Category Archives: 2015 Festival

Ali Bacon Reminisces about the First HULF

Ali Bacon with two authors

Ali Bacon, calmly controlling the packed programme of readings atht every first HULF in 2015 . To her far left is John Holland, organiser of Stroud Short Stories and also of HULF’s short stories programme.

As we gear up for HULF 2020 this April, Ali Bacon, prize-winning Scottish author of novels and short-stories and a regular fixture in the HULF speakers’ list, shares her delight in watching the event develop since its inception back in 2015.

Times past and times to come, or, Ask not what HULF can do for you…!

I’m one of those lucky people who through a variety of circumstances (bumping into Debbie Young at the right time and not having much in my diary!) became involved in HULF at the very beginning.

What an impact that first evening made and what a joy it has been to see it grow and develop from year to year.

Remembering the First Ever HULF

On that very first day I remember sitting outside the back door of the pub issuing directions.

It’s great to think how many of the acquaintances I made on that day have been have been renewed from year to year and how some have become real friends in the real or virtual world.

What was my role that night?

I remember moving a few seats (which Debbie moved back because she knows best!) and being part of a reading in a tent. The most challenging part was helping chair a short story session where there was very stiff competition from the non-literary revellers in the bar!

From One Night in the Pub to a Whole-Day Event

From there we quickly progressed to a whole day event, with panel discussions as well as readings, still based in the pub, but with a slightly calmer ambience during daylight hours!

A children’s book tent was added and the ‘young people’ strand has grown alongside poetry workshops and advice on publishing.

Subsequently HULF expanded into extra spaces – Methodist Chapel, Bethesda Chapel, the primary school and the village hall.  Last year we had a ‘proper’ book shop as well as the luxury of the village hall for auditorium-style presentations.

Wow. And all of this is free!

Yes, it’s free in terms of ticketing, but it’s not exactly something for nothing. There is simply no charge for the vast amount of work undertaken by Debbie. And of course we writers (some of whom come considerable distances) understand our services are provided on the same basis –we bring something to the show in exchange for the chance to meet people, network and sell a few books.

Since 2018 this has also been put on a more formal footing (and quite right too). It’s not enough to wait for an email from Debbie, we must apply to be there and ‘set out our stall’.

What can I bring? It’s a very good question – I’ve read short stories and from novels, I’ve discussed being a writer with many different hats – contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and as a writer inspired by art. So ‘what next’ for HULF is also what next for me…

We’re pleased to announce that Ali Bacon will be taking part in the HULF2020 event “Around the World in 8ish Books”, chaired by Caroline Sanderson at 4pm, in which she’ll be putting Scotland on the map with a reading from her masterful novel, In the Blink of an Eye, about early photography pioneers in Edinburgh.

image of Ali Bacon headshot with the cover of In the Blink of an EyeAli Bacon writes novels and short stories and is lucky enough to live in South Gloucestershire just down the road from Hawkesbury Upton. She has been at every festival so far and manned the Festival tent at Hawkesbury Show a few times too. Find out more at or on Twitter @AliBacon

Mari Howard Shares Fond Memories of the First Ever HULF

This week’s guest blogger is novelist and poet Mari Howard, author of the excellent Mullins Family Saga series, Mari took part in the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival and has  been a staunch supporter ever since.


My piece for the ongoing HULF Festival blog is vintage Hawkesbury LitFest – Shakespeare’s birthday (when else?) 2015.

We arrived in Hawkesbury mid afternoon, left our luggage at The Fox Inn, and went to find HULF founder Debbie Young. Soon we were in her garden, behind her delightful cottage (which must have inspired her Sophie Sayers cosy mystery series!), drinking tea, along with fellow festival Indie writer John Lynch. The sun shone and it was very cosy (for outdoors in late spring) and not too mysterious.

An Evening Event

Mari Howard shares her work with the enthusiastic audience.
Picture by Clint Randall

The evening (HULF 2015 was just an evening event) then began in the marquee, set up in the garden of The Fox. Various of us writers read from our work, to an audience of other writers, members of the Hawkesbury writers’ group, and other local residents. I think this was my first “Reading from my work” in front of an entirely unknown audience, and I wasn’t nervous – the whole thing was fun. Trying to remember who was there, I think I recall Ali Bacon, and I definitely recall Ellie Stevenson, (who was also staying over at The Fox), and of course John Lynch who we’d met earlier. Also Caroline Sanderson from BBC Radio Gloucester, and Lynn Pardoe whom I sat next to.

As the evening cooled and twilight took over, the event moved into a long room at the rear of The Fox itself, used for receptions. A larger audience had gathered by this time, I’d have been able to view some of our books in the small ante-room area, and also some delightful drawings of dragons and other fantasy characters by Sophie Tallis.

Special Guests Katie Fforde & Orna Ross

We had an encouraging address from Katie Fforde (President of the Romantic Novelists Association ). And since we were all independent authors, we also heard from Orna Ross, founder of ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors*). Orna read some of her poetry and talked about the background to ALLi. Our revels ended, the evening was brought to a close by Michael  MacMahon performing Prospero’s closing speech from The Tempest, which has now become a tradition. (*affiliate link)

(From left to right) Orna Ross, Debbie Young and Katie Fforde (Photo by Clint Randall

Making History

Next morning, a few of us who had stayed over, including Ellie Stevenson, joined Orna and her husband and Debbie for coffee and a chat at the Bodkin, just down the road from Hawkesbury. This was the defining moment, in a way – the festival hade been a great success, and it was definitely in the calendar to happen again.

A prophetic journey home from the Festival for Mari Howard

The rest, as they say, is history. But looking back, I feel enormous affection for that small, cosy, HULF. Symbolically, as we drove home, we found ourselves following a library van – next year, 2016, the larger all-day HULF, with cafe, children’s books section, visual art, and poetry all added, was opened from the local mobile library.


photo of South Gloucestershire mobile library van

Literally the launch vehicle for HULF 2016!

Debbie Young kicks off HULF 2016 from the steps of the mobile library, with Clare Carter from BBC Radio Gloucestershire