The Hastings Literary Festival was founded 2017 as a celebration of the written word under the strapline of “writing for writers”, but provided events catering both for readers and writers aiming to improve their skills.

The first festival took place in August 2018 with 30 events over three days. It was so successful that in 2019 it expanded to 50 events, with an audience of over 3000, and included creative writing workshops, short courses, author talks, ‘meet the agent’ sessions, and a special ‘spoken book’ edition for the visually impaired. There was also a whole raft of events for children and families. Although the festival audience was mainly local, 20% travelled over 100 miles to attend, and feedback showed that over 40% of the audience had never attended a literary festival before.

The global pandemic prevented the festival opening in 2020, but it returned in 2021, smaller  though still well-attended. It was located primarily at the Kino Teatr in St Leonards, with 16 events comprised of live talks, discussions, poetry readings and a number of performances by local, national and internationally famous writers.  

Despite this success, it was felt that “Lit fest” was becoming pigeon-holed as a rather high-brow event, appealing to a significant but quite narrow audience. A conversation with prize-winning author Monique Roffey sparked the idea of a name change. Festival Founder Sam Davey says, “Monique helped us to remember that, in essence, the Festival is all about books – story books, history books, comic books, art books, books of poetry, picture books, books recently published, and classic books that we know and hold dear.” 

Wayne Herbert, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement, said: “In order to find out if our suspicions were correct, we spent the early part of 2022 in conversations with people in Hastings and St Leonards. We talked to people in community centres and libraries, in care homes and supermarkets, in pubs and cafes and, as a result, we have decided to simplify our name and adopt a striking and very recognisable new logo.”

From now on, Hastings Literature Festival will be the Hastings Book Festival. It celebrates writers and lovers of the written word, and aims to be a welcoming and open place for everyone.  Over the next few weeks the festival website and social media will be updated to reflect these changes in preparation for the announcement of the early bird authors in July.

Herbert said, “It’s exciting to look at how far we’ve come, and how determined we are to engage with the community that we love. We’re planning on holding events across our town, from Norman Road right up to Hollington, and from the America Ground to Ore. We are building great community partnerships and want to support whatever is there as far as possible.”

Sam Davey said: “I have always found joy and comfort in the written word, both as a reader and a writer. I founded the festival because I hope to share that with others. Everyone is welcome at the Book Festival and we are committed to making sure that we always have events which are affordable and appeal as widely as possible”.

The 2022 festival will take place between 16 and 25 September. The programme will be released in July. 

Funding has been received to support affordable ticket prices, to provide bursaries for the festival writing competitions and to run pilots working with local writers in community settings aimed at improving access to reading.    


Hastings Book Festival

Spoken Word Evening 

As part of this year’s Hastings Book Festival (16-25 September) writer VG Lee will be hosting a spoken word evening celebrating local writers and poets on Friday 23 September. Each performer will be provided with a fifteen-minute slot to introduce and read from their work. A performance fee will be paid and there will be an opportunity to sell books and pamphlets.

Before the evening, writers can attend a workshop with VG Lee on Friday 16 September to help prepare for their performance and meet fellow participants before the night. 

If you would like to be considered, please send a sample of your work (up to 1,500 words or two poems up to 40 lines), along with a brief bio and a few thoughts on why you’d like to be involved to  [email protected]

Closing date for entry: 10pm Friday 5 August.

2022 Competitions

1. SHORT STORY: on any theme, with a maximum word count of 2,500.

2. POETRY: single poems on any theme, with a limit of 40 lines.

Stories will be judged by VG Lee and poems by John McCullough. Each entry costs £7.50 or £13 for two entries and £20 for three.

The Prize

The winning entries in each category will receive a cash prize of £250.
The runner up in each category will receive a cash prize of £50.
Prizes will be presented in person at the festival closing celebration in Hastings on Sunday 25 September.
Funding for Bursaries: We are able to provide a limited number of bursaries for those currently unemployed or on low income and struggling to meet the costs of living.

Full information and rules at www.hastingslitfest.org/competitions


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