Blackwell’s has been involved with the Oxford Literary Festival for many years now but there is always a sense of trepidation on the first day. This feeling was heightened this year as, for the first time, we had responsibility for the whole of the marquee. Months of planning and negotiating gave us confidence that we would be able to put on a good show to complement the stellar list of authors speaking but you never quite know how it is all going to come together and how it will be perceived by the public.
We needn’t have worried – the response has been overwhelmingly positive, our booksellers have had a ball and the other stalls have been buzzing. I am writing this sat in the coffee shop / restaurant / pub provided by Jacobs & Field. It is a fantastic addition to the Festival and I can heartily recommend it to anyone who is in the centre of Oxford over the next few days, whether you are coming to the Festival or not. All the other aspects of the Marquee – the FT Weekend stand, Litograph posters, HSBC and their goodie bags, Bodleian publishing and the Festival Box Office have all had a buzz about them.
Special mention should go to that most temperamental of friends, the great British weather. Surpassing our expectations the crisp but sunny Saturday showed Oxford off in all her glory and put a spring in the step of everyone. We thought there may be hail. We were wrong.
And the customers. It is hard to overstate just how satisfying it is for all of us involved in the Festival to see and hear the happiness and encouragement that reverberates around the Clarendon Quad. I suppose we’re bound to say that books matter, but to see such a vibrant, ringing endorsement from thousands of people is heartening beyond measure.
It is only Day One – we would love to hear your stories of the Festival over the coming days. If you are blogging then let us know and we can link to it, if you just want to share some thoughts please use the comments below. Which authors have inspired you, what crazy comments have you overheard? Or come and play with us on Twitter @blackwelloxford or using #FREEintheMarquee