“The Port Eliot Festival is an annual celebration of words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration and fun.”
Port Eliot Festival spreads across the enchanting land of the Earl and Countess of St Germans, in and around Port Eliot House itself which has been used as the family home for hundreds of years. The festival site is amongst fairytale-like woodlands, fields, with a river running by and is the perfect scene for a celebration of art, literature, and the finer things in life.
I documented as much literary loveliness as I could find on my wanderings, I hope it gives you at least a taste of how the Cornish feel about literature, imagination, and celebration.
When we arrived my 6 year old son and I sought out the children’s area as that is usually where the real fun is… As well as the usual crafts, drumming, and clowning, we noticed a secret woodland door with a sign inviting us to return at 16:30 for a special event. After exploring the riverside we returned with snacks in hand, anticipating something magical… But what could it be? Before the show started we had time to have a peek around the trees and found some delightful Alice in Wonderland related treasures hidden away. We started feeling as if we had fallen down the rabbit hole into a new world! A large group had gathered and we took our seats on the mats before the stage. Rogue Theatre was providing the entertainment with creative and musical adaptations of classic stories, there was so much glitter, drama, and fantastic costumes that we had almost forgotten we were sitting in the woods. They were a truly merry group who were clearly enjoying sharing their stories with us all, it reminded me of how important it is for stories to be read out loud together. A story shared is a story honoured!
One of my favourite places to visit while at Port Eliot Festival was the house itself for one Reading Addict reason: old books! Two large, curved wooden bookcases were stuffed full of centuries old leather bound books. As antiques are particularly susceptible to wear we were not allowed to touch the items so I could not fulfil my intense book-sniffing addiction.
It took us a little more exploring to find the Happy Reader Tent and, joy of joys, a bookshop! I was pleased to see a wide range of genres, and a great selection for children including the local Cornish talent of Michelle Cartlidge and Craig Green: find the links to their wonderful children’s books below. I didn’t dare buy another book for my TBR pile but I did take a mental note of a few titles that took my fancy, particularly some of the children’s reference titles.
Every where you turned there was something beautiful, creative, and bookish. I was in literary heaven! I know many people don’t enjoy seeing books repurposed, however I adore anything that can create something wonderful from ruined or ignored books (I’m looking at you Readers Digest compilations). As well as a beautiful swan of book pages and feathers, there was a wedding cake style piece with pages as the main structure supporting pears, grapes, and peaches.
Around the festival there were an array of writers speaking about their books, many signing latest publications, and publishers promoting up and coming literary stars. David Baddiel, Shappi Khorsandi, Mitch Benn, and Dom Joly were the most recognisable names on the line up for their more famous comedy leanings, however there were many I may actually remember seeing on the cover of a book as I shop. I didn’t have any author in particular I wanted to meet so was happy to wander from tent to tent listening to each for a little while. As a writer myself I love to hear someone speak with passion and love for their work, and one writer stood out in this regard, the poet, writer, and playwright Owen Sheers. I have a feeling his dedication and enthusiasm may have helped him become an award-winning writer!
I hope this has given you a feel for what a relaxed, magical time we had at Port Eliot Festival, I wish the weekend lasted longer! It was so lovely being surrounded by so much literature and appreciation of the written and spoken word. I particularly enjoyed Hullabaloo, the children’s area, for its promotion of traditional storytelling, and nurturing the imaginations of the children by getting them involved and having their own stories and characters heard. For more photos from my time there keep an eye out at our Tumblr page, and the full album on Facebook.