Debbie with Orna Ross and Katie Fforde
With Orna Ross (left) and Katie Fforde at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival

Several years ago, when I was working for the children’s reading charity Readathon (now Read for Good), I signed up to take part in World Book Night, a UNESCO-led initiative to encourage adults to read for pleasure, and to encourage those who’d never felt reading was for them to try again. As one of thousands of volunteer “book givers”, each year I was given a box of a carefully chosen book to distribute to those whom I thought might be lured back into a leisure reading habit – so good for you, in all kinds of ways.

I really enjoyed this ambassadorial role, which made me feel like a bookish Father Christmas, but I wanted to do more, especially within my local community. Early in 2015, I determined to set up a small local event on the evening of World Book Night (23rd April) in one of our village pubs. I thought I’d include a few local author friends and throw open an invitation to the general public to join us. What started out as a low-key plan swiftly evolved into a full-on evening, with over 20 authors, poets and illustrators, celebrating the joy of reading with a series of panel discussions, public readings, and general social fun. Over 100 members of the local community squeezed into the function room of The Fox Inn to join the fun. Before the evening was over, I was already being implored to make it an annual event, to which I was glad (if rash!) to agree.

Since then, HULF (as it’s been nicknamed) has gone from strength to strength, using various venues around the village, and bringing many dozens of authors, poets, illustrators and artists to the heart of our village.

The format continues to evolve, and in 2023 will include four events, the first an all-day extravaganza at St Mary’s Hawkesbury, the other three afternoon events in the cosy Bethesda Chapel.

To find out more about coming HULF events and to book your tickets, visit website: www.hulitfest.com.