to boost first week sales). What do you all think?

Murder at Salisbury Lit Festval

We enjoyed this piece by festival director Tom Bromley describing how at the end of this year’s festival, at an event to raise money for the local foodbank, he entered the raffle and won. The prize being to have a murder victim named after you in a forthcoming novel by Andy Maslen!

Winter Wonderland

Thanks to Stratford Literary Festival for sending in some wonderful pictures of their recent winter weekend (this is Carrie Grace being interiewed), the addition of a shorter festival later in the year (Stratford is usually in May) is something we are seeing more and more of.

Meet the Festival: Kendal Mountain Literature Festival

What is the name of your festival? Kendal Mountain Literature Festival

When does it take place? 14th - 17th November 2019

Tell us a little bit about how it came about? As part of the International Kendal Mountain Festival we saw a wonderful opportunity to extend our arts and culture reach and so created our Literature Festival. Now in its third year it is a place where we can explore creativity and connection in the mountains, landscape, nature, people and place. A wonderful community of ideas, words and wanderings. We are proud to have Robert Macfarlane as our patron. 

What venues do you use? In Kendal we use the Brewery Arts Centre which is our main hub and others in town such as the Town Hall, the Library, Pubs, the local bookshop and the Leisure centre. Audiences range from an 100 to 600 people. 

When do you book the festival and whom should publicists emails with ideas? Straight after next weeks festival! Please email

What is the most memorable literary event you have attended? On a riverbank, I spent the morning swimming, and listening to, the great Roger Deakin talk about his book - Waterlog. 

What are you currently reading? ’Two Trees make a Forest’ by Jessica J Lee

Where can we follow the festival on social media? @KendalMtnLitFes

Situations Vacant

The Royal Society of Literature is looking for an Events and Outreach Manager, the post is full-time, pays £26-30k and based at Somerset House, London. The job involves running their events, awards and young person’s outreach programme. Details are here:

Most Hyped Book of the Moment Award… has to be Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School (Granta). Lerrner burst on to the scene with the acclaimed Leaving Atocha Station in 2012 and after the rather muted reception that met follow-up 10.04 we are eager to read his new one. He appeared in London at Foyles and The Tate to promote the publication, if you went along do let us know how they were.

If you have anything you would like us to write about email: or we would love to hear from you. Please share this newsletter with anyone you think would enjoy it. You can follow us on twitter and instagram.