Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

In just four years, Barnes Children’s Literature Festival (BCLF) has become London’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival. Festival founder and director Amanda Brettargh attributes this success not just to innovative programming but also to the transformative effect that books and storytelling have on us all, regardless of age or ability.

The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival was created by a group of local families to raise money for our primary school libraries and from foundation our commitment was that every child should have the opportunity to experience the power of live literature.

So this year we couldn’t be prouder and happier to have announced our new Education and Community Outreach Programme which we are providing free to every state primary school pupil, teacher and librarian in London.

Up to 3,000 children will have the chance to engage with their favourite authors and illustrators, as well as a few exciting new voices, in a fun, educational and interactive way.

Our Education Programme launches on Thursday 10th May with three special sessions for Key Stage 1, followed by Key Stage 2 on Friday 11th May, featuring a line-up of inspiring authors and illustrators, including Chennai-born author Chitra Soundar, who will share the Indian myths and legends she grew up with. She’s a passionate believer in the transformative power of stories to help children to see the world in a different way, to see it as someone else sees it, to walk in their shoes, if you like.

As Atticus says in To Kill A Mockingbird, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.’ Cressida Cowell, who opens the public festival on Saturday 12th May, refers to this quote in her event to highlight the importance of empathy, something which underpins her bestselling How To Train Your Dragon books.

Last year Baroness Benjamin spoke at Barnes about her journey from her much-loved home of Trinidad and Tobago to a new country where she experienced racism and rejection. In 2016, our guest, the Australian author Morris Gleitzman, whose work often explores serious and sometimes confronting subjects like cancer, war and grief in humorous and unexpected ways, said he believed that children need stories more than ever to help them deal with our ‘daunting and unsettling world.’

At Barnes, we’re also committed to enabling children who, for whatever reason, might need some additional care to enjoy their festival experience. This year we have introduced two new multi-sensory and interactive storytelling sessions for children with special and extra needs.

Ross Montgomery’s Max and the Millions event, based on his new book which stars a young deaf boy, will also be provided with British Sign Language interpretation for the first time.

Barnes is still lovingly led by the original founding families – although these days we have been joined by more than a hundred volunteers from the Barnes community and book fans from all over London -but we say that Barnes is put on by families for families. This means that we are 100% committed to making sure they have an amazing time, bearing in mind that families, like kids, come in all different shapes and sizes, and that they all have their own stories to tell. This year though, we’ve worked harder than ever, to make sure that everyone is welcome.

The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival returns from Friday 11 to Sunday 13 May 2018 and tickets are on sale now.

This was a guest post provided by Amanda Brettargh, the founder and director of Barnes Children’s Literature Festival and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG. 

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