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Behind the Scenes with Lyndsey Fineran: Spotting International Talent

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Our brand-new weekly blog invites you behind the scenes to hear from our Literature Festival programming team, Guest Curators and authors. They’ll share their excitement about their part of the programme and what they are looking forward to most.

Lyndsey Fineran is our Programme and Commissions Manager and one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars of 2019. Here she gives a behind the scenes look at what it takes to programme the Festival and spotting talent overseas.

Every October, it feels as if the world comes to Cheltenham and it’s particularly true this year with our big ‘7 at 70’ programme. To mark our position as the world’s first and longest-running book festival, we’ve launched two big projects to celebrate the 70-year journey of book festivals and the vibrant global network of ideas, debate and cultural exchange that’s grown out of our humble beginnings with 9 events in 1949.

One of the greatest joys of my job is getting to visit overseas literature festivals. They’re invaluable for spotting international talent, seeing how other Festivals run and conversations with fellow festival directors and programmers are always incredibly energising and inspiring. What you see at Cheltenham this year are both the results of these conversations, and the foundations for exciting programmes and collaborations to come.

First up are our ‘7 at 70’ writers. Early in the programming cycle, we asked seven international festivals we admire to nominate a brilliant writer from their respective city/country to join our anniversary programme. Joining us are poet Chris Tse (Verb Festival in Wellington, New Zealand), writer and artist Kanako Nishi (Tokyo International Literature Festival, Japan), poet and journalist Wana Udobang (Ake Arts and Book Festival in Lagos, Nigeria), writer Nicole Flattery (International Literature Festival Dublin), novelist and essayist Esme Weijun Wang (Litquake, San Francisco), novelist Sarah Henstra (Toronto International Festival of Authors, Canada) and writer Hernán Ronsino (FILBA in Buenos Aires, Argentina). You’ll spot them in various events over the 2nd weekend of the Festival and you can catch all seven in our showcase event on Sat 12th Oct.

No matter how good a spread of countries and continents you try and achieve in a project like this, you’re inevitably going to miss out huge swathes of the world and lots of brilliant Festivals. That’s why we’re complementing the 7 at 70 visiting writers with our ‘Read the World’ reading list where we’ve asked 70 literary festivals from around the globe to each nominate a title they’d love Cheltenham audiences to add to their bookshelves as part of our anniversary celebrations. We’re putting the finishing touches to this as I type and we’ll soon be releasing an interactive map to help you add books from Moscow to Melbourne, Bali to Bogota to your Autumn reading piles.

The authors’ plane tickets are booked. The books are winging their way from international publishers. We hope you’ll be there too.