RUNNING a literary festival brings with it its own recognisable rhythms. Each autumn, as the schools go back, so arrives the festival brochure, hot off the press and ready to be distributed around the city and beyond. Each year, I’m grateful for the response of Mrs B, and her ability to articulate her delight at seeing the twenty boxes of brochures blocking her hallway in a few choice words.

Anyway, over the last fortnight, a mixture of myself, the festival team and a kind cohort of volunteers have been saving my…sorry, helping get the lovely looking brochures out there (props, as always, to local designer Phamie from Fizzy Lemonade for the cover, and local illustrator Neil Smith for the logo).

Last week, we took advantage of that rare period of Indian summer sunshine to share the brochure beyond the city boundaries to that outer ring of towns that circle Salisbury: the likes of Andover, Amesbury, Stockbridge, Fordingbridge, Downton, Romsey and Ringwood. Each lunchtime, I loaded up the car, and together with fellow festival organiser Russell, we spent a pleasant hour in the sunshine exploring the various high streets.

It’s fascinating to see people’s reactions as you offer them a brochure about a festival in Salisbury. While most people couldn’t have been nicer, a few remained more resistant. One bookshop owner greeted us with a curt, ‘What’s that? I’ve never heard of it’. A library in another town said yes, but only if we came back and collected them if the chief librarian said no (they haven’t rung, so I assume that is ok).

My favourite response came from an upmarket pub in the centre of Andover. I could see through the window that they had a selection of brochures and flyers, so asked if I could leave some of ours. The landlord took one look at the cover and said, and I quote, ‘This is an Andover pub. We only have space for Andover leaflets in here.’ It was like being in a League of Gentlemen sketch, and I beat a hasty retreat.

It’s curious how such attitudes can sometimes still prevail: Salisbury might be closer to many places in Dorset and Hampshire than to other towns in Wiltshire, but for some people, being over the county border renders you invisible.

That said, as I visited these various towns in the autumn sunshine, I was also struck time and again about the places on my doorstep I could know more about. As I continued my efforts to encourage more out of towners to come to Salisbury, I also wondered whether I was the sort of Salisbury person who might benefit from getting out of town more often myself.