History The Church Times and Bloxham Contacts
The first Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature took place over a weekend in October 2011 at St Mary’s Church, Bloxham. It was the idea of Sir Tony Baldry, MP for North Oxfordshire and the Second Church Estates Commissioner, who lives in the village, and was hosted by the Revd Sarah Tillett, Priest-in-charge of Bloxham with Milcombe and South Newington.
Paul Handley, editor of the Church Times, introduces the 2013 Festival
The Church Times's connection with the Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature began in autumn 2010 with a phone call from Tony Baldry MP, praising the usefulness of the book reviews in the paper. He asked if we were interested in partnership in a literary festival in his home village of Bloxham, near Banbury, in Oxfordshire.
The first festival took place in October 2011, and it was a great success. Speakers included P. D. James, Lionel Blue, William Fiennes, Tony Jordan, Jane Williams, and David Crystal. The main venue was St Mary's, Bloxham, a fascinating and beautiful church, and the WI provided wonderful teas. The only problem was that, as at many new ventures, the audiences were respectable and enthusiastic - but not large enough to cover the costs.
The Church Times's involvement was minimal - just a bit of publicity beforehand. But I'd enjoyed it so much that I found myself being the chief enthusiast for a second festival. Having persuaded Sir Tony (as he now is, not solely in recognition of the Bloxham festival) to have another go, I suppose it was only fair that we should take a more active part.
My first, panicky, act was to commission a festival director: Sarah Meyrick, a former Church Times features editor and now director of communications in Oxford diocese. Her first act, almost, was to recruit someone to help with the programme planning: Ed Newell, a Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, who once ran the St Paul's Institute in London.
We (well they) have spent the past few months putting together the programme for the weekend of 15-17 February. It's been a long, painstaking process, with disappointments (the people who said no, especially the ones who said it slowly) but also delights (the people who said yes, obviously). The result, though, we think, is a fascinating programme, which promises to be entertaining as well as enlightening.
One important factor has been the welcome from Bloxham School. Having got used to the marquees of Greenbelt, the idea of holding a festival in warm, dry, comfortable buildings appeals greatly. And besides offering themselves as a venue, they have also engaged the school catering staff for the weekend. Forget the lumpy custard and gelatinous stew of your childhood: I can vouch for the superb quality of the meals they provide - and usually wasted on children, too.
Despite the busy programme, Bloxham is geared to remain a small, friendly festival - just the thing to cheer up a February weekend. The only problem I can foresee is having too many things one wants to go to: growing up in a vicarage (or bishop's palace) with James Runcie and Jane Williams, or Stephen Cottrell on Stanley Spencer's paintings? Crime fiction v. crime fact, with James Runcie, Ian Blair, and Jeany Spark (from Wallander); or Jane Williams talking to the young author Chibundu Onuzo? Andrew Motion and Mark Oakley on why good characters in fiction are so often dull; or Andrew Brown and Bishop Alan Wilson on the media, post-Leveson? Storytelling with Padraig O Tuama; or watching the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance?
the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester
Sir Tony Baldry MP
Paul Handley, the Revd Michael Price, the Revd Sarah Tillett, Catharine Gammie.
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