ILMINSTER Literary Festival is an annual crowd-drawing celebration of writing.

It has seen famous faces grace the town's stages to discuss the craft or their latest releases.

This includes MP Alan Johnson, who was set to return to Ilminster again this year, BBC news correspondent Kate Adie, and Lieutenant General Sir Freddie Viggers.

Much of the 2020 line-up was announced in February, before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United Kingdom.

It included:

  • Stephen Moss, an author and wildlife historian who was also the producer of a number of wildlife programmes, with his best known ones featuring Bill Oddie,
  • Andrew Lownie, a British biographer with published works on writer John Buchan, spy Guy Burgess, and soldier Lord Mountbatten,
  • Helen Fry, who has written and edited more than 25 books,
  • Henry Hemming, author of M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's greatest spymaster.

Also on the line up were Barry Venning, Tessa Boase, Henrietta Lovell, Tim Murfin, and Brian Freeland, with more set to be announced at a later stage.

But the event, which was set to run from May 28 to June 4, joined the long list of celebrations cancelled by Covid-19.

Instead, organisers decided to run a poetry competition for the county.

Linda Vijeh, one of the event's organisers, said: "Despite our best intentions, things do not always go according to plan. Such has been the case this year for all us as the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have affected our day-to-day lives in ways that this time last year we could not have imagined.

"This has of course also meant that a lot of local planned activities have had to be postponed or cancelled, including this year’s Ilminster Literary Festival, which would have been our fifth.

"Our team of trustees had been working hard all year to put together an amazing line up of writers for us all to meet and listen to and were of course disappointed when we were forced to cancel the event because of the Covid-19 restrictions imposed.

"However, moving forward, there is always next year, and in the meantime, knowing that we have a number of enthusiastic supporters and budding writers in our midst we promoted a writing competition during August.

"As one of three judges, I am delighted that we were able to unanimously select Alison Templeton from Norton-sub-Hamdon as the clear winner of a £30 book token, for her impressive and very apt Post-Covid poem."

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