The Blagger's Guide To...The Voewood Festival

Talks, music, and sitting on rugs drinking cider
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The Independent Culture

*What, not another literary festival?

Yes there's a new book fest on the block, though this one has pretty gardens and the seaside thrown in. Starting this coming Saturday, and lasting three days across the Bank Holiday, Voewood is Norfolk's answer to Port Eliot in Cornwall: a weekend of talks, music, and sprawling on rugs with a pitcher of cider. The action takes place in the grounds of Voewood House, an Arts and Crafts monster looming over the Georgian town of Holt, on the north Norfolk coast. It's the brainchild of rare book dealer Simon Finch, who owns the house, and literary agent Clare Conville – one half of London firm Conville and Walsh. He's got the venue, she's got the contacts, and together they are promising "the literary garden party of the year".

*Star billing goes to Diana Athill, the 93-year-old publisher turned novelist, who won the 2009 Costa Biography Prize for her memoir about old age, Somewhere Towards The End. As a literary editor, she spent 50 years working with authors including Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir and VS Naipaul, but is now enjoying a second bloom, as a writer in her own right.

*Louis de Bernières, Esther Freud, DBC Pierre and the IoS's very own DJ Taylor (see page 99) are among the big literary names speaking. Heavyweights from other spheres will include John Scarlett, the ex-MI6 boss, Dan Cruickshank, the TV art historian, and Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, who made the Oscar-winning film, The King's Speech.

*So far, so book festish.What's different? Well, Eighties pop legend Adam Ant is making a solo appearance. Live music is promised on both Saturday and Sunday nights, with the master of glam rock headlining on Sunday alongside Glen Matlock, founding member of the Sex Pistols. On Saturday, Beth Orton will perform her blend of folk and electronica, which won her the Best Female Artist title at the 2000 Brit Awards.

*Voewood is one of the best Arts and Crafts houses in the country, and well worth a visit even if you've had enough of book festivals. Started in 1903, it cost the Rev Percy Lloyd a staggering £60,000 to build – the equivalent of about £25m in today's money – although he never actually moved in. Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner called Voewood "far and away the most interesting building in Holt", and describes it as "a most violently idiosyncratic house ... the inventions sometimes remind one almost of Gaudi." For much of its life, it was known as Home Place and was a boys' school and nursing home before being bought by Holt bookseller Finch a few years ago. He rents it out for house parties, accommodating up to 32 people.

*He says: "Dealing in Rare books has been my passion all my life, and since acquiring Voewood it has been my dream to produce a festival of this quality at the house. The house and gardens lend magic to any event, and with such a stellar line up it promises to be an unforgettable weekend."

*We say: "£145 is too much for a three-day ticket, but day tickets and the evening gigs are cheaper. Voewood has all the ingredients it needs to become a hit, and if it does, anyone who goes this year can claim to have been there from the start."

*For more details, visit voewoodfestival.com or call the box office on 0854 519 8581

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