Could a literary festival be staged in the Deepings?

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A campaign to create a literary festival in the Deepings is underway.

Calls for a dedicated festival in the Deepings were made at South Kesteven District Council’s full council meeting on Monday.

While praising the success of last year’s Stamford Georgian Festival, which brought in almost £981,000 to the local economy, and Grantham’s Gravity Fields’s Festival in 2014, which brought in more than £500,000, representatives for the Deepings highlighted the absence of any such organised festival in the towns.

Coun Phil Dilks, Labour member for the Deeping St James ward, said: “There is a feeling in the beautiful south of South Kesteven that we are the forgotten corner.

“A Deepings literary festival would go a long way to remedying that feeling I think. “Maybe in a few years it can compete with Hay-on-Wye.”

Also passionately making a case for the Deepings to have its own festival, was Judy Stevens (Ind), who represents Deeping St James.

She said: “There is no shortage of events in the Deepings, but all of them are self-funded and put on by local volunteers, and I think a literary festival would be something that could proudly call our own.

“It would make the people of Deepings feel more valued than frankly they do at the moment.”

If anyone had any doubt over the area’s love of literature, they need only to have seen the 1,000 people who turned out at the re-opening of the Deepings Library at the end of January.

It is now being run by a community group called the Friends of Deepings Library after Lincolnshire County Council withdrew its funding. It is now run by volunteers and one paid member of staff.

Chairman of the Friends Liz Waterland told the Mercury: “The literary festival has been in our plans from the start. Friends of Deepings Library fully supports the idea and the Deepings certainly deserve funding to put one on.”

She added: “It is time for the Deepings to have something really exciting for the community, and to have the support that has been given elsewhere.”

Although they will await news on funding before making any firm plans, it is hoped that the festival can take place for the first time this year, and include family activities, talks and workshops, poetry events and competitions between the schools. The area is also proud of its strong network of local authors, including Ellie Sandall, Andrew Cope, Will Hussey and Lizzie Steel, to name just a few.

With 18,000 people in the library’s circulation area, Liz believes the event can attract large numbers, with their vision being for it to take place either in late spring or early summer.

Liz added: “People in the Deepings do feel that they have been forgotten. We are the most southerly community in Lincolnshire, right on the border, and we just feel sometimes that they think we are part of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.”

At Monday’s district council budget meeting, the Labour group also put forward an amendment to allocate £20,000 out of the budget for 2016/17, to be set aside as a trial fund for the literary festival, and to cover hosting, marketing and inviting key guests.

Although the amendment was lost, Coun Bob Adams welcomed the idea of a festival in the Deepings, and invited members to present their ideas to him.

Coun Stevens said she would take up this offer and discuss funding for the proposed festival further, with the estimated cost at £20,000.