Melissa Cooke in conversation with Melissa Blain, retired Modern Language teacher

MC: How was your experience of Repton Literary Festival?

MB: I think the idea of the Festival is a great one, particularly with the rich heritage and history that Repton has to offer. Unfortunately the attendance numbers were disappointing last year and the weather was shocking which rendered it lacking the ‘buzz’ it deserved. However, despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed attending the jazz evening – great band. Similarly I found Christian Birmingham’s session inspiring.

MC: What do you like about reading?

MB: Literature wise, this is a perfect period to be discussing books since we’ve all had greater opportunity to read of late. I recently loved ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn and am currently reading the Rosie trilogy by Graeme Simsion – an amusing tale, focusing on an autistic protagonist and his relationships. I’m loving having time to sit and escape with a book- one advantage of the lockdown! I rather rely on recommendations from family (particularly my sister) and friends and enjoy the review section of the Sunday Times Culture magazine. My sister writes children’s stories (14 published) and does workshops for children in the UAE and the UK when she’s home – so she is rather more culturally aware than I am.

MC: Who have been the greatest influences on your literary / artistic taste?

MB: Our mother was a great influence as she read avidly. One of the greatest influencers on my literary development was an inspirational English teacher way back at school. She sat reading Chaucer to us before we ever looked at the written word and introduced us to literature that wasn’t on the exam list. She also encouraged us to read around what we were studying. I still love listening to a good story or play - couldn’t live without Radio 4!

MC: What would you like for this year’s festival?

MB: This year I wonder if it will be able to go ahead, things are so uncertain, but we must be positive. A good variety of the arts is needed so that it can cater to a broader audience - maybe to include some workshops.

I didn’t volunteer as at the time I was working. I’d love to help this year if volunteers are needed.

MC: A lasting impression of RLF…..

MB: It has to go to the jazz!

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