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  1. Newstatesman Gibraltar
3 November 2015

Gibraltar brought to book

Next week sees the return of the Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival. The Rock has more than its fair share of arts and other festivals, but this one’s looking a little special. Guy Clapperton explains.

By Guy Clapperton

The Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival is almost upon the Rock, starting as it does on the 12th of this month. Guests will be flown in, they will discuss their writing, there will be signings aplenty and one hopes a splendid time will be guaranteed for all.

However, literary festivals have come in for criticism from time to time, not least from the New Statesman, owner of this Gibraltar hub on the website. The article to which that link leads is not about the Gib festival as such but it’s fairly damning about the way some festivals have moved: packed out with celebrities rather than writers and padded out with comedians and politicians. Worse, it suggests, the writers rarely get paid for any of their appearances.

As a small-time writer of a couple of business books I can confirm the expectation – albeit not from festivals – is often that you will give your time for nothing in expectation of extended royalties from book sales. The fact that your sales often afford you only 15% of the publisher’s price for the book itself is often seen as an afterthought.

The Gibraltar event, sponsored by many people as the website confirms, will be different in that the writers are, for the main part, actual writers. By all means there will be celebrity headliners – it would be commercial suicide to overlook them. Esther Rantzen will attend (although whether someone with a lifetime’s journalism behind them really counts as a non-writer celebrity is up for some debate), Anthony Worral Thompson will be entertaining people at lunch on Saturday, Marcus Brigstocke is undoubtedly a comedian as well as an author and will be taking part in a celebration of “Just a Minute” as will Miles Jupp, no dount moonlighting from his new position on “The News Quiz”; meanwhile Maureen Lipman defies categorisation, as an actress, writer, columnist, she’s been many things.

A glance at the participants list, however, shows a number of other interests will be represented. Mary Chiappe will talk about her book, “The Dead Can’t Paint”. Felix Francis will present “a Dick Francis novel”, Front Runner. Non-fiction fans will find Caroline Campbell talking about early Renaissance art and historian Dan Jones will discuss the Magna Carta following his book on the subject.

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Local interest

It’s not so long since this hub took a look at religion on the Rock in a three-part feature (here’s one of them) and some of the events presented over the next couple of weeks will follow this theme through. On the 15th, Abraham Levy will take part in a discussion on “Gibraltar and Andalucia: the Good Relation of the Abrahamic Faiths”, joined by James Levy. There will be a service as well as a discussion, held separately. There will be more. Humbert Hernandez will talk about his life when imprisoned for his stand against conscription in Gibraltar. Meanwhile Mayor of Gibraltar and Speaker of the Gibraltar Parliament Adolfo Canepa will talk to chief executive of the Gibraltar Tourist Board Nicky Guerrero about his political career.

So, is there an issue with literary festivals? The New Statesman piece to which we linked at the beginning of this article is a couple of years old but the answer has to be yes, in a number of cases writers are still down the pecking order and there is a risk of turning them into a celebration of celebrities rather than their writing. The Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival, however, looks set to continue taking a stand against that trend and will continue working to appeal to lovers of books and people who want to be stimulated beyond whatever happens to be on the TV. It looks set to be an engrossing festival.