One woman’s vision to make Budleigh Salterton the home of the best small literary festival in Britain.

Susan Ward

The Literary Festival was founded in 2009 by the late Susan Ward, whose aim was to attract critically acclaimed authors, poets and playwrights to Budleigh Salterton to share their work and experiences.

The festival has more than doubled in size over the past ten years; the inaugural festival saw 24 events running across three days, with authors including Sir Michael Morpurgo, Dame Hilary Mantel, and Professor Martin Sorrell. Last year’s festival saw 52 different talks, workshops and events across five days.

Charles Ward, husband of festival founder Susan Ward who sadly died in 2012, explained: “Susan wanted it to become the best small literary festival in the country and her programmes reflected her notice of the unusual or the novel.”

“Wonderfully, the festival has fulfilled Susan’s vision of being a nationally-established perennial event that brings credit to the small seaside town of Budleigh Salterton.”

Supporting Susan’s vision was the first festival president, the journalist and former BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs presenter Sue Lawley OBE, who was living in Budleigh at the time and was approached by Susan.

Sue Lawley explained: “Ten years on, the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival had proved – if any proof were needed – how successful the printed page remains in its ceaseless war with radio, television, talking books, Kindles and the Internet. None of these adversaries had yet undermined the enjoyment of holding a good book in your hands.”

The annual festival increased in popularity year-on-year, with a fourth day added to the programme in 2014, and a further fifth day added in 2017.

Double Man Booker Prize Winner, Dame Hilary Mantel, DBE, took over the role of festival president in 2012.

Dame Hilary said: “Our town has three great advantages – its spectacular natural setting, its compact centre, and a corps of willing and charming volunteers, ready to make both writers and readers feel welcome.

“The Festival’s heart remains local, and its unique flavour comes from the contributions of those who, for no money and little glory, work year-round in the background. The sun sets on our last event and planning for next September begins.”

Susan Ward, Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Susan Ward