Barnsley's first-ever Book Festival a resounding success

  • 03/06/24

Barnsley Libraries’ first-ever Barnsley Book Festival has proven to be a huge success, with a host of authors, poets, writers, artists and speakers helping attract over 3,000 visitors to the borough.

Taking place over a month and a half, the Barnsley Book Festival saw free events take place across the borough of Barnsley from Friday 2 February until Saturday 23 March, reaching new and different audiences.

Locals have enjoyed a jam-packed events schedule which consisted of 49 library events, six partner events, five artists commissioned, and 42 authors and artists included as part of an inclusive and diverse line-up.

This involved internationally known authors and poets from Barnsley, such as Ian McMillan, Andrew McMillan and Milly Johnson, powerhouses like Matt Abbott and Maria Ferguson, as well as other storytellers, artists and speakers, all celebrating literature, and a shared love for reading.

Author Milly Johnson said: “In an area rich with writers and poets it was only natural Barnsley should have its own book festival and the inaugural one has been a triumph.

“The organisers worked tirelessly to bring together a rich, diverse, entertaining spectrum of people passionate about books and literature and held the events in the many beautiful buildings we have in the area, including our new multi-million-pound library.

“Barnsley really pulled it off. May it be the first of many.”

Andrew McMillan, poet, added: “It’s been a dream to have such an inclusive and dynamic book festival in Barnsley - from local heroes like Geoff Hattersley to new commissions exploring the queer legacy of the town.

“It's great that this is the first of many such festivals to come - putting Barnsley at the very centre of literary culture, as we’ve always known it to be!”

Highlights saw Andrew McMillan in conversation at Library @ the Lightbox, a special screening of The Shining at Parkway Cinema, Catherine Curzon talking all things Bridgerton at Cannon Hall Museum, Milly Johnson’s book launch at Barnsley Town Hall, the country’s leading military historian, Richard Van Emden, tell all about his new book and a secret Shakespeare event, complete with surprise flash-mob, which involved 40 pupils from Laithes Primary School.

Barnsley is continuing to do things differently, creating community hubs from its libraries, and championing its partnership work. This includes a recent partnership with Arts Council England, which has helped to launch Barnsley's first-ever Book Festival.

Anna Hartley, Executive Director for Public Health and Communities, said: “We've been delighted to bring Barnsley Book Festival to our residents and visitors with an ambitious, inclusive and diverse programme.

“Cultural events have such a positive impact in our communities and help shape our identity as a town. That’s why, despite the national economic challenges, we continue to invest in culture and work to ensure it remains near the top of the agenda. The massive success of this year’s festival shows that this approach is the right one.

“It’s a no-brainer that the festival will return next year. We’re in the early stages of planning now, but we can’t wait to tell you more at the end of summer.”

Through the support of public funding from Arts Council England, the Barnsley Book Festival is proof of Barnsley’s out-the-box thinking, with funding now secured over the next three years to bring a whole range of exciting arts and cultural opportunities to Libraries across the borough.

Barnsley Book Festival will return in February 2025 with a brand-new line-up.


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