Ceri Shaw



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Gladfest 2021 - An Interview With Rhian Waller

user image 2021-08-18
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Events


Screenshot from 20210818 094457.jpg

Gladfest 2021 details click here

AmeriCymru:  Hi Rhian and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What can you tell us about the location and history of the Gladstone Library.

Rhian: Hi Ceri, nice to chat with you.  

Gladstone's Library is based in beautiful Hawarden in Flintshire, North Wales. The library collection was originally based in a temporary building set up by William Gladstone, who was prime minister several times over. After his death, a new building - the one which stands today - was designed and built. It has been described as an example of the Victorian Gothic style, but I'm not an architecture buff, so don't quote me on that. I can tell you it's the only library in the UK where you can stay overnight; the building houses 26 bedrooms. It has two wings - you'll find the Reading Rooms in one wing and most of the bedrooms in the other. Some of the books belonged to Gladstone himself. The beds are all new, though.

AmeriCymru:  You offer accommodation at the library. Care to share some details?

Rhian: I think I accidentally answered that (and Q2) in my first response. Yes, there are bedrooms on-site, including two accessible rooms on the ground floor. They're designed to be simple and uncluttered; a lot of our guests come to Gladstone's to write or research, so the fewer distractions, the better. None of them have TVs, but they all have private bathrooms and fresh, uncomplicated decor. 

Gladstone's is a registered charity, and its remit includes supporting and hosting both emerging and established writers. Our Writers in Residence scheme is part of this. Katie Hale, who wrote  I am Monster , will be our next Writer in Residence, so she'll be staying with us in one of those rooms for an extended period - and she will also make an appearance at Gladfest. 

AmeriCymru:  There were guided tours of the library. Have these resumed 'post-pandemic'?

Rhian: Gladstone's did offer 'glimpses' of our Reading Rooms. This is a working library, and our Reading Rooms are silent study spaces, but we found that a lot of visitors who came here for cake and coffee were curious about what went on behind the library doors. Glimpses allowed us to show them the Reading Rooms, which are the really iconic part of Gladstone's, and to share a bit of the history. We are still thinking about how best to proceed when we reopen, but for now glimpses are on hold. 

AmeriCymru:  When was the first Gladfest held? What is the history of the event?

 Gladfest was first held in 2013 and has been a mainstay of our calendar ever since. The pandemic in 2020 made it unworkable, and we were unsure whether it would go ahead this year, so we're really pleased to be able to offer what we can. It's going to take some adjusting, as our supporters are used to being at Gladstone's in person. We know the library building itself is a big part of the draw. Going online means that will change for our attendees. But if the event is successful, that will be a big boost in terms of ensuring Gladfest 2022 can offer both digital and in-person events.

AmeriCymru:  What are the main attractions of this years' festival?

Rhian: We don't really have a keynote speaker or headliner, exactly. All our writers offer unique and fascinating glimpses into the world of literature, whether that's fiction or non-fiction. So, really, they are all our main attractions! There is one slightly unusual talk this year, however. Peter Francis, who has been Warden of Gladstone's Library, is launching his debut, a memoir called  The Widening Circle of Us . The book features insights into the running of Gladstone's Library, as that has been a significant part of his life, so that's going to be interesting. 

AmeriCymru:  There is an online component to this year's festival. Care to tell us more?

Rhian: The festival is still based in Gladstone's Library. All the talks will be livestreamed from the chapel using 4k video feeds, so though it's online, it won't be like watching a teleconference through a webcam. We liked the idea of opening Gladfest up to the whole world, of having Gladstone's go global. We want to bring the library to you.

AmeriCymru:  Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Rhian: Firstly, thank you for reading. If you do want to keep in touch, we have a mailing list which you can sign up to at  www.gladstoneslibrary.org . We also have a US branch of our Friends programme. Our Friends are financial supporters, and we're very grateful to them, as they make it possible for us to do what we do. Finally, if any of you find yourself in Wales, do pop in for a paned. 


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