M: How was your experience of Repton Literary Festival?
J: The festival was clearly a big hit culturally, generating interest in the village community and beyond. It's a great initiative.
M: What do you like about reading/books/art/dialogue?
J: As English teachers, reading is part of our daily life but we were readers before we were teachers. A good story is a basic human pleasure, perhaps even a need, and it is a gift we both received from our parents and passed on to our children. Reading the Harry Potter series together and then the Philip Pullman 'His Dark Materials' trilogy are happy family memories, although 'The Hungry Caterpillar' takes some beating.
M: Who have been the greatest influencers on your literary/artistic taste?
J: In terms of influences, I suppose we pass on recommendations to each other constantly and are both fortunate to be able to draw on lively cultural communities at both Repton and Foremarke schools and in our wider families. Books and bookshops are there at every step.
M: What would you like for this year’s festival?
J: I like the idea of a festival appealing to a broad church - from niche interest to headline name, from poetry to popular appeal. It's not just about books but about opening up to a range of interesting people and ideas that entertain, inform or maybe even inspire.
There's always a danger, especially nowadays, that we get too stuck in one space, and books and events like the festival, quite apart from bringing a lot of pleasure, open up the windows and let in a bit of light and fresh air.
M: What are your lasting impressions of RLF?
J: Sarah and I went to listen to Mark Cocker, arguably the pre-eminent nature writer in the UK today. We have some mutual friends and acquaintances and he lives in both Norfolk and Derbyshire, as do we, so it was fascinating to hear him talk about landscapes, flora and fauna of places we know well. His writing moves from lyrical description to environmental polemic so he had much to discuss about how we live now and how we should live now, and the consequences of our actions upon the natural world, much of which is in his last book 'Our Place'. It was a really enriching experience.