In her ninth year of organising the North of England’s biggest literature festival, Rachel Feldberg shows no sign of flagging.

The festival director is full of excitement and energy as she completes the finishing touches to this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival.

She will need as much excitement and energy as she can muster to keep on top of the burgeoning reputation the festival is forging under her stewardship.

The big names, new talents, old favourites and plenty of the undiscovered gems all want to come to the party, which starts on Friday.

And for Mrs Feldberg, the reason why is in the town of Ilkley itself.

“It does seem to grow each year and it’s wonderful to have such a strong reputation and it’s a great accolade for Ilkley,” she said.

“Ilkley as a festival has a reputation of being exciting and very well run and also has the reputation of being very friendly, buzzing with great local shops and restaurants, and that’s part of what makes it a great festival.

“You can have a great festival and what people say is, ‘thank goodness it was a great festival because the rest of the town was horrendous’, but that’s never what people say about Ilkley.

“I think part of the festival’s ethos really is we want to find exciting events in lots of different genres in fiction and non-fiction across a wide range of ages. “We find that authors from a whole range of backgrounds with a whole range of interests provide extremely stimulating events and have written exciting books.

“So in many ways what we’re hoping we offer our audience is something they know they will enjoy and then something perhaps they haven’t thought of.

“It makes it an enormous amount of work but we have a very good team and you couldn’t run the festival without such a dedicated and hard-working team.”

Teamwork is vital to Mrs Feldberg and the festival team made up of a hardcore of four staff and plenty of volunteers.

Each year the same people happily devote hours of their time being stewards and generally helping out at the event, which runs until Sunday, October 16.

Mrs Feldberg said it helps make it all worthwhile.

“I think for me it probably gets more exciting because, and this is the same for all the staff, especially the four core staff, we eagerly anticipate the return of our friends and the people we’ve worked with before,” she said.

“We’ve met with all our stewards and it’s great they come back, and we’ve met the new stewards who haven’t come along before. Many of them have been to the festival and have decided to steward.

“We have a fantastic freelance team and every year it’s like the swallows coming back for summer. It has that wonderful feeling and people are so pleased to see each other and want to work on the team. It’s phenomenally hard work and some of the people who work on the festival have a day job, too.

“I think what makes the festival special is that sense of a common purpose and enjoyment and wanting to make it a 100 per cent fantastic experience for everybody – authors and audience.”

Of course, the festival would not be such a success without some of the big names.

This year’s highlights include Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Jeremy Paxman, Evan Davis, Alan Hollinghurst, Janet Street-Porter, Mark Radcliffe, Val McDermid and Bonnie Greer.

They will all be greeted by audiences who prove as much of a draw as the festival itself. And they also keep Mrs Feldberg and her team on their toes and knowing they are heading in the right direction.

“We find out because our audiences are always very good and they tell us,” she said.

“The wonderful thing about audiences in Yorkshire is they do tell you and they’re great. They are fulsome in their praise.

“If they enjoy something they’ll come and pick you out and tell you, which doesn’t always happen.

“But if there is a problem, I know about it really fast and so do all my staff and volunteers because people actually bother to mention it to us.

“So our authors always say the wonderful thing about coming to Yorkshire is people are so friendly and the questions people bother to ask are thoughtful.

“Sometimes you get an audience that sits quietly and it’s embarrassing for everyone, but Ilkley has a reputation for audiences that never do that.”

It is clear to see this year’s event will not slip quietly by either.

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