We did it. Against the odds, during a global pandemic and with a Mediterranean tempest thrown in for good measure, we gathered on Corfu for a few wonderous days and nights for Corfu Literary Festival 2020.
This wasn't any ordinary Lit Fest - in a myriad of ways (and with a little help from the Olympic Gods?) we bucked a trend, kicked Covid into a corner, defied cancellation and managed for a short while to be fully human again. What a joy to see rapt but spaced audiences intently listening to fabulous speakers, games of good cricket and relaxed raucous chatter in around bubbled tables groaning with food. Added to that were boat rides to shoreside Nikolas Taverna, safely masked visits to the Archaeological Museum and the Achilleon Palace, socially distanced tours and tastings at the Governor Olive Oil Estate and Lazaris distillers and confectioners, courtyard cocktails in a grand old Corfu mansion, swimming, hiking or just gentle wandering and bird watching - including Corfu's seasonal guest migrating flamingos.
Our speakers more than rose to the challenge, not only getting to the island in the first place but managing to give such inspiring and fascinating presentations. despite the unamplified outdoor locations, to fully booked out audiences, hungry to hear real people talking about huge topics. We could have sold twice as many tickets, but the restricted gathering size somehow made it even more special - how particularly lucky we were to be there.
At such a unique occasion, we didn't shy away or stay safe and the events tackled big subjects: The environment, racism, populism, history, intolerance, culture, literature, social exclusion, commerce and, naturally, cricket. All present were left with much to think upon but, most importantly for us, people came together, discussions were held in person, old friendships were refreshed and fostered and many, many new ones made.
We are indebted to our welcoming and generous sponsors and hosts, without whom we couldn't realise the Corfu Literary Festival, and we all recognise that this year was particularly difficult for all of them - so we are especially grateful to The Kontokali Bay Hotel and Spa, Ionian Estates and The Cavalieri Hotel for their generous and warm hospitality.
We could not have pulled this off without the support of our spectacular venue hosts and, when confronted with totally unexpected rain after three months of a tinder-dry summer, their willingness and flexibility to let us move en masse to wonderfully elegant alternative shelter was so appreciated. The Director of the Asiatic Museum, the Municipal Gallery of Corfu and the Deputy Mayors of Culture and Tourism all rallied, miraculously & immediately cutting through the usual paperwork so that our events could go on unhindered and sincere thanks are sent to Gymnastikos Sports Club and all at Ionian Estates for hosting their events with such particular charm & style.
We thank all those who provided lavish meals, jugs of wine, visits, gifts and hire cars, under such hard, local circumstances and who helped showcase Corfu as the truly remarkable and beautiful island she is - Homer was the first to use the word "Philoxenia" when Odysseus was washed up on Corfu's shores and we believe our island still continues to offer this same extraordinary hospitality to her honoured guests. Corfu - you rock and always shine!
And to our visitors & audiences.........you encouraged, you took a risk, you believed, you hoped and then you came. We salute and thank you for your part in making Corfu Literary Festival 2020 a real highlight in a blighted and benighted year. #SeeYouNextYear 💙
Thursday 17th September
People's Garden Municipal Gallery
6.00pm Perspectives in Environmentalism in a Warming World
Kostas Kaloudis, Director of Ionian Environmental Foundation, discusses with conservationist and campaigner Dr Lee Durrell why pushing planet care to the top of the agenda is critical. Chaired by author and Ambassador for the London Wildlife Trust, Tom Holland
7.30pm We Need To Talk About Donald - Populism and Protest in America and Europe
Professor Sarah Churchwell in discussion with Alex Preston on the repercussions of the forthcoming US election results on relationships with the EU and the new post-Brexit order
Friday 18th September 2020
Afternoon Cricket Match at Gouvia
6.30pm Cricket - A Socially Distanced Sport?
Writer and literary agent Charlie Campbell leads a panel discussion with Authors XI players David Owen, Jon Hotten, Matt Thacker and Tom Eadon - is cricket still a game for all?
8pm Writing History - Fact and Fiction
Alex Preston chairs a discussion with historian James Holland and author Sebastian Faulks
Saturday 19th September
Afternoon Cricket Match at Gouvia
6.30pm How To Write For An Audience
Literary agent Jamie Coleman asks three very different, acclaimed authors, Evie Wyld, Anthony McGowan and Sabine Durrant how they reach their readers
8pm The Age of Intolerance
Author and Dr Adam Rutherford in conversation with historian Tom Holland
Why is everyone so damned angry and how can we do better?
Sunday 20th September
Mid Morning Cricket Match in Corfu Town’s Main Square
Mansion in Alexandras Avenue
6.30pm Who Owns Culture?
Director of Byzantine Studies, Oxford, and best selling author Peter Frankopan
in conversation with Professor of Modern European Culture at the Ionian University, NicholasPapadimitriou.
Agia Sophia, the Parthenon Marbles, the removed statues – who does it all belong to?
The speakers will be joined by a faculty member from the University of the Ionian