Writing Wednesday: The Festival That Wasn’t

Today my husband took me to the Kidwell-e Festival – advertised as the first ebook festival in the UK. I was booked to speak tomorrow, so I wanted to find my way around and enjoy some of the speakers today. I came home and looked up the word festival on Dictionary.com:

Festival: a period or programme of festive activities, cultural events or entertainment; gaiety; revelry; merrymaking.

On that basis, it definitely wasn’t a festival.

The expected 20,000 people didn’t turn up.


In the afternoon, even the author didn’t turn up.


As you can see, the audience didn’t turn up either. Actually, there were four of us. The other two, who had come 200 miles for the day, gave up and went home. We went looking for the missing author, and found the organiser, who didn’t know the author was missing. He told us he had signed in on arrival and been left to get on with it.

It had apparently not occurred to him that, having organised the thing, he should have people at both the speaking venues to ensure things went smoothly.

Oh, and to top everything, the festival was open today from 11am to 10pm and the only food available was a burger van.

There was a concert tonight, so I don’t know how many turned up for that. The traders complained about the lack of customers and were told to wait for this evening, but I doubt if the concert-goers will want to buy craftwork. And the traders didn’t expect to stay open until 10pm either.

So we left early, and I’m not going to speak tomorrow. They weren’t paying me, and it’s not worth the effort to talk to an empty room.


About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at www.annmariethomas.me.uk
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21 Responses to Writing Wednesday: The Festival That Wasn’t

  1. That was an excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing it.
    I really enjoyed reading it very much. You have a wonderful day!

    Enjoy writing? Join Us Today –

    Writers Wanted


  2. Mat says:

    I went to this today. We arrived a little late, and on the way in we were warned that the expected numbers hadn’t shown up. After finding that both locations sets aside for author talks were entirely empty, a very distraught man came running over to tell us they’d just decided to cancel the festival due to poor turn out (this was at half past twelve). Felt sorry for a lot of the people there, some of whom had come quite a long way and spent quite a bit of money.


  3. Western Mail bigging this festival up – uncritical , lazy journalism. Please enrol and join the debate.


    • Thanks for the heads-up Sion. I have commented, and notice this post has already been linked to the comments on this Western Mail article. It’s very sloppy journalism because, as Mat says above, the festival was cancelled at 12:30pm, but the Western Mail quotes the speech given by Julian Ruck at the festival last night. Very clever – did he talk to himself?


  4. This Julian Ruck sounds completely barmy! The whole project was misjudged and just a vanity project for him.


  5. I was invited to speak but declined, for a number of reasons. And you should have been offered a fee – I don’t approve of festivals that only pay some writers and not others. I do feel really sorry for a lot of people involved, whether speakers or readers, and the stall-holders, and no doubt some of the good people who tried to help organise this.


    • As far as I was concerned, as a new writer, I was just grateful for the offered exposure – which of course didn’t materialise. At least it only cost me petrol money and nearly £5 for a burger. A trader told me they paid £100 per table, and sold little or nothing. Julian Ruck let a lot of people down.


  6. Dougie Brimson says:

    I spoke at the festival on Saturday and although it was a small crowd, I had a great time, the audience seemed to enjoy it and I received some great feedback.

    I also met some great people and sold some books so in that sense, whilst it could have been better, it wasn’t exactly the end of the world.


    • You were lucky, Dougie, to have an audience. The first talk on Saturday had an audience of 4 – three people who had come to hear the next speaker (they were running an hour late) and the next speaker. The second talk had 12, and the third talk had 4 – but the author didn’t turn up! My friend was booked to speak first on Sunday morning, and there was no audience for any of the three speakers – until one turned up for her and they went and had a chat. The publicity expected 20,000 people.


  7. Carl Yapp says:

    Ann Marie, I work for BBC online. I’d like to speak to you about the Kidwell-e Festival. Could you email me your tel no?


  8. Mat says:

    It’s quite telling that googling Kidwell E Festival pretty much just results in finding blogs of authors who were either short listed for the 10k award, due to speak, or turned down the invitation to speak. Nobody else is speaking about it at all. I’m wondering if myself and my friends were the only non authors/entertainers/traders there!


  9. Good question, Mat. Here’s another one: why have a face-to-face e-book festival at all? The point of hardcopy book festivals is that all those book vendors and readers are in the same place at the same time. Meanwhile, electronic books are where they always are: the electronic otherworld, where we can find, browse, and buy them any time we like.


    • Good point Teresa. I was surprised that there was no wifi, so that people could buy ebooks while they were there. Another visitor told us that Julian Ruck tried to get the major ereader vendors to participate, but they didn’t want to know.


  10. Carwyn Jones says:

    Ann Marie, I work for BBC Wales television news. I’d also like to speak to you about the Kidwell-e Festival. Could you e-mail me your telephone number please? Thank you, Carwyn


  11. Pingback: Thwarted | Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth

  12. Peter Poole says:

    Shame about the event. I was on the shortlist for the award but didn’t go. If I had, travelling overnight by coach from Brighton as I had planned, I would have missed the award ceremony anyway. Hope it gives ideas for a comedy script, anyway…


    • Console yourself with this: how much will it improve an author’s prestige and saleability to win an award from a non-festival? I feel sorry for the winner. Yes, the money is great, but will it advance their career?


  13. Pingback: Car crash in Kidwelly, few hurt, not many witnesses | David Hewson•com

  14. Pingback: Thwarted | Ann Marie Thomas, Author: Thinking Out Loud

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