Interview with Jim Parks

With Guildford Book Festival recently opening its box office for it’s much anticipated 25th anniversary, we caught up with Creative Director, Jim Parks to get an exclusive insight into the man himself and the festival.

Jim, how long have you been the Creative Director of the Guildford Book Festival?
“I grabbed hold of the reins just over a year ago and had a terrific ride last time round.”

How long have you lived in Our Town and what brought you here originally?
“I’ve been in Guildford since I was 21, so that makes it 21 years in this beautiful town. I originally moved here to get closer to London, from my rural village in Dorset as I wanted to find a way into the entertainment industry. It worked. After many fun years working for Nintendo, super-star DJ’s and Universal Studios I now share my love of books with thousands of others at Guildford Book Festival.”

What do you think distinguishes Guildford Book Festival from other literary festivals and events around the UK?
“Guildford Book Festival is all about great books for everyone. We do not operate in a niche of the literary world, we aim to have a line-up that is broad and inviting. I also wish to have a whole heap of fun with our events and ensure that readers and authors have a memorable day out enjoying all that Guildford has to offer.”

Jim Parks 2

There were 14 venues at last year’s festival and 56 events, how long does it take to organise and plan a festival of this size and magnitude?
“I started the process late in 2013, so I, along with my valuable supporters and volunteers had to work around the clock to book all the authors and venues in the space of about 3 months!”

The majority of the events last year were held at The Electric Theatre presumably as it is funded and managed by the Guildford Borough Council. Do you think that it provided a good central base for the festival, or would you like to see more events moving into new locations around Guildford in the future?
The Electric Theatre has been and will continue to be a brilliant key venue for Guildford Book Festival. It offers the perfect size of theatrical seating for many of our events along with a lovely café bar for audiences. Guildford has a lot of other interesting venues in the town which is why I really worked hard to include many alternative locations during our 2013 festival. Medieval talks in Guildford Castle, haunting tales in the Guildhall and a coffee morning at Bar des Arts are just a few of the highlights from last year.”

Could you tell us a little more about this year’s Schools Programme and how GBF 2013 tried to bring literature to young people in Guildford?
“Our schools programme has been running for many years now and we are committed to bringing great authors to schools in our area. Each year we reach over 1000 pupils in class rooms and work closely with teachers, publishers and authors to ensure that a love of reading and writing is celebrated with children during Guildford Book Festival.”

We certainly enjoyed our experiences at last year’s Book Festival, what would you consider your highlights?
“I am spoilt for choice… I loved seeing and hearing 150 kids enjoy our Wimpy Kid Show. The launch day event by multi-million bestseller Kate Mosse at the Guildhall was wonderfully atmospheric. Also, seeing a full house of rugby fans at the Surrey Sports Park being entertained by the legend that is Matt Dawson was a great treat.”

Jim Parks

How do you measure the success of the Guildford Book Festival?
“The festival last year was a tremendous success. The audience capacities for our events were significantly up on previous years and we had over a quarter of the events totally sold out!”

The festival was in its 24th year last year, what do you think are the most important factors in continuing its success in Guildford for the next 24 years?
“The most important factor is getting the authors and the readers together. The time and effort put into developing relationships with the publishers and our community is vital. However, like most charities we rely on the good will of our funders and sponsors to ensure we have the capability to deliver our goals for years to come.”

This year will be the 25th Anniversary of the Guildford Book Festival between 12-19 October and the box office is open already for some specific events! Click HERE to grab early bird tickets to those events that have recently been announced!

James Martin