An Island Celebration Culture and Cricket

17th and 21st May 2018

 

For those lucky enough to have been there in person, it was unforgettable and, for those who weren't, we hope this brief report will capture a sense of stimulating and enjoyable occasion that was the inaugural Corfu Literary Festival

 

Our speakers and touring cricketers, The Authors XI, were hosted by the stunning Marbella Corfu Hotel. located on Corfu's eastern coast. with its gorgeous views over to the Greek mainland mountains, delightful terraces, pools and gardens leading to the shoreline, excellent service, comfortable rooms and facilities.   

 

 

The speaking events were held at the historic Corfu Reading Society, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town of Corfu, 

and the first evening offered a fast paced and highly amusing discussion on 

 

Cricket, Writing and Englishness 

between authors Matt Thacker, Managing Editor of Wisden, Jon Hotten,  creator of the much read cricketing blog The Old Batsman, Charlie Campbell, Captain of Authors XI, all guided and moderated by Richard Beard, writer and passionate player – an insightful and entertaining session

 

followed by 

 

Nature Writing

given and presented by a panel made up from keen ornithologists Alex Preston, who read from his rich When Kingfishers Catch Fire, and Will Burns who movingly recited two of his poems and with Anthony McGowan, who recounted an agreeably grisly animal tale from his The Art of Failing, all hosted by Tom Holland and with the attendees charmingly directed to look out for specific species of birds as they walked through Corfu themselves....

This launch evening ended with an informal and noisy taverna supper into the small hours, held at Pergola Taverna in the atmospheric old Jewish Quarter, and hosted by CricketCorfu.Com.  

The guest team set off to discover the island themselves during the blazingly perfect weather of the next day, gathering in the evening for two further literary events:  

 

 

The Path to Publication - A Writing Workshop 

was brilliantly and energetically presented by panel renowned authors Richard Beard, Nicholas Hogg and Anthony McGowan who generously shared their own experiences, respective organisational methodologies, obstructions, successes and heartbreaks with a highly stimulated audience.  A remarkably motivating session. 

Writing and Interpreting History

chaired by Alex Preston, saw Sebastian Faulks, Tom Holland and Peter Frankopan sharing their vast and varied experiences of how they were able to commute their research, travels and translations into works that, whilst historical, provided relevance and accessibility to their readers.  An extraordinary dialogue that left the audience hungry for more and which included Mr Faulks previewing a reading from his as yet to be published new book, Paris Echo.  

In true Corfiot style, the evening ended in another relaxed meal of lovingly cooked Italian food at Artisti Ristoanti, in the pretty Lemonia Square.

On Saturday the serious business of playing cricket commenced................. with a pre-match talk on the 

 

Life of Dr Theodore Stefanides

given to the team and festival friends by local Corfu scholar, raconteur and childhood friend of the Durrells, Alekos Damaskinos. 

Corfu's legendary cricket pitch, in the very centre of the Old Town, is the only working sports field anywhere within a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been holding games continuously since cricket was first played, between a Royal Navy team against the local British Garrison XI. in 1823

 

Surrounded by Byzantine, Georgian, French (Rue du Rivoli replica) and Venetian architecture, and with a necklace of traditional Corfu cafes providing comfortable spectator seating, this unique location certainly offers teams some non-sporting challenges - including nearby parked cars, the occasional lost tourist wandering onto the field during play, a hard hit ball potentially knocking a glass of ouzo from a bar table or, in the case of Saturday's game, a local stray dog playfully getting hold of the cricket ball. 

 

Local team the Corfu Select XI were victorious but the guests played admirably in unfamiliar surroundings and fiercely hot sun.  

Next morning, guests enjoyed a special  walk around Corfu Town led by Festival Director and Corfiot, Nikos Louvros, that included the winding streets of Corfu's Campiello district and the magnificence of the island's Patron Saint Spiridon's Cathedral, 

Sunday offered blistering conditions for the visitors' second game held at the Gouvia Marina ground.  As the mercury hit 30 degrees, our guest team the Authors XI played hard and well but were again defeated by a respectably narrow margin by their opponents, the Corfu Combined XI

A quick dash to the other end of the island, shower and shirt change and onto the next event.........

 

Brexit:  Britain's Rocky Relationship with Europe:  Past, Present & Future Possibilites

Chaired by Alex Preston, he challenged Peter Frankopan and Anthony McGown to explore how Brexit may affect the UK, how we came to take this future-shaping decision and how it is seen in the wider global context.  A refreshingly broad dialogue on a much debated subject, in a gloriously European setting.  

The final day, Monday 21st May, provided Festival goers with the pomp and splendour of the Unification Parade in Corfu Town to commemorate the joining of the seven Ionian Islands with Greece in 1864, complete with marching brass bands, scouts, national costumes, soldiers and dignitaries.  

And with one final T20 cricket match at the Hellenic Cricket Federation marina ground, the Festival closed with good cheer, mutual affection, many new friends made, much discussion-led food for thought, numerous places discovered, great enthusiasm for future events and Corfu showing herself at her best, offering true "philoxenia" or hospitality towards her distinguished guests and visitors.

Corfu is a little quieter since the wonderful Festival goers departed but the island has been left enriched, attendees inspired, collaborations and partnerships developed, other authors intrigued and wanting to be included next time, cricket teams contented and the Corfu Literary Festival founders motivated to continue and improve on this year, to make this an established annual event on the arts calendar for the future. 

CORFU LITERARY FESTIVAL

An Island Celebration Culture and Cricket

"Thank you so much for including us in those few glorious days. We had a terrific time and loved meeting you. Oh the cricket! The dinner on Friday night! The excellent tour along the mysterious side streets of Corfu by Nikos! And of course the talks from our British contingent most of whom we knew. It was all such a pleasure.  

Congratulations on arranging such an inventive and ambitious few days."

 

"Today's been accompanied by a rather sharp jolt back to reality after a blissful few days in your wonderful company! I do feel really blessed to have experienced Corfu for the very first time and in such a unique way. You did an incredible job and I can’t wait to see how next year’s festival takes shape. Thank you for being so welcoming and taking care of us and being such great fun. 

 I would love to get involved next year."

 

"Many thanks to you for organising this - a huge success all round.  I am sure this will grow into something big.  Congratulations and bravo for all the hard work".  

 

"I almost had to be dragged onto the plane so little did I want to leave! I saw pictures of the procession, the Corfiots do indeed do pomp beautifully!  Thank you for a glorious festival ..... I loved every part of it and already feel terribly excited by next year ...... I'm not sure I can wait.  You should be beyond proud of yourselves for the festival ..... it was interesting, enlightening and above all great fun ..... with an extraordinary collection of inspiring people.

CORFU LITERARY FESTIVAL

An Island Celebration Culture and Cricket

 

info@cricketcorfu.com 

www.CorfuLiteraryFestival.com 

With especial thanks to our august touring cricketers, The Authors XI

 

Charlie Campbell (Captain)

Alex Preston, Richard Beard, Will Burns, Sebastian Faulkes, Peter Frankopan, Nicholas Hogg, Tom Holland, Jon Hotton,

Anthony McGowan and Matt Thacker

and their admirable tour scorer and team wrangler Laura Jeffrey