The Llandeilo Lit Fest will return this year as an exclusively online festival. Founded in 2017, the two-day bilingual literary festival became an immediate success and an important date in writers’ diaries. Previously events were held in venues around Llandeilo ‒ a busy market town on a bend of the river Towy, halfway between Carmarthen and Llandovery ‒ creating a vibrant blend of local community and the wider literary world. The festival’s aim has always been to celebrate local and Welsh-language authors and give them the platform they are often not provided by more mainstream events.
Cancelled last year when COVID-19 struck mere weeks before, it is making an exciting return this year. One of the founders, author Christoph Fisher, was determined to ensure it went ahead, saying that “our culture of entertainment has certainly changed and hopefully the online version will help us to make the event bigger and stronger”.
One of the events this year, ‘Giving Voice to Hidden Lives’, features John Sam Jones, author of The Journey is Home, and winner of a Stonewall Award, in conversation with Jewish-American-Portuguese writer Richard Zimler, author of The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. John Sam Jones, who is from Wales but is now living in Germany, says of the festival: “It’s great that the Llandeilo Lit Festival is offering me two wonderful opportunities: to introduce my new book, a memoir ‒ The Journey is Home, and to spend some (zoom) time with my old friend Richard Zimler.” He discusses the importance of holding the event online, saying “all this virtual technology has been so life-enriching to my husband and I since we moved to Germany four years ago ‒ and during these COVID times it’s become an essential part of so many of our lives as a means of countering loneliness and isolation. I take my hat off to the organisers of the festival for embarking on this virtual adventure.”
Among the wide range of events on offer, there are workshops on writing fantasy and mythology, Roma poetry, screenwriting, and even gin making, as well as readings by David Nott, Robin Lloyd Jones, and Not the Booker Prize winning writer Richard Owain Roberts who will be discussing his novel Hello Friend We Missed You.
In more ‘normal’ times, there is lots to do in Llandeilo. In between talks and workshops a festival-goer would often visit the historic Dinefwr Castle, a National Trust site. There’s also The National Botanic Garden of Wales where you can find 250,000 honey bees buzzing around the Bee Garden. And if you’re in the mood for even more green space, Aberglasney offers a beautiful pool-side walk.
Fischer says that the Llandeilo LitFest was developed to help bring back local authors and local booksellers to the area. When he moved from Germany to Wales, he wanted to bring his author friends closer to their local community and thus he began a book fair. As the Llandeilo LitFest is online this year the committee is excited to invite authors (and attendees) from much further afield than in previous years. One such author is Richard Zimler who is based in Porto, Lisbon. He commented: “I spend most of my days writing in front of a computer screen, quite isolated, so I always look forward to having a chance to converse with readers and other writers. I have a lot of contact with readers in Portugal, where I live, but it's obviously harder for me to reach people overseas. I am quite accustomed to doing literary events on Zoom and am very glad we have a reliable alternative to in-person talks. One important advantage is that we can attract readers from all over the world.”
This year’s festival will take place on 24th and 25th of April. Parthian are proud to be supporting numerous events.
Check out the schedule on their website: https://llandeilolitfest.org/ or their social media.
By Bethan Bates