Port Eliot Festival: books and cocktails

photo1A while ago, I said to a friend that I would love to go to the Port Eliot Festival. She suggested we actually went, then – so we did. And it was wonderful. The festival is primarily literary – there are many talks by writers; but obviously this covers an awful lot of things, from fiction to numbers, clouds to history. There were also many bands on, and craft activities, gin bars (and other bars, but we spent quite a bit of time by the river in the Hendricks bar), a Wardrobe Department where you could have lovely flower headdresses, and some wonderful food, too. We were there for the whole weekend, and did quite a lot of things, but the difficulty is what to choose – there were so many things we didn’t do: we didn’t go to the nightclub in a rhododendron bush (though this did

Some of the books I brought back with me.
Some of the books I brought back with me.

appeal); we didn’t go wild swimming in the river (well, I can’t swim); we missed some talks that sounded great, but we also heard some really interesting and inspiring speakers; we didn’t hear much music.

What did we do? Well, I will blog about some of these in more detail in time, as I have pages and pages of notes, but I listened to:

Matthew Green talking about the origins of coffee-houses

Gavin Turk discussing his ideas on art

Rachel Johnson reflecting on ‘How to be an Idle Woman’ at the Idler Academy

Shami Chakrabati in conversation with Rosie Boycott

Hendricks gin bar
Hendricks gin bar

Holly and Rhiannon from Vagenda discussing the misogyny of the modern media

Deborah Levy talking about her latest book, Things I don’t want to know – a response to George Orwell’s Why I Write

Rachel Cooke in the DoveGreyReader tent, discussing her book Her Brilliant Career about career women in the 1950s

A celebration of the life and work of Elizabeth Jane Howard

A panel discussion of the new Buildings of Cornwall, including Pevsner biographer Susie Harries, Joe Mordaunt Crook, Peter Beacham (author of the new book) and Giles Clotworthy, chaired by Sir Richard Carew-Pole.

Murray Lachlan Young on Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood

Paul Kingsnorth, whose novel The Wake was recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, on the origins and ideas 2014-07-27 19.23.21of his novel

And finally, a lovely surprise performance by Cornish choir Canoryan Lowen.
Some of these things I didn’t intend – or expect – to hear; I just stumbled across them, and that’s one of the delights of the festival – the serendipities and surprises. The house itself is also beautiful and was open to the public, with an exhibition about its First World War connections. I’ll blog more in due course!



  1. Sounds great fun! I envy you hearing Rachel Cooke. Did you talk to her? She’s one of my heroes. I think I might recognise her style in an unsigned article. Certainly, if I’m reading something in The Observer, and I think ‘Blimey, this is good. Who’s it by?’, it’s usually hers. She led me to Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner, that I was raving about the other week on Facebook. She’s one critic whose single voice would instantly persuade me to read or go to see something. Her taste is impeccable.

  2. Oh it was fun! No, I didn’t talk to Rachel Cooke but she seemed very nice and I have bought her book. I bought Lolly Willowes on your recommendation (though I haven’t yet read it!) The reading pile grows ever larger.

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