What goes on at...Bath Children's Literature Festival

Bath Children's Literature Festival is a week-long festival that kicks off this weekend. John and Gill McLay founded the festival in 2006, and have returned this year as Artistic Directors. Voice caught up with them to find out more...

What goes on at...Bath Children's Literature Festival

How have you both got to this place?

John and I are in the lucky position of being industry professionals. John is an International Literary Scout and spends his time scouting out the next big book. I guess it's talent spotting for books. He reads manuscripts in the English language from around the world and as a result knows what is coming when and what we should be most excited about. He's also writing for young readers which adds another string to his bow!

As for me. After a couple of decades of working for publishers I now run my own literary agency. As an agent I manage my author's careers and work with them to help them carve out their career. Between us we have lots of hats but everything is within the world of children's publishing. It keeps us current, up to date and in touch. Kids books is what we do!

What happens at Bath Children's Literature Festival?

Children's authors and illustrators are put centre stage so they can meet young readers and fans. With events about their books and the creative process the events entertain, inform and inspire young book worms and ensure that children are introduced to a world where their imaginations are unleaded and can truly be unlimited.

What was the initial drive in setting it up?

We set the festival up because we felt there should be a kids only literature festival. As industry professionals we are very aware of how vibrant and incredible the world of children's books can be and we wanted to share it in a way that reflected exactly that. The bestselling author in the UK is a children's books author and has been for the last few years, they create future readers of classics and yet they are often treated as people having fun and playing at books. We know that there is nothing more serious than having fun with books. So that's what we do!

Is there too much emphasis placed on adult literature on the festival circuit?

Absolutely – of course we need to cater for all but it's far too easy to forget the importance of creating new readers and in turn future audiences for our festivals. We shouldn't take for granted that we are a nation of book lovers. We need to be proactive and ensure the world of literature is accessible for all. Children, reluctant readers and many who simply don't have the same chances to discover books.

Which children's authors are you particularly excited about right now?

As an agent, I'm excited about my authors! As a Festival Artistic Director I'm excited to see new voices coming through and watch them met authors and illustrators who are the very foundation of our industry. It's great if you can see the journey, we had Patrick Ness at the festival when he was emerging as an author to watch, he's back this year and he'll be in our large venue! It's lovely to be a very small part of that journey.

Have TV and film taken over slightly in children's entertainment - or do you think literature still gets a good amount of attention?

TV and Film are great and drive new readers to the book industry every year. Anything that gets children excited about story has to be a good thing...literature still gets a good amount of attention but I think the bottom line is children can always benefit from more attention. I think if you are with your child watching How to Train Your Dragon or reading the book with them, it's great to do both. It's about embracing a story and making it as accessible as possible for your child.

What can we expect at the festival this year?

Great authors, illustrators, wonderful events, interesting talks and lots of activities and most importantly a lot of fun. It's all about families joining in and having fun. I can't wait!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into writing for children?

Write. As an agent for children's authors my advice would always be write and keep writing...


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