THIS week, as I may have mentioned once or twice in this column over the last few weeks, is the Salisbury Literary Festival. By the time you read this, the festival will have already started, with Val McDermid having performed at Salisbury Cathedral on Wednesday night. And depending on when you read this, we’ll be getting ready to host a galaxy of crime writers (Thursday), spy and thriller writers (Friday) and a whole range of events for children and adults on the Saturday.

The last week before the festival is a somewhat frantic one. There is a lot of organisation involved in putting something on like this, and we’ve been sorting out everything from T-shirts to travel, radio interviews to riders (authors, thankfully, are a little demanding than rock stars here).

One of the nicer parts of the job is contacting the various writers who have been shortlisted for this year’s Salisbury Story Prize (the winning entries are published on page 33). It’s great that we’re able to encourage writing in this way and, who knows, maybe some of the winners will return to the festival as published authors in the future.

As I mentioned in last week’s paper, we didn’t want the short story competition to be about the Skripal poisonings – indeed, we changed the themes twice to keep away from the subject. But what has been really striking, on reading through the hundreds of entries we’ve had from Salisbury children, is how dark some of the pieces have been. A seven-year-old is not going to know who Georgi Markov is, but here were umbrellas being used as weapons. Even when the entries weren’t spy-related (and a number of them were) a lot of them were around death.

I’m no psychologist, but my guess here is that there remains a lot of processing going on. There’s been a lot of focus in terms of the recovery on how businesses are coping with the fallout of what happened in March. Much less so, perhaps, has been focused on how the children of the city have dealt with it. And though they might not be talking about it, those stories appear to show that our children are still internalising and trying to deal with events they do not completely understand. If you’re a parent reading this, that might be something you want to bear in mind.

Putting the festival together has shown me a real resilience and spirit in responding to recent events. It’s shown, too, that we’ve still got a way to go. But I hope that events like this will help in encouraging out-of-towners to return to Salisbury, and for us all to move on.

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