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Folkestone Book Festival organisers appeal to find witnesses to Samuel Beckett's secret wedding

It was big news in Folkestone back in 1961 when Waiting for Godot author Samuel Beckett got married in secret, and now organisers of the town's book festival want to find those who were in on it.

Ahead of this year's Folkestone Book Festival, The Shape of Things to Come, which kicks off on Friday, June 4, organisers are trying to trace the few key people who knew about the writer's wedding to long-time partner Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil in the town’s Registry Office.

Samuel Beckett's work and life will feature in the Folkestone Book Festival
Samuel Beckett's work and life will feature in the Folkestone Book Festival

He had spent a fortnight of dodging reporters, but there was a doggedly determined Daily Express stringer in town at the time who was on to the event.

Organisers want to trace him, along with the two witnesses to Beckett's wedding, E Pugsley and J Bond. It is thought that they may have worked at the Registry Office at the time.

They also want to hear from the receptionist at the Bristol Hotel during March 1961, where Beckett had checked in under his middle name of Barclay to put reporters off the scent.

Festival curators Liam Browne and Sean Doran: "Nobel Laureate writer Samuel Beckett's secret Folkestone wedding, which took place exactly 60 years ago, is an intriguing little piece of the town's history and will inspire one of the highlights of this year's festival.

"We’re aware of some details of his stay but would love to know more and are hoping that readers might be able to help us. We are keen to find out more about the two witnesses - E. Pugsley and J Bond - did they work at the Registry Office in Bouverie Square or were they simply passers-by invited to be witnesses? Also, we know that a local reporter, a stringer for the Daily Express, found out in advance that a Samuel Beckett was being married in the town. Who was that reporter?

The Bristol Hotel on The Leas
The Bristol Hotel on The Leas

"And finally, we'd love to know the identity of the receptionist at the Hotel Bristol on the Leas in March 1961, when Beckett stayed there. All of these people play significant roles in the story that we'll be telling next month at the festival. If you can help, we'll be forever grateful."

The event in the town's history is the subject of a special event at the festival, which also has seafront shows to welcome back live performance, though these are almost sold out.

A special page has been set up for the search on the festival website. Find out more at creativefolkestone.org.uk

If you can help, contact Nico Dunsbee via nicodunsbee@creativefolkestone.org.uk

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