10 February 2023
Gary Dalkin meets Dominic Wong and Ildiko SpinFisher, the faces behind the brand new writing festival
GD: Your new festival is deliberately called the Bournemouth Writing Festival — it’s not a literary festival. So, the first thing I want to ask is, what’s the difference between a writing festival and a literary festival?
Ildiko: We were very conscious from the outset that we want to foster a writing community. This isn’t a literary festival where authors come to sell their book by focusing their talks on their latest release. We are going under the bonnet to understand the craft so you can learn and improve, and in the process meet other local writers for support — we know writing is a lonely business!
Dominic: Yes! The Bournemouth Writing Festival’s ethos is to inspire writers to write, regardless if you are a complete beginner, starting out again or a more seasoned pro. The talks and workshops we are putting on are to help writers progress and improve their writing. For example, Alex Stone is talking about using location as a character, and Aoife Mannix is talking about creating credible characters. Our speakers all have experience in the writing industry — whether for the screen, fiction or non-fiction, newspapers or poetry, or whether they are on the other side of the table helping writers get published. We’ve got publishers, publicists, coaches and even a media lawyer on the programme. Since tickets went on sale, we’ve had bookings from afar away as Birmingham and London. So it’s definitely of interest for all writers and it’s great that Bournemouth is reaping the rewards of the festival.
Ildiko: And our Twitter feed gives writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing and to give pointers for your writing.
GD: So is the festival just for local writers, or is it for everyone? And what steps have you taken to make it as inclusive as possible? There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how the writing world can be very white, middle class and middle-aged…
Ildiko: Bournemouth is fast becoming known as a hotbed for creativity and innovation and both Dominic and I have been integral in this movement across a whole section of its diverse population. We want to see Bournemouth on the map of writing creativity by putting on talks, workshops, panels and activities designed to get everyone writing. Essentially, we want to give the tips, tools and confidence to hear people’s voices and stories from every walk of life.
Dominic: That’s right. In fact, I am hosting a panel on getting your voice heard with Aanka Batta and Si Mack, who both have worked tirelessly in the diversity and inclusion sector — from people with colour and migrants to homelessness and mental health. We want Bournemouth to be the place where there is a welcoming and supportive community for all writers, wherever you live and what your background is.
GD: Could you tell us something about your backgrounds and what inspired you to start the Bournemouth Writing Festival?
Dominic: At school, I loved writing. In fact, I wanted to be a journalist and did my work experience at a local newspaper and a national magazine. Ironically, my first choice university was Bournemouth but I didn’t get my grades and ended up in Birmingham doing a marketing degree. From there, I got into entertainment marketing, first at Capital Radio, then at Disney. I became the first marketing director at the Harry Potter Studio Tour as well as Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood and lived for a year in the UAE launching Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. After that, my family relocated to Boscombe where I became a self-employed marketing consultant for the leisure and tourism industry, getting involved in local businesses and creative initiatives. For example, I founded the Bournemouth Beach Walk and Talk which is a networking group for entrepreneurs, and I was a trustee at the Regent Centre in Christchurch. It was here that I started to get back into long-form writing and had the time and headspace to write novels. I self-published my first novel (The Opposite Sides of a Coin) in 2021 and wrote the second in lockdown, drawing inspiration from my time volunteering at a foodbank.
By being exposed to and involved in the emerging creative scene in Bournemouth, and by getting back into writing, I found many writers in the area, including Ildiko. Together, we realised there was a groundswell of talent in the area, but that it was fragmented. We thought about ways to connect the dots and create a thriving, supportive writing community, which we wanted to do it in a way that people progressed and improved their writing…
Ildiko: I have always loved writing. I wrote my first book of poems when I was ten. I was fortunate to get to meet one of the most famous Hungarian poets, Nemes Nagy Ágnes and read my poems to her. She loved them and that is an experience I treasure. At 12 years old I was reading The Lord of the Rings and my parents took it away because I wasn’t eating, sleeping or doing my homework! I love reading and have a vast collection of books.
I also love illustration and I learned the craft while doing my design degree at Huddersfield University. I dipped into journalism in 2017 when I became the UK editor for an online global magazine called LifeGrid. In 2013 I put together the bare bones of a book; the distillation of over 10 years of private practice as an expert in working with the biofield. However, I knew that it was not the right time to publish it. During lockdown in 2020, I felt that it was time to transform my notes into a book so I enrolled on a course run by best-selling author, Micheal Heppell, and started to learn what it takes to become a successful writer. Because I was taught by an expert, I landed the publisher of my choice immediately and I was able to pre-sell my books before my book launch.
I published my first book, Energy Aware — Live a Life of No Mistakes, in spring 2021. I love writing and I am currently working on my second book, Rewilding Humans. I am passionate about helping other budding authors to be successful, because what I realised is that it is a challenging path and without guidance and support it is fraught with pitfalls. Both Dominic and I want to create a thriving and inspirational event to provide the information and knowledge that is needed for anyone wanting to write and publish their material successfully.
GD: Finally, and hopefully without upsetting anyone you don’t mention, what are some of the highlights of the festival people should look out for, or events you are most excited about or proud to have been able to bring to the audience?
Dominic: Wow, that’s a hard question to answer because we have more than 60 different events! We surveyed our subscribers to find out what people wanted so we’ve really been directed by writers’ needs as to the events we’ve curated. That included wanting to find out about publishing contracts and other legal issues (we’ve got media lawyer Luke English to talk about that), networking with other local writers (we’ve got genre breakfasts and social activities for that) and learning the craft (we’ve got lots of authors to help with that!).
There are two events I am most excited about. The Open Mic on the Saturday night is going to be really special (writers can submit their entry now) and I’m looking forward to hearing our talented, local writers in a supportive environment. And I am super excited for Timo Peach’s keynote speech on the Sunday night. Timo is a dynamic, stunning, performance artist – you just have to see him – and is going to be talking about the future of words and how we as creatives can be influences for positive, everlasting change. That’s one NOT to be missed!
Ildiko: The Bournemouth Writing Festival will be showcasing a treasure trove of incredibly talented and experienced people in the writing arena. A panoply of experts will be lifting the lid off their process of writing and producing material for a wide range of genres and fields. I am particularly excited about our presenters, book publicist and PR guru Isabelle Knight, Sophie Beal from Cadence Publishing, and Briony Hartley, royal book designer and graphic design tutor at Arts University Bournemouth. Their talks will be an amazing opportunity for writers and authors to gain information and advice from them which is not easily obtained. But in truth, every single presenter, workshop leader and activity creator will be giving our attendees a wealth of inspiration and practical knowledge that is setting a new tone for how we celebrate literature and writing in all its forms.
Bournemouth Writing Festival will take place between 21 and 23 April in Bournemouth, Dorset. For more information, click here.