OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn conversation about the Borderlines/TWQ festival, it was suggested to me, that by organising a series of events – under The Writers Quarter ‘brand’ – I was effectively excluding ‘readers’ and separating the TWQ from the rest of the festival. How do I plead to this? Well, guilty, and not guilty, your Honours.

Certainly the core idea behind the TWQ was, right from the beginning, and remains, fundamentally different to that of the rest of the festival. Borderlines, Carlisle Book Festival, not unnaturally – the clue is in the name – is primarily about books. Backed by a local bookshop, and by the Country Library Service through its Reader Development Officer, books are central to their agenda. Both, and other festival partners, by virtue of their core objectives are interested in maximising numbers across the whole of the general public. Evangelical, you might say, for book readers, and book purchasers. Festival partners, like the City Council and Cumbria Life, are also, equally committed to reaching larger numbers, rather than specific categories of people. Bums on seats, basically, fulfils their objectives, and the more the better, which means that what sells in the greatest numbers, is what they must opt for.

TWQ by contrast – and yes, the clue is in this name too – has no similar agendas. It’s not interested so much in numbers of people, as in a type of person: the type that recognises themselves in the label ‘writers.’ They might well be readers too, in fact, I expect they will be, but in a sense that’s irrelevant. They might be bakers too, or car mechanics, or jobbing gardeners – like me. Nobody has accused me of excluding them, but if logic is in this somewhere, then they too are being excluded, if the readers are. Of course, readers aren’t being excluded, and no one else is either, but it is writers specifically that TWQ is reaching out to, with the simple offer of here is a series of events, designed to enable you to meet up with other writers, and to share your enjoyment, and practice with them. Writing is a cultural activity in its own right.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to offer a forum where writers can meet, discuss,share and practice their art. I think, as a writer – though not as a jobbing gardener, reader, guitar player, fellwalker, amateur photographer, pastrycook and anything else I’ve ever done-er – that I would rather like to have the chance to do just that.

Of course, that such is the case does not make the case that the TWQ offer should be part of a Book Festival. Nor does it mean that other writers share the same wish. Some, though, undoubtedly do.

Where does this leave us? Well, with a decision to make, I think, which is whether to offer to continue, and to develop the TWQ strand within, yet different to – and perhaps, by virtue of that difference, seemingly separate from – the main festival, or whether to try to develop it elsewhere and possibly even at a different time, or indeed whether to abandon the attempt altogether.

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