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Rising Star Lyndsey Fineran on why festivals are important for discovering new talent

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The countdown to The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival has well and truly begun!

Our brand-new weekly blog invites you behind the scenes to hear from our 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. And we’ll be revealing our Reading the World list, collated from 70 literary festivals across the globe.

Lyndsey Fineran is our Programme and Commissions Manager and one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars of 2019. Here is her take on why Festivals are so important for discovering new talent:

One of the most thrilling things about planning our anniversary celebrations has been seeing the journey some of our greatest writers and performers have taken through the Festival’s seven decades, starting off in shoebox-size venues in their very first appearances and returning as major headline names just a few years down the line. Edna O’Brien winning a Cheltenham novel competition with one of her early works, Hollie McNish triumphing in the Cheltenham Poetry Slam as a young poet, JK Rowling appearing with her first book about a certain boy wizard…

That’s why it’s so crucial that Festivals – the perfect places for experiment and discovery – are full of opportunities for developing and supporting new talent alongside the headline names. Some of my highlights for this year:

I’m really looking forward to our Debuts and Cocktails event where we pick our favourite first novels of the year and showcase the authors over a cocktail as part of our big opening night. This year we’ve selected Ronan Hession’s Leonard and Hungry Paul, Season Butler’s Cygnet and Jessica Andrews’ Saltwater. I’ll be interviewing all 3 on Fri 4th Oct and ensuring they all make it on to your Autumn reading piles!

On the Festival weeknights (Mon 7 – Thurs 10 Oct inclusive) you can catch our Fiction at 7 series: nightly salons where we bring together debut and early career novelists to discuss shared themes in their work.

For those who want to stay ahead of the literary curve, our ever-popular series of Proof Parties are a great chance to get a first look at the books publishing in the following Spring – and from the authors’ point of view, appearing at a Proof Party is often their first ever book event and it’s a very special moment watching them sign their first books for readers.

For poetry and spoken word fans eager to discover the most exciting new voices on the scene, we’ve worked with Guest Curator Anthony Anaxagorou to handpick a stellar debut showcase ft Jay Bernard, Rebecca Tamas, Ollie O’Neill, Mary Jean Chan.

We’re really keen that those just getting started with their writing or performance careers are made to feel part of the Festival too. Cheltenham Writes! is our daily showcase of a local writer’s work, and the Gloucestershire Writers Network event celebrates the winners of the popular writing competition held in the area.

Elsewhere, budding performers are invited to give live storytelling a go in The Moth and Lit Crawl (our bookish bar crawl – line-up TBA soon!) is a night of free pop-up events held across the town that features a huge range of performance opportunities – with the stars from each year picked to perform in the main programme in the following year. Character comedian Christopher Bliss was our selection from the Crawl in 2018 and you can catch him performing on Thurs 10 Oct.

We hope you’ll join us – if only to say ‘I saw them first’ when they make it big…

See you in October!