Summer: the season of literary festivals, and Slightly Foxed is on the road. Our travels began early with an appearance, with author and contributor Penelope Lively, at the Words by the Water Festival in Cumbria in early March. Later that month we were at Christ Church, Oxford, for the first in what we hope will be a regular series of Slightly Foxed talks on forgotten authors at the Oxford Literary Festival. This year the philosopher and critic John Gray delivered a brilliant and entertaining talk on the work of John Cowper Powys, arising from the piece he wrote in our spring issue, neatly placing Powys as ‘an outdoor Proust’. On 14 June we’ll be launching the summer issue at Mr B’s cosy and very individual bookshop in Bath. And on Sunday 8 July we’ll be appearing at the West Meon Literary Festival in Hampshire with our contributor and prize-winning biographer Maggie Fergusson.
Whew! Right from the start we’d planned to launch each issue with a visit to a different independent bookshop, but we never really envisaged this life of festival appearances. Nor indeed of appearances in the national press – like the handsome feature on Slightly Foxed and the Slightly Foxed Editions by Gaby Wood in the Weekend section of the Saturday Telegraph of 10 March. You can see it on their website, along with a short film showing a Slightly Foxed Edition being printed and bound at our wonderful printers, Smith Settle in Yorkshire: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9134248/ Outfoxing-the-digital-revolution.html.
And on the subject of SFEs, the latest, and one of the most unusual, is The Flame Trees of Thika, Elspeth Huxley’s classic account of her childhood time in East Africa just before the First World War (see p. 14). In 1913 British East Africa, as it was then known, was still a kind of Garden of Eden, a place for the recouping of lost fortunes for those, like Elspeth’s parents, who hadn’t managed things very well elsewhere. Flame Trees is an unforgettably vivid evocation of that small, dispersed society of early white settlers and of the untouched beauty of Africa, seen through the eyes of a solitary and self-sufficient small child.
On Saturday 10 November we’ll be staging our own modest version of a literary festival – another Slightly Foxed Readers’ Day at the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury. Perhaps, in fact, the success of our first Readers’ Day last November rested partly on the fact that it wasn’t a literary festival. Having no publishers to please or books to hype, the SF contributors who spoke were free to talk about any literary subject that interested them, and a tremendously jolly day was had by all. We have an equally interesting line-up of speakers this year and tickets are available now, so if you plan to come do get in touch, as last year they sold out fast. The day costs £50, including delicious cakes at teatime provided by our contributor Frances Donnelly, and we think all those who came last year would agree that it’s money well spent.
And finally, we were gratified by the response to our Young Writers’ Competition, which produced an entertaining batch of entries in a rich variety of styles. Congratulations to the winner, Marie Wicks, whose piece appears on p. 64. Her choice of author was original and we felt she had deftly captured both the tone and the spirit of SF. Congratulations too to the runners-up, Fred Gifford and Emma Goode, whose pieces can be read on our website, www.foxedquarterly.com.