I never knew that!


I never knew that there were events that were FREE to attendees EVERY SINGLE DAY of the week of the Oxford Literary Festival, which takes place annually at the beginning of April. But apparently, there are free events for all ages throughout the week, with the weekend slots being given over to local authors.

DSC02208I’ve opened the programme of events for the week to show how many there were.

All the free events took place in Blackwell’s Festival Marquee, which had been set up in the courtyard of the Bodleian Library, opposite the famous Blackwell’s shop in Broad Street. Underneath my photo of Broad Street, you’ll see photos of Blackwell’s and of their Festival Marquee.

DSC02194Broad Street

DSC02199 (2)DSC02201









I hadn’t known about the marquee events until I was invited by author Sylvia Vetta, a fellow member of the Oxford Writers’ Group, whose publishing arm is Oxpens, to go to her talk about how she came to write Brushstrokes in Time, a beautiful and moving account of life in the dreadful, oppressive regime that flourished in China in so recent a past.

Arriving at the marquee on the Saturday morning, I found myself surrounded by books on one side, a café on the other and the sight of a lounge at the far end. Sheer bliss! I bought a couple of books and a coffee, and wandered down the marquee to the Shakespeare Lounge, which overlooked the beautiful Bridge of Sighs, and there I took a seat.

Below you have the view from my sofa looking ahead towards the books, and my view when I turned to look through the window behind me.










I’m happy to say that the talks were sandwiched in the most pleasant way possible – the sandwich filling was lunch with friends in a venue not far from the marquee.

Before our lunch, I listened to Sylvia’s fascinating and informative talk, after which she signed books.


And after the lunch, I went back to the marquee to hear Barbara Hudson give an amusing introduction to her debut novel, Timed Out, in which her central character, deciding that retirement was not the end, but a new beginning, placed a lonely hearts’ advertisement on the Internet and embarked on her new life, suffering disappointments and learning hard truths about herself.

Brushstrokes in TimeTimed out



And here are the covers of Sylvia’s and Barbara’s novels.







After the marquee events, I couldn’t resist going across the road to Blackwell’s. And lo and behold – look what I found on the shelf!


DSC02197Some of the four anthologies of stories set in and around Oxford, published by the Oxford Writers’ Group.


And now it’s time for me to stop writing and to get on with reading one of the novels I bought last Saturday, so I’ll say goodbye for this week!



  • I do agree, Liz. The Blackwell’s Marquee is a wonderful part of the Literary Festival. But beware! the events may be free, but the temptation to buy books there can be overwhelming.
    I’m glad to report that my novel Timed Out sold rather well, and I’m told Sylvia Vetta’s marvellous Brushstrokes in Time did so too.

    • Liz:

      That is so true about buying books, Barbara! I bought some on the way in, and despite my intention to stick with those, bought some more on the way out. The atmosphere was so vibrant that you wanted to keep on buying! Well done, Blackstone’s!!

  • A nice description, Liz. Oxford is ALWAYS worth a visit – there is always something going on!

    • Liz:

      It was particularly buzzing last Saturday, John – so many books, so many authors, and all in the heart of historic Oxford. I love the area around the Bodleian, the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs. Many thanks for your comment.

  • I am a member of the Oxford Writers Group(OWG). We critique each other’s work in an honest but positive manner and we produce anthologies of short stories set in Oxford or its surroundings. My fellow OWG members have been wonderfully supportive of Brushstrokes in Time. Last Saturday was no exception. It helps when talking at a free and informal event like the ones in the festival marquee if you have the germ of an audience provided by a group of friends. Visitors who just walk into the marquee don’t then feel conspicuous and so stop and listen. That is exactly what happened last week. Liz Harris is a fellow OWG member and was in the audience. Her blog rightly praised the role of Blackwells. James Orton and Hannah Chinnery do indeed deserve our thanks. The atmosphere in the festival marquee was delightful. Thank you Liz.

    • Liz:

      Thank you for your comment, Sylvia. You’ve summed up the tremendous support that authors can, and do, give to each other in so many different ways. It’s on occasions like this, and at book launches, such as those next weekend for Barbara Hudson and Rosie Orr (separately, of course), where the presence of authors and friends is so greatly appreciated. But turning out for such occasions isn’t just saintliness and altruism – there’s nothing more delightful than getting together with other authors and talking about books, and any occasion to do so is very welcome!

  • Linora Lawrence:

    Lovely photos which captured the spirit of the event, Liz and, of course, your description which brings it all to life.

    • Liz:

      Many thanks, Linora. And weren’t we lucky with the weather!! Oxford is always beautiful, but Oxford in the sun is even more so. Books galore, including the two excellent books I blogged about, friends, lunch out, sun – that was the recipe for a perfect Saturday!

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