The road vicariously travelled

A NEW festival celebrating the joys of travel and travel writing has been launched in Somerset, a year to the day before it will open on the Sparkford Hall estate in September 2020.

The not-for-profit Vicarious Festival is described as a celebration of cultural diversity and the transformative power of storytelling. With patrons Joanna Lumbye, Ted Simon, and Catherine Fairweather, the new festival will run from 11th to 13th September and aims to nurture curiosity, empathy, and wanderlust by showcasing thought-provoking travel literature and photography.

“Great travel writing is an invitation into everyone else’s ordinary,” says festival co- founder, Emma Lucy Cole, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. “We want to create a space where diverse voices can share stories of local and global travel; a space which encourages conversation about what unites us all.”

This latest addition to the UK’s 350 or so literary festivals will feature 38 talks and workshops, book signings and live music. To maintain a relaxed and accessible ratio of authors to festival-goers, attendance is being capped at 400.

“Given its ability to challenge preconceived ideas and turn fear of the unknown into curiosity about the familiar, travel storytelling can be a beautiful kind of alchemy,” says co-founder, Iain Harper.

An important aspect of the festival will be to encourage the creative endeavors of aspiring travel authors, with a travel writing competition to bring new writers to the attention of publishers and readers. A travel photography competition will recognizes the talents of visual storytellers and provide a way for their compelling imagery to reach new audiences. The winners of the Norman Lewis Memorial Award for New Travel Writing and the Isabella Bird Memorial Award for Travel Photography will be judged by festival goers via secret ballot.

“As most book lovers would agree, independent bookshops are invaluable treasure troves of learning and discovery,” says Emma Lucy Cole. “The Vicarious Festival is promoting some of the south west’s finest indie stores, including Stanfords of Bristol, Bookboard International, P&G Wells in Winchester, and October Books in Southampton.” Winstons of Sherborne, which has sister shops in Frome and Sidmouth, will be operating an on-site bookshop at the festival itself.

Pictured: Sparkford Hall, and the Vicarious Festival logo.