In one month from now, the very first Foreword Fringe Literature Festival will begin. In one month and two days, it will all be over.
I can’t remember exactly when it started, but I know it was at the Market Cross Gallery in Bury St Edmunds. Sadly, that venue has closed down - one of the many casualties of obscene energy prices and lack of support for the arts. Myself, Rachel, and a random, organically-grown collection of Suffolk-based authors used to set out our stalls every month at their Maker’s Fairs. We attempted to sell books and talk to strangers, entirely ignoring advice from parents and those horrific public information films they used to show on BBC2.
It was probably the very first Market Cross Maker’s Fair where the idea of a Fringe Literature Festival came up. Only the two of us were there to test out the first one. We were either more desperate than most to get out of our houses after two years of lockdown, or we both had too many unsold boxes of books at home. It was both, in my case. Either way, we found ourselves there, face masks in place and hands duly sanitized. It’s strange now to think how clean our books must have been at that time. We can’t promise they will ever be that clean again!
From whenever that fateful day was until now, it’s been a whirl of ideas, notes - handwritten and digital - spreadsheets, zoom calls and four billion emails. (The last number is probably an exaggeration...only probably.) We started with no budget, called in favours, invited friends, shared everything we had, and said from the beginning that all we wanted was for ‘everybody to win.’ And people understood that because they want to work that way too. Given the chance, almost everybody does. And the whole thing is still growing too. A brand new event is about to be added, and there’s still time for us to create more. We’re a couple of authors, ideas are not the problem. Time and money are our only constraints, which is probably just as well.
I wish we’d circled the date on the calendar when we actually decided: ‘Yes, let’s do it and start right now!’ but we didn’t mark it. Perhaps it seemed like just a nice dream at the time. Maybe we never believed we could actually do it. But it is happening, and so often we remind each other that what we’ve done so far, creating something out of nothing, is extraordinary and, quite frankly, unbelievable.
In one month and two days, the Foreword Festival will be packing up to go home. If it works, if people like it, if we’re not both totally mad by the end, perhaps we’ll dare to dream about doing it again next year. If and when we do decide that, I’ll make sure to circle the date on the calendar this time. Because you never know, somebody might ask us one day: ‘How did the first ever Fringe Literature Festival begin?’
(Photo: at our first Market Cross maker's market, May 2022.)
(L to R: Rachel Churcher and Jackie Carreira)