Homecomings, Brexit and a whole lot of love were some of the key themes at this year’s Appledore Book Festival.
Authors from all over the UK have expressed how much they like coming to the festival because of its charm and friendly atmosphere.
Among the headliners and heavy-hitters this year was former Monty Python star, broadcaster and writer Michael Palin, giving his new book Erebus its UK festival debut - read more on his take on the festival on the opposite page.
Plus, several festival-goers had strong opinions on Brexit – see over for more.
Meanwhile, best-selling novelist Kate Mosse, who promoted her new book The Burning Chambers, was immediately impressed when she arrived in the village.
She said: “It’s my first time in Appledore and it’s just marvellous. One of the things that is lovely here is that just everybody in the village seems to be involved with the festival and everybody says hello when you are walking around.”
BBC Radio presenter Simon Mayo, who talked about his new book Mad Blood Stirring, agreed.
He said: “Yes, it’s beautiful here. It’s a long old trip to get to Appledore and when you are stuck on the motorway you might find yourself thinking this is a long way.
“But when you make it down in the evening and hear the seagulls and hear the sea, it’s still beautiful. It’s stunning, a wonderful place and I hope I get invited back.”
The festival, which has become known as ‘the Friendly Festival’, has grown considerably since it started in 2006 to raise money to save the local library.
It is still a charity, helped by a dedicated band of volunteers, and the North Devon Hospice Riverside Support Group run a popular cafe.
Local historian and writer Peter Christie, whose new book North Devon Motoring is due to be published in a few weeks, was there from the start.
He said: “I’ve spoken at every single festival and I think I am the only person who has and every time I come Appledore is buzzing more and more and more.”
Crime writer Mark Billingham, who promoted his new book The Killing Habit, has been to the festival several times.
He said: “If anything the festival is even friendlier than it was last time.
“It’s a smashing book festival. You feel very well looked after and everything is taken care of and all you have to do is do your thing and talk about your book which is great. I just wish all festivals were well run and just as friendly and nice as this.”
This year’s Appledore Book Festival also saw record ticket sales.
Brexit rears its head
Several authors were keen to have their say on the ongoing Brexit shenanigans – and they weren’t too complimentary.
Historian Sir Roy Strong said: “I think it’s incredibly sad because one doesn’t see anyone at all across the spectrum that has a vision of what this country is or where it’s going.”
Meanwhile, former acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said uncertainty had taken the UK from ‘Project Fear’ to Project Terrified’.
She said: “There are now quotes from Brexit ministers saying: ‘Oh, the World Trade Organisation says it’s not the end of the world if Britain leaves’. Well, that’s a pretty low bar I think. It’s hoping that it’s not catastrophic.”
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said: “We don’t know how big a disaster it will be because no one has ever walked away from a trade block like this.
“You either stay in or completely go. If you completely go you will have to completely restructure the economy - the biggest changes in my lifetime.”
Warm welcome for Rachel
Rachel Butler, the producer and director of the hit programme Blue Planet II, has a direct link with Appledore.
Her parents Paddy and Julie live in Appledore and she said: “I have spent half my life coming here because my dad and step mum live here so it’s a real privilege to be able to talk at this festival. I was delighted to be asked.”
It was emotional when proud Paddy introduced Rachel to the audience at her event, The Making of Blue Planet II.
The festival was Michael Palin’s first since his new book Erebus was published.
His publisher and festival trustee Susan Sandon said: “He was very pleased to be back in Appledore. He had, many years ago, friends who lived in the village and he used to come down here incognito with his wife and children so he had fond memories of the area.
“It’s wonderful for me as his publisher and a trustee to see authors who I greatly admire but who are very dear to me, coming to Appledore.”