A New Face for The Chiswick Book Festival 2016

Author Programme Director Jo James says she "can't wait" to get started

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Jo James has spent almost all her adult life surrounded by books and yet, as a child, she far preferred horses. It wasn't until she was a teenager that she became captivated by books and this love of literature soon propelled her into a career in the book trade.

Jo, who has just been appointed as this year's Author Programme Director of the Chiswick Book Festival which will run from September 15th to September 19th, has twenty years experience at running and programming book events at festivals including Cheltenham, Stratford and Dubai. She is a former events team leader at Waterstones and Ottakar's.

Jo James

She takes over the role in Chiswick from Cathy Schofield, the former organiser of World Book Day, who programmed the Festival for three years and has now moved with her family out of London. (Torin Douglas remains as Festival Director with Dinah Garrett as the Festival Administrator).

Coming back to W4 will be something of a homecoming for Jo, who is now based in the Cotswolds. Her parents once lived in Wellesley Road, and she was born at Middlesex General Hospital in Isleworth. The family moved out of west London, but Jo later came to work in the Waterstone's head office in Brentford from 2006-2010 and set up home in Kew.

"I have very fond associations with Chiswick, and I'm still a member of Kew Gardens. I feel very at home in west London, and really look forward to working with the team for the book festival. I can't wait to get started."

The Chiswick Book Festival has become a hugely popular local event. Since her appointment was announced, emails have been coming into Jo's Inbox from agents and publishers, all keen to promote their own authors. It can be a challenge finding enough elements to satisfy everyone but Jo says the value of a good story can never be underestimated.

"We love books for escapism, or for expanding our imagination, or our knowledge, for transporting us to new worlds. And nowadays with so much social media, instant reviews and things going viral, a book can take off quite quickly. People love a good story well-told, whether it's a book, or on radio, or television, we all love something that completely absorbs us."

As a child Jo says she preferred to be playing outside rather than cooped up inside. But as a teenager she swapped her horse-themed novels by Dick Francis and Jilly Cooper for Bruce Chatwin's On the Black Hill and A History of the World in 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes and never looked back. "From reading those books I discovered a love of literature which eventually propelled me into the book trade."

All book festivals need to attract the 'headline' authors, who sell-out the halls and help to fund the debut authors and niche interests of the reading public. At this stage it's too soon to say who the big names will be for the 2016 Chiswick Book Festival but Jo says she is keen to hear opinions and suggestions from local residents in W4. You can contact her at jo@jojames.co.uk.

If you would like to propose authors or events or discuss sponsorship or volunteering, please contact Dinah Garrett, the Festival administrator.


January 28, 2016