Shrewsbury Bookfest was founded in May 1999. It was at the time the only exclusively children’s literary festival in the country. Since then, Bookfest has grown considerably, developed new projects and has established a fine reputation for excellence amongst authors, publishers and keen supporters.
It obtained charitable status in 2007, and in 2009 won a Queen’s Award for Excellence in the Voluntary Sector – the equivalent of an MBE and the highest award that can be given to a voluntary organisation.
Shrewsbury Bookfest has always been an independent, not-for-profit organisation, governed by a non-executive Board of Trustees. The Committee is primarily made up of a group of dedicated, hard working volunteers who collectively put in hundreds of hours to deliver continually evolving and successful reading development projects.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Bookfest has received this well deserved award and I am very very proud of the whole committee; they have always acted with such enthusiasm and commitment and I am always delighted to take part in the festival which has gone from strength to strength.”
Dame Jacqueline Wilson
President of Shrewsbury Bookfest
In 2009 Shrewsbury Bookfest was announced as one of 95 volunteering groups from across the UK winning the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This prestigious National Honour, which is equivalent to the MBE, recognises the outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups voluntarily devoting their time for the benefit of others. It sets the national benchmark for excellence in volunteering, and the activities of those awarded have been judged of the highest standard. Shrewsbury Bookfest was given the Award for its work in “inspiring, enthusing and entertaining children through literature and the arts”.
Sophie Peach, Chair of the Bookfest Organising Committee said: “We are extremely honoured to have received this Award. We are very grateful for the tremendous support and goodwill we have received over the years from local organisations, businesses, schools and families. And we’re grateful to the wonderful authors and illustrators who have come to Shrewsbury and enthused and inspired so many thousands of children.
Beanstalk is a national charity that provides one-to-one literacy support to children who struggle with their reading ability and confidence.
The Arts Society Shrewsbury is actively engaged in supporting local Young Arts projects such as Bookfest’s Book Award.
Sophie Peach is Chair of Bookfest, a position she’s held since 2007, as well as being a passionate, professional advocate for all things communicative. A founding partner of ‘Words Aloud,’ a national provider of public speaking skills for primary school children, Sophie’s energies for helping the younger generation create self-confidence ties in with all she does at Bookfest, where she leads on Book Award, our KS1 and KS2 initiative.’
Her favourite children’s book is ‘The Butterfly Lion,’ by Michael Morpurgo.
‘Local chartered surveyor, entrepreneur and father of three, Ben, brings with him many years of both corporate and fundraising experience. Keen to drive the business side, Ben blends his professional creativity with a strengths in networking and strategic planning, all balanced out by a love of reading which stretches back years.
Spoilt for choice with his own favourite book, it’s a dead heat between Michael Rosen’s ‘Little Rabbit Foo Foo,’ and Robert Westall’s ‘The Machine Gunners.’
Current affairs and financial journalist, Sarah Johnson, combines a love for both reading and writing in her role at Bookfest, where she provides well-worded marketing help, along with keeping a close eye on the administrative duties in her role of Secretary. Working part-time as a professional pet-whisperer, Sarah likes nothing better – books aside – than the great outdoors, whether walking, climbing or rowing with Pengwern Boat Club.
Her favourite children’s book is Ian Serraillier’s war-time classic, The Silver Sword.
Bookfest wouldn’t have been born were it not for the passion and enthusiasm of our founding member and trustee, Caroline Thewles, who began the charity in 1999. Having taken the idea of a local children’s literary festival from an idea to an institution is no mean feat, and Caroline has been – and continues to be – key to all that we achieve. With strong local connections, a vibrant personality and an incredible work ethic, everyone who’s ever enjoyed a Bookfest event has Caroline to thank. Now focusing largely on Bookfest Remembers, she fondly remembers her favourite childhood book as “Br’er Rabbit – preferably read by my father in a rather odd American accent.”
Former magazine editor, voice-over artist and independent publishing professional, Annabel Warburg, has brought her multi-faceted talents to Bookfest for many years, forming a critical part of the interplay between our work and local schools. Blessed with not just a passion, but an insightful understanding, for literature and publishing, Annabel’s insightful skill-set honed from years working within print media helps guide and focus our work, particularly that of BookAward and Schools’ Week, at every stage.
Her favourite children’s book is ‘Winter Holiday,’ by Arthur Ransome.
Elly Winter is our Treasurer, a position she’s held since early 2016. Elly brings her experience of working for a large animal charity, her HR & banking background to ensure the numbers balance at the end of the year and we are people compliant.
Elly’s love of books goes back to when she was a little girl when she used to play libraries with her collection of books, something that her daughter has also created with her collection.
Elly’s favourite children’s book is ‘ The World of Christopher Robin’ by A.A Milne, Elly still has her childhood version of this book.
Jane has been a primary teacher and then headteacher for many years. Recently retired, she was delighted to become part of Bookfest. Jane has, as a teacher, been involved with Bookfest for a number of years. She brings her experience of working with children to developing activities around reading for the Bookfest projects.
Jane’s love of books goes back to when she read with her father at a young age and she still enjoys reading the children’s books. She can’t resist visiting a bookshop wherever she is.
Jane’s favourite children’s book is ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett.