CORFU LITERARY FESTIVAL
An Island Celebration of Culture and Cricket
23rd to 30th September 2019
Round Up and Report
To those who attended the Festival, those who sponsored and supported it, those who offered help and encouragement, those speakers who gave such dazzling presentations, Nikos & Annabelle Louvros and Alex Preston, the founders and organisers of the second Corfu Literary Festival, raise a glass, toast and thank you for making the week such a success from beginning to end.
The Festival opened with a talk on the legacy and endurance of Homer, as explored by Professor Polyxeni Strolonga (sadly, her co-speaker and Homeric academic, Adam Nicolson was kept from Corfu, caught up in the Thomas Cook collapse, but a suitable marble bust stood in for him at the event) and Alex Preston. The discussion investigated the validity of whether Corfu could justifiably claim to be Odysseus’ magical isle (a resounding - if not scientific - YES), the heroic struggle as a theme and literature’s first reference to the art of hospitality – philoxenia. How fitting.
Delicious taverna supper and chance to meet and chat afterwards at Marina’s in the Old Port, where we toasted Polyxeni, who was celebrating her name day ……
Tuesday afternoon, post siesta, the heritage, properties and complexities of olive oil were explained, complete with delicious tastings and recipe samples, by Neoleas's Jan Bart Manten in the lush gardens of the Corfu Palace Hotel – also enjoyed by the resident lizards.
This was followed by short stroll across the moat into the fortress for a wonderful and lively talk from author Sofka Zinovieff around the theme of Anglo-Hellenic families, central to three of her books, including the highly acclaimed best seller, Putney, held in the stunning Corfu Public Library. The lively Q and A session covered topics as wide ranging as audience members’ own recollections of Greece’s civil war, the glorious madness of Athenian living, as well as the timely and sensitive topic of novel, Putney.
On Wednesday afternoon, guests and authors were treated to a visit at the home of Corfiot food writer and garden maker, Cali Doxiadis. With gracious, generous and relaxed hospitality, we enjoyed a spectacularly good lunch, with wine and lemonade made from her own estate’s bounty, and conversed amongst one of the island’s most wondrous gardens, taking notes about Cali’s plants, asking for the recipe of her pumpkin pie and soaking up the glorious views and vistas. True philoxenia - eharisto.
In the evening we celebrated the unique history and place of cricket on the island. Led by author, renowned speaker and raconteur Frances Edmonds, and with panel members Authors IX Cricket Club skipper and literary agent Charlie Campbell along with Nightwatchman's Jon Hotten, the event brought together Corfu's own cricketers, young and old, and was held in the extraordinary Gymnastikos Athletic Club in the very centre of Town, with a convivial barbecue supper to follow.
Thursday morning we set off for the beautiful village of Old Perithia, hosted by the remarkable couple Saskia Bosch and Mark Hendriksen, who have, over a dozen years, done so much to restore and sensitively bring gentle life back into the community, on the slopes of Corfu’s Pantakrator mountain. A guided hike around the 15th century village, including meeting Perithia’s 4m health honey bees and viewing the recently restored church frescoes concluded (as all Corfiot gatherings should) with a hearty table groaning with food and drink and conversation.
On Thursday evening we were honoured to welcome back Sebastian Faulks in discussion with Alex Preston on writing about and capturing history. An enthralling talk during which the audience were treated to an exclusive excerpt from Sebastian's next, as yet untitled or completed new book, followed by an animated Q & A with the author. The evening was rounded off with a flourish at a special dinner, hosted by C V Villas at Corfu’s elegant Restaurant Rex
On Friday the morning started with a private tour of Corfu’s practically perfect Museum of Archaeology, led by Prof Alex Alexis. The party of guests were wowed by the recently renovated space and collection and followed the visit with a walking tour of Corfu, including the British Cemetery, complete with its wild tortoise inhabitants.
In the afternoon, the Authors XI took to the cricket field for the first of their matches. The sun shone, the grass was lush, the beers chilled and the blood of a returning triumph coursed through the wrtiers’ veins. Umpired by Stanley, one of the Festival visitors, the home team however, perhaps more acclimatised, may have won the match but the afternoon was a victory for relaxed entertainment and companionship.
On to the Friday evening: Two Titans of the academic and historical world, Tom Holland and Peter Frankopan, discussed Tom's much admired new work, Dominion, in which he presents the influence of Christianity on the western world, which was challenged by Peter, author of best-selling The Silk Roads, masterfully chaired by fellow classicist and Cambridge professor and author Elizabeth Speller. The minds enriched, naturally the audience and speakers all later piled into the raucous Pergola Taverna for a quiet & thoughtful debrief on the day’s play and spoken presentations….
Saturday morning and the crowd travelled to Gouvia for the second of the Festival’s cricket games, with CLF guest Rob completing the team. Serendipitously, Historian Bettany Hughes arrived on the island and, a cricket enthusiast and chum of several of the Authors XI, dropped by with her crew for a chat.
On Saturday night, attendees enjoyed a double event in the Map Room of the Palace’s Municipal Gallery - firstly Rachel Weaving in conversation with passionate gardener Alex Preston on her beautiful Gardens of Corfu book, followed by Jim Potts, launching his new collection This Spinning World, and Elizabeth Speller on the art and specialist discipline of writing short stories, moderated and questioned by Charlie Campbell.
Drinks followed at Lazaris’, purveyors of liqueurs and the finest loukoumi, who created the “Festival Fizz” cocktail for our event guests – kum kwat, ginger beer and prosecco.
Sunday morning started with Corfu’s annual Half Marathon right through Town (I got to chat to the newly elected Mayor, Ms Ydraiou - she’s the one in running shoes), and one of the island’s fine marching brass bands was out to commemorate the death of Capodistrias, the first Governor of modern Greece and proud Corfiot son.
The week-long Festival of events came to a stunning close on Sunday night, with author Anthony McGowan, introduced by Sebastian Faulks, presenting his newly published book Teaching Philosophy To My Dog in the beautiful and tranquil garden of the Capodistrias Museum, where early guests were also treated to a private tour from Daria Koskorou, descendant of Capodistrias and Director of the Museum.
With the sun lowering and the warm evening breeze rustling the pines, the audience was rapt, as differing schools of philosophy, how we live our lives and how our chosen school of thought drives our life decisions were discussed in an engaging and interactive dialogue. And, yes, there was a borrowed local dog to make Anthony feel at home…
The second Corfu Literary Festival brought new friends to the island, welcomed old ones and showcased Corfu Town at her loveliest, whilst also strengthening the long held and affectionate ties between the UK and Corfu and their shared passions for the arts.
Visitors were free during the day to sun bathe, go sailing, visit museums, have water side lunches in tucked away fishing villages, watch some cricket, plan a hike through the hills, go exploring, shopping or simply reading and taking a siesta and then, as the sun set, our guests gathered to hear splendid authors and speakers gave unique and absorbing talks, always including the audiences and enjoying their full participation. And later, to end each day as it should, Corfu Town’s tavernas, bars and restaurants resounded with the cheerful noise of clattering plates, chinking glasses and non-stop talk and laughter. We made friends, learned something and really had some fun.
Thank You ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΩ #BackNextYear
14th-20th September 2020
With Special Thanks to Our Sponsors, Partners, Participants and Guests
Without Whom Corfu Literary Festival Could Not Be Realised
The Arion Hotel, The Cavalieri Hotel, Corfuland.gr, Corfu Heritage Foundation, Corfu Palace Hotel, Corfu Public Library, Corfu Reading Society, CV Villas,
Comeco, Gymnastikos Athletic Club, Hellenic Cricket Federation,
Ionian Estates, Kontokali Bay Resort & Spa, Lazaris Distillery, Lord Travel,
Marina’s Taverna, The Municipal Gallery, Neolea Olive Oil,
Papagiorgis Confectioners, Pergola Taverna, Plous Bookshop, Restaurant Rex,
Roula Rouva Real Estate, Spathis Café, Studio Kerkyra & Sunspots Travel
Members of the Authors XI Cricket Club, Elizabeth Speller, Frances Edmonds,
Sofka Zinovieff, Rachel Weaving, Jim Potts, Polyxeni Strolonga,
Mark & Saskia Hendriksen, Cali Doxiadis & Adam Nicolson
Emma O’Bryen, Gail Lynch, Pepi Giannou, Sophia Hutchings Michalopoulos,
Melita Forte Chakiris and Alekos Damaskinos