Heads Up: Port Eliot Festival

Bookworms beware! Cornwall's lit-fest writes a new chapter
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A weekend-long festival in Cornwall with a varied line-up of big names in music, fashion, food, film, literature, cabaret, and, er, flower arranging.

Elevator Pitch

The literary festival goes large.

Prime Movers

It's got posh pedigree: the festival was founded in 2003 by the Port Eliot estate owners, Peregrine and Catherine St Germans, who continue to organise it today. The open-air cinema is curated by Martin Scorsese, and includes classics The Red Shoes and The Leopard.

The Stars

Music comes from the likes of British Sea Power, Bellowhead, the Secret Sisters and Hannah Peel; the word line-up features John Cooper Clarke and Hanif Kureishi. Fashion is served by the likes of Anna Sui and Barbara Hulanicki, there's food from Angela Hartnett and Peter Gordon, while the flower show will be judged by gardener Dan Pearson and milliner Stephen Jones – with help from the St Germans Women's Institute. The Idler Academy is organised by Tom Hodgkinson, and includes a playwriting class from Jez Butterworth. Or you can visit Sir Peter Blake's Art Bus or get a takeaway poem from Tim Clare, Molly Naylor or John Osborne.

The Early Buzz

Website eFestivals says: "Set in the very same location as the legendary Elephant Fayre, [a "performing arts" festival which started life back in 1981] the festival started up as the Eliot Lit Fest early in the millennium ... it has come to be regarded as one of the most original, magical, Bohemian events of its kind." Time Out adds that "Bookworms won't forgive us for signposting this literary festival, but sod it, why should music fans miss out on its terrific down-home atmosphere, gorgeous Cornish setting and consistently good bill."

Insider Knowledge

The first year, there was a grand total of 17 paying guests, with three times as many performers, artists and crew. This year you can expect 5,000 punters.

It's great that...

When it began, performers were asked to devise shows there wasn't space for at traditional literary festivals, and that sideways spirit is still thriving today.

It's a shame that...

With a line-up that's catnip for culture-vulture organic intellectuals, it does run the risk of being just unbearably smug.

Hit Potential

Knows its audience, so likely to be adored by all who attend.

The Details

It's held at Port Eliot Estate, St Germans, Cornwall (porteliotfestival.com), 21 to 24 July.

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