New charity status for popular ‘books and boots’ festival

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A NEW charity has been formed to run the Richmond Walking and Book Festival, a fixture in the town for 15 years.

The charity, Richmond Walking and Book Festival, has successfully registered with the Charity Commission. Eight local people, including several involved in previous festivals, have stepped up to become trustees, with Barbara Gravenor elected as chair.

Plans are underway for a varied and creative festival with a wide range of interesting literary events and a programme of walks to suit various levels of fitness and experience. The 2021 event will run from September 18 to 26 with links to the 950th anniversary of the founding of Richmond Castle.

Barbara Gravenor said: “We hope our current sponsors and advertisers will continue to support the festival and look forward to support from the Town Council, Castle Hill Bookshop and Swaledale Outdoor Club. We were all disappointed when the 2020 festival was cancelled but intend to be back next year with an exciting walking and book programme.”

The idea of a Walking Festival for Richmond emerged from a community led strategy produced by a group of local residents who had formed a charity, the Richmond Swale Valley Community Initiative (RSCVI). This venture aimed to give people the opportunity to make a difference to where they lived and develop a sustainable economic, social and environmental future for Richmond.

The first Walking Festival was held in 2005 organised by RSVCI and supported by members of Swaledale Outdoor Club (SOC) and Richmond Ramblers. Then in 2007 Castle Hill Bookshop became involved and a book festival was added to provide evening entertainment for visitors to the Walking Festival.

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Over the years the RSVCI had attracted funding from a variety of sources for projects in and around Richmond and was able to employ a town manager until April 2012. However, in 2013 the RSVCI made the decision to wind up due to lack of regular funding, although its legacy lives on in the many other groups, organisations and individuals who continue to be involved in activities initiated by the RSVCI.

Those people who were involved with the Walking and Book Festival were enthusiastic for it to continue, so SOC agreed to take on the responsibility of organising and running the walking side of the festival while the Castle Hill Bookshop continued to arrange the book side and ticket sales for the festival.

In its 16th year the festival had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to the bookshop reviewing its involvement in the festival and deciding to stand down from organising the event. The SOC were happy to continue to provide walk leaders but felt they were not in a position to organise a book festival or tickets sales.

We have therefore formed a new charity to run the annual Richmond Walking and Book Festival. Most of those involved in the past few years will be continuing to organise the event in the future. As well as members of SOC and Richmond Ramblers our Festival organisers include representatives of Catterick, Richmond and Colburn Community Libraries (CRACCL) and Walking for Health. Our joint aims are to advance public education in the art of literature and to promote healthy recreation, plus giving a greater knowledge of local history and the natural environment through providing guided walks in the countryside.

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Mrs Gravenor added: “The book side of the festival provides an opportunity to meet celebrated authors, discover new ones and engage in a full programme of evening literature events. Past festivals have also included more participatory events such as a Poetry Open Mic and Book Club discussions.

“The walking festival introduces people to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in autumn with daily walks for amblers, ramblers and serious walkers led by friendly guides, keen to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the Dales.

“We are confident that the newly formed charity will deliver an exciting and enjoyable festival between September 18 and 26, 2021 and contribute to Richmond Castle’s and the town’s 950th birthday celebrations.”



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