Competition winners 2

Black Ven poet, Sarah Acton, from Beer, who is Jurassic Coast poet-in-residence, judged the seven to 17 age group of the poetry competition. 

The winner is Kitty Prince, 12, with second prize going to Ellie Puddicombe, 10 and third place to Tia Bowman, seven.

Sarah said: ‘I was delighted by the overall quality of the poems in the children's poetry competition this year.  Both the winner and runners-up described the feeling of being by the sea with vivid detail and energy.”

Of Kitty’s poem, Sea Sky, she said its “imaginative and beautiful language to describe the colours of light reflected in the sea and sky,” made it stand out.

“Kitty paints a wonderful picture in our minds of the light changing over the moving water, which makes the everyday sea feel full of mystery and wonder.”

Of Ellie’s poem, The Beach, she described it as being “full of life and all of the bustle and noise of a summer’s day on the beach in Sidmouth.”

Tia’s poem is about the excitement of watching surfers from the beach. 

Competition winners 1

WINNERS of the adult section of this year’s Sun, Sea & Books poetry competition have been chosen by former Bard of Exeter, Mantie Lister.

“The poems were really hard to judge as they were all so well-crafted and offered a range of insights into the role and impact that the sea offers our daily lives,” said Mantie, who is currently the Creative Writing and Reviews Editor for the literary journal 'Harts and Minds'.

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the work, my thanks and compliments to the poets who have entered the competition.

The theme was The Sea.  First prize goes to Janet Beadsal for her poem: In Memory of a Surfer.

Mantie said: “The poem captures the relationships and conflicts between man and sea with sensitivity. A poem full to the brim of imagery.”

Second place went to Miriam Brown with Of the Incoming Tide, which Mantie described as “A fun and lively poem that captures the sense of pace and all-consuming nature of the sea.”

Joint third prize-winners are Philip Smith with Beachcombing and Janet Dowling with Pennington Point.

Pennington Point is a well-crafted villanelle that mirrors the rhythmic and repetitive nature of the sea with skill,” said Mantie, adding “Beachcombing is a strong poem that is full of imagery and nostalgia.”

Poetry of the sea

Once again we are running a poetry competition for this year's festival and your poem could win you book tokens. Our theme is "The Sea" though that could be the ice cold Atlantic, the warm Caribbean or something inspired by our own waters at Sidmouth beach.

The winners will be chosen by poets Alyson Hallett, who will be appearing at the festival on 25th June and Sarah Action, who is Jurassic poet-in-residence.

The closing date for entries is June 2nd.

Find out more by clicking the link or pick up a form in Paragon Books.

Entries can be returned to Sidmouth Library or to Please include your name, address and phone number (and age if under 18).

2017 Programme - now live

Our 2017 programme is available now and this year is bigger than ever before. We are thrilled to announce a fantastic line-up of authors including the nationally acclaimed crime writer Sophie Hannah; the Daily Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon; the best-selling romantic novelist Adele Parks; plus blogging sensation The Unmumsy Mum. And that’s just for starters!

For the budding writers amongst you, we will be running another ‘How To Get Published’ event with a panel of agents, editors, writers and journalists to help get your work into print; we will learn how to write an obituary with Valerie Grove who is a regular in the Telegraph and Oldie magazine and gather tips on short story writing from Karen Byrom, the fiction editor of My Weekly magazine.

The Festival is run purely by volunteers and any profits are ploughed back into the next event. The committee would like to thank everyone in the town who has supported us to make this possible. Your generosity is truly appreciated. We began the festival because we wanted to build on the rich literary legacy which helps to make Sidmouth stand out. And we believe that Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and RF Delderfield (amongst others) would approve. Please enable us to continue this wonderful tradition by supporting our guest speakers and making them feel at home in our unique seaside town.

Book your tickets now at Winstone’s Books or online at Eventbrite.

Pen a poem and win book tokens

There is still time to enter our poetry competition. We have had some great submissions so far.

There are three age categories:

8-11 year olds

12-18 year olds


Our theme is Why I love Sidmouth and the Sid Valley. Your poem can be inspired by the sea, the landscape, the people, the buildings. Take your pick and feel inspired.

Entries can be emailed to by Weds 18th May or posted to David Lloyd, 1 Coburg Terrace, Sidmouth, EX10 8NH.


A great line up of writers

There is something for everyone at this year's Sidmouth Literary Festival. 
Booker winner,Penelope Lively, will headline Friday afternoon looking back on a life of writing in conversation with our writer in residence, Jane Corry.

Before that on Friday morning writers can get top tips from industry insiders about how to get published, how to get an agent and how to market their work and get noticed. Experts from Penguin Viking and Pan Macmillan are on the panel. And there is a chance for one to one sessions with panellists for writers.

Charlotte Bronte will take centre stage on Friday afternoon when expert Juliet Barker will deliver a lecture to mark Bronte 200.

Thriller writer Robert Goddard will close Friday's programme. He is hugely successful and will explain his approach to novels with a twist.

On Saturday we welcome Falklands hero and inspirational speaker Simon Weston in conversation with BBC Radio Devon's Fitz.

Crime writer Isabelle Grey will talk about her work as a script writer for tv dramas and her series of crime novels.

Veronica Henry will provide chocolate and talk about chick lit in our mid afternoon session.

Debut novelist Kate Hamer talks about her acclaimed first novel The Girl in a Red Coat before handing over to Horse Whisperer author Nicholas Evans, who talks to Judi Spiers, as the curtain comes down on our two day festival.

Sea Fest to Lit Fest

We are into the home straight - five weeks to go to the Sidmouth Literary Festival.

This weekend we are at one of Sidmouth's four fab festivals as described in Devon Life's June edition ( thank you Devon Life and Annette ).

The Sea Fest celebrates our local coastal heritage and we will be there promoting tickets for our great line up of authors and personalities - Penelope Lively, Simon Weston, Nicholas Evans, Kate Hamer and Robert Goddard to name just a few.

We also want to inspire local writers too with our How to get Published session on Friday 10 June  - get your tickets

And for those budding poets we are running a competition for all ages around the theme Why I love Sidmouth and the Sid Valley in association with Paragon Books and with support from the Keith Owen Fund and St John's International School.

We will be getting some poems written at the Sea Fest with performance poet Mantie Lister helping to motivate visitors to pen a poem on our stall which is in the main stall marquee on Sidmouth's Ham at the Lifeboat end of the esplanade.

We hope to see some of you there.

Putting the Sidmouth Literary Festival together

It takes around six month's work with a committee made up entirely of volunteers to really put the festival in place.

Planning starts in September and October when we look at the line up of authors we would like - this is part aspiration, part inspiration, part living with the realities of who can come.

There is a lull around Christmas and New Year and then it all gets going again in mid January,

If all goes well we have a programme in place by March although it can be a roller coaster ride if authors haven't confirmed or we get the last minute No from someone.

It requires good contacts, ambition and knowing what Sidmouth and the surrounding area would like to see in relation to a final author line up.

We are always looking for new blood to join the committee. Skills like fundraising are very high on our list!



Falklands hero and inspirational speaker at Sidmouth's Literary Festival

Falklands hero Simon Weston's courage is well documented and we are looking forward to welcoming him on day two of Sidmouth's Literary Festival at a special breakfast event on Saturday, June 11.

He will be accompanied by BBC Radio Devon's David Fitzgerald - Fitz and they will talk about the work they have done together including the creation of a children's books series.

It promises to be an inspirational occasion. Tickets are online www.sidmouthlitfest, or at Winstone's Books, the Tourist Office or the local library in Sidmouth.



Sidmouth's Literary Connections

Jane Austen, Conan Doyle, Tolkien, Rupert Brook, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Beatrix Potter, HG Wells.... these are just a few of the eminent authors who have lived or visited Sidmouth over the last 200 plus years.

Now for the first time the legacy is captured in one place.

We are excited to be helping to launch Sidmouth Museum's guide to our literary heritage on day one of the Sidmouth Literary Festival.

Nigel Hyman, the Museum's curator, has created a fascinating story, charting the various names who have visited the town or who took up residence here.

We will be posting more details about the guide and how to get it in a future blog and on the Sidmouth Literary Festival's  home page. Watch this space!

Pen a Poem

Our festival wants to inspire people to discover the poet in them. We have got a competition on the theme 'Why I love Sidmouth and the Sid Valley'.  The town was celebrated by John Betjeman who loved its charm. 

Sidmouth and the surrounding area is still a lovely place to work and live so we thought it was time to show how much we appreciated it.

The competition is open to people from eight year olds to 80 years plus. Across the generations it's a special opportunity to write and enjoy. We have prizes for the best work in each category and a celebration event to recognise the winners.

You can write about the sea, the town, the people, the buildings, the Jurassic cliffs.

We'd love schools to put student work forward as long it's broadly on the theme of Why I love Sidmouth.

We are grateful to St John's International School and the Keith Owen Fund for sponsoring the competition and to Paragon Books for hosting an event on June 6 at Sidmouth Library.

You can submit a poem on one side of A4 by email to

Entries need to be in by Wednesday May 18 2016.

How to get published

Breaking through the barrier of publication can be tough for any would be writer. It's not just the drafting and redrafting of that first novel, memoir, or history book.

Getting attention for your work is challenging, time consuming and requires resilience and self belief.

Sidmouth Literary Festival is offering new authors the chance to get the very best advice about the highs and lows of publishing at a How to get published seminar on the first day of the festival, Friday 10 June.

We have a great line up with two leading commissioning editors from Penguin Viking and Pan Macmillan teaming up with a leading self publishing house and two literary agents.

The three hour session ( with a break in the middle) gives you the chance to hear from the experts, ask questions and also get one to one feedback on your work in Part 2 of this event.

If you want to submit a 500 word extract from something you are working on please may sure you submit it by Friday 20 May by email to: Jane is our writer in residence and can speak at first hand about the route to publication and recognition.

Her novel My Husband's Wife is out in August as is published by Penguin Viking.

Guy Burgess Spies and Lies Lunch May 17

We have got a fascinating author event coming next month. Andrew Lownie has published an acclaimed biography of the spy Guy Burgess, the Devon born traitor, who passed secrets to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. 

Andrew is going to give an illustrated talk about Burgess who was apparently a charming drunk as well as an effective operator for the other side of the Iron Curtain. The book provides one of the best insights into the psyche of Burgess and his work passing secrets to Moscow.

It's the second lunch prior the Sidmouth Literary Festival on June 10 and 11 at Kennaway House.

The May 17 event promises to be a fascinating event. Tickets can be booked online at or from Winstone's Books in Sidmouth.