THE current advertising campaign by the Salisbury Business Improvement District pitches Salisbury as The City of Stories. It couldn’t be better timed, with the launch this week of the first Salisbury Literary Festival.

I’ve been working on this festival, which will run from October 27-29, with members of the Salisbury Writing Circle since the beginning of the year. The starting point was simple: a city of Salisbury’s stature deserves its own literary festival: places like Bath, Marlborough, Winchester, Oxford, even Mere have a literary festival, so why not us?

Salisbury has a literary heritage few other places in the country can match: the inspiration for novelists from Thomas Hardy to Anthony Trollope, the home of greats from William Golding to Terry Pratchett: the city where the legendary crime writers Dorothy L Sayers went to school and where John Creasey spent his later years.

Today, the city’s writing scene is thriving with new authors and rising talent. We’re delighted to have three modern Salisbury greats as our literary patrons: the children’s writer Kristina Stephenson; the playwright and novelist Barney Norris; and the self-publishing sensation Mark Dawson.

What we hope the festival will do is to celebrate both Salisbury’s literary heritage, and also inspire the next generations of writers. We’re putting together a programme that not only brings great writers into the city, such as Philippa Gregory and Joanna Cannon, but also a range of workshops and discussions for anyone interested in writing or having that dream of getting published themselves. We want the festival to be as open and accessible as possible: events will either be free or at the cost of less than the price of a paperback.

Over the last few weeks I’ve read the various pieces beside this column by Peter Williams, Deborah Fox and Roger Townsend over the future of the arts in Salisbury. Their passion is the public face of what I’ve discovered behind the scenes over the last few months – a city full of committed, enthusiastic individuals who want the best for Salisbury.

I’ve been touched time and again by the generosity and support the community has offered this festival, from John Glen to the Journal, Salisbury BID to the City Council. There is a real desire for this literary festival to succeed and I hope it is something that everyone will be interested in being involved in.

This feels a good week for the arts in the city: the £5millon funding for the merged Playhouse, Arts Festival and Arts Centre is great news. The Salisbury Literary Festival is intended to complement what they already offer the city, offering something different until the renewed Arts Festival returns in 2019.

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