After hosting the now-legendary Elephant Fayre music festival at Port Eliot from 1981 to 1986, Lord St Germans began a new festival at Port Eliot in 2003. The festival was founded by Peregrine St Germans and his wife, Catherine St Germans; actor and musician, Rick Worthy (also one of the original organisers of the Elephant Fayre); and Simon Prosser, long time friend of Lady St Germans and the publishing director of Hamish Hamilton.
This passionate and creative team believed there was room for a new kind of literary event, with the craic of a music festival. The writers, poets and journalists appearing at the festival were encouraged to perform material they would not be given the opportunity to present at orthodox literary festivals – using their creativity to devise imaginative, interesting and entertaining shows, they went far above and beyond merely reading aloud from their latest books and taking questions from the floor. Some created original works for the show, others performed spontaneous acts. All were asked to “do something different with words” – and so the Port Eliot Festival’s unique spirit was born.
The first year, the festival had 17 paying punters and three times as many performers, artists and crew. But it was a magical weekend of words and music, in the grounds of one of the most beautiful stately homes in England. Word quickly spread among young writers that at last here was a festival at which they could do what they wanted. The following year, 1,000 people attended. Catherine St Germans and Simon Prosser drew some of the brightest names in publishing, music and the visual arts and encouraged them to take risks with their performances.
This year, ‘Sideshow’ will be appearing at Port Eliot Festival. The exhibition will come into its own located in the Caught By The River area. A specially built ‘penny gaff’ adjoining the bar is where the exhibition will be housed for festival-goers to view the images and read the poetry on display. One of the most popular areas on the festival site, located by the beautiful looking estuary it will be open for four days with artist Jason Butler on hand to talk Sideshow imagery and regular readings from poet Will Burns over the weekend.
Check out the website for more details on this year’s line-up.