In 2015 Kew Gardens threw open its doors to thousands of book lovers and introduced one of London’s best-looking literary festivals. As Bill Bryson motored across acres of stunning scenery in his golf buggy, whilst carefully avoiding the geese, visitors kicked their way through autumn leaves, en-route from a Victorian glasshouse to a cottage once inhabited by royalty, to see their favourite authors in this stunning setting. Neel Mukherjee addressed his audience at dusk in the Nash Conservatory, claiming afterwards: “It was like being in a ship and the Gardens outside, as darkness fell, were the sea in which we were floating.”
Launched in 2015, Write on Kew was a great success, welcoming a stellar line-up that included five Man Booker winners, many other acclaimed authors, and Joey the Warhorse from the National Theatre, along with weather that gave us a weekend of perfect warm, hazy autumnal days.
Thousands of people came to meet authors who talked about all types of literature, ranging from fiction, poetry, politics and history, to science and nature, cookery, gardening and children’s books. Many laughed with and were moved by Richard E Grant talking about his upbringing; listened to the erudite and witty conversation between Howard Jacobson and Alan Yentob pondering Shakespeare’s Shylock; and children were enthralled by Judith Kerr and Mog, as well as by new Harry Potter illustrator Jim Kay.
“It was like being in a ship and the Gardens outside, as darkness fell, were the sea in which we were floating.”
Kew is the perfect place to host a major literary festival for London – with its wonderful gardens and iconic glass houses – a tranquil escape, yet within the city. This time of year sees the start of another exciting season in the plant world as the autumn colour begins to slowly ripple its way across the Gardens. Late summer light catches the remarkable textures and colours of the bark on Kew’s 14,000 trees, as the meadows green up and the Gardens start to look fresh again after the heat of the summer.
Write on Kew sees in the start of Autumn, and this year Tony Kirkham, Kew’s top tree man will be talking to the Evening Standard editor, Sarah Sands, about the importance of trees and how we can keep London green, while Botanical Horticulturists Maija Ross and Lucy Bell will discuss the recently unveiled Great Broad Walk Borders. At 320 metres long, these are the world’s longest double herbaceous borders, with 30,000 plants creating a breathtaking avenue of colour which will remain at their peak during the festival.
And amid the beauty of Kew, there is world-class science going on: over 200 scientists and horticulturists study plants and our impact on them worldwide, what they do for the environment and what they do for us. Books and learning are a good fit.
And events such as Write on Kew bring new and different people to the gardens, creating opportunities to make more people aware of what happens at Kew – unlocking why plants and fungi matter.
The impact of Write on Kew, the clear enjoyment by all – including the authors – and the ultimate success of the first festival seemed greater than the sum of its parts. There was a real sense of sharing, the creation of a community feel to the festival. Many Kew members and regulars attended but also new visitors who perhaps had only previously thought of Kew as a province for those with green fingers.
Tickets can be bought and further details found at www.kew.org/write-on-kew.
Write on Kew, proudly supported by JM Finn & Co, takes place from 22 to 25 September 2016
Free prize draw
For a chance to win a bundle of signed books from authors speaking in the Banks Building during the four days of the Write on Kew Literary Festival, please visit www.jmfinn.com/prizedraw
The prize includes books from acclaimed authors such as:
- Robert Harris
- Rick Stein
- Monty Don
- Brian Blessed
- Michael Rosen
- Rose Tremain