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Folkestone Book Festival, inspired by HG Wells and Samuel Beckett, will be held this summer

An annual festival which brings international bestselling authors to a Kent town will go ahead this summer.

The Folkestone Book Festival is normally held in November and heralds the start of the festive season will this year be held at a series of atmospheric venues from Friday, June 4 to Sunday, June 13.

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

After being postponed in 2020, this year's event entitled The Shape of Things to Come, will be looking to the future and, besides taking place across the town, it will also be available online.

Taking its inspiration from the ideas and thoughts of author H.G. Wells, who born in Kent and lived in the town for 13 years, the 10-day event will explore the possible futures of of issues including race relations, the environment, technology, food, pandemics and Britain, Russia, Europe and the US.

One of the festival's central events has been inspired by Irish Nobel laureate, novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett's secret wedding in 1961, when he married his long-time partner Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil at a secret ceremony in the town’s Registry Office.

He had spent a fortnight of dodging reporters, after flying from Le Touquet airport to Lydd Airport - then one of the busiest in the country - to marry Suzanne so she was able to inherit the rights to his works after his death. He had checked in to the Hotel Bristol on the Leas clifftop, going by his middle name, Barclay and spent evenings in local pubs, working on the manuscript of his play, Happy Days.

Suzanne joined him three days before the wedding and they were married in a ceremony witnessed by two people who had either been pulled in from the street or worked at the Registry Office.

Alastair Upton of Creative Folkestone
Alastair Upton of Creative Folkestone

While they had been together for many years, Beckett was also in a relationship with another woman, BBC script editor and translator, Barbara Bray and this dual relationship and the stay in Folkestone made their way into his work.

Between 1960 and 1962, Beckett wrote his first play for a female protagonist (Happy Days), followed by Play (1962), a play about a man involved with two women. He included Borough Green, Sevenoaks, Ash and Snodland into his works.

Over the weekends of June 4 to June 6 and June 11 to June 13, audiences can follow in Beckett’s footsteps, visiting a hotel, a pub and finishing at the Registry of Births, Death and Marriages, hearing new fictional monologues, written by Helen Oyeyemi, Rupert Thomson and Eimear McBride, screened on 1960s television sets. A film will also be streamed online on the final evening of the festival.

Chief executive of Creative Folkestone, Alastair Upton, said: “This summer, our annual festival returns bursting with energy and ideas. I am looking forward to a 10-day extravaganza that will gather creative minds from Folkestone and across the world to imagine, discuss and debate a new future of possibilities in a post-Covid world. This year, the festival itself will take a big leap into the future as we present a new digital festival alongside in-person events.”

It is curated by Liam Browne and Seán Doran, with more writers and events to be announced in the coming weeks.

Columnist Polly Toynbee
Columnist Polly Toynbee

Among those already confirmed are David Lammy, Polly Toynbee and Oliver Letwin, as well as Laura Bates, Nick Bryant, Luke Harding, Natalie Haynes, John Kampfner, Mark O’Connell, Laura Spinney, Otegha Uwagba and David Walker.

For the full programme go to creativefolkestone.org.uk/folkestone-book-festival; call 01303 760750 or go to the Quarterhouse box office in Mill Bay. Tickets go on sale on Thursday, April 15.

For more entertainments news across Kent click here.

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