Dales country house with a literary past will host Yorkshire’s first book festival exclusively for young readers

Festival organiser Trevor Wilson
Festival organiser Trevor Wilson
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Its history is attached to some of the oldest and most venerable printed works in existence, but for its next chapter, a country house in the Dales that was the seat of a long-extinct baronetcy will target a more casual reader.

Broughton Hall, near Skipton, home to the Tempest family since the 11th century, will be the location for the biggest story time Yorkshire has yet seen, when it hosts the county’s first children-only literature festival.

The first one will take place over four days in late September, with more than 65 authors and poets, and the participation of 200 local schools.

Yesterday’s announcement came, ironically, as the head of Ofsted warned that literacy standards among very young children had fallen to previously unseen levels, with many not having developed even basic language skills by the age of four.

The event in the Dales is the creation of Trevor Wilson, a retired teacher who runs Authors Abroad, an organisation that arranges visits to schools by children’s writers.

He said it had been a “lifelong dream” to bring some of the country’s best-known authors to the venue. His guest list includes the broadcaster and children’s novelist Clare Balding, and the cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.

Mr Wilson said: “We are delighted with the authors we have attracted so far and are very confident of adding a couple more star names shortly.

“I don’t just want to establish a new children’s literature festival in Yorkshire, exciting as that is. My aim is to make this the biggest festival of its kind in the UK.

“There has been nothing like this in the North of England, so we have entered uncharted territory, but we are proud of the substantial progress we have made to date.”

The festival continues a liter­ary tradition among Broughton Hall’s founding family that began in the 17th century with Sir Thomas Tempest, who established a library of religious books which now form part of the Harleien collection at the British Library. Many are thought to have originated with the medieval Benedictine monks of Durham Priory.

The new line-up will have a more secular flavour, with Sir Chris’s series of adventures about a cyclist called Flying Fergus, and Ms Balding’s stories of The Racehorse who Wouldn’t Gallop.

She said it was “a privilege” to be taking part in the inaugural festival, and added: “I loved reading as a child and I want to convey that love of literature to as many children today as I can today.

“Reading is hugely important when you are young. I think it allows children to escape into alternative worlds but it’s also a really good way of learning about practical and emotional situations.”

The Broughton Hall festival, which begins on September 27, will see visits by authors to all 200 schools in the Craven area, which collectively serve more than 40,000 children.

A short story competition run alongside the event will see a winner picked from each school.

Mr Wilson said: “All the schools contacted so far have been over the moon to be part of this initiative. Each winner will have their story published in a proper book, making them real authors.”

The festival will also raise money for a charity which trains teachers to recognise mental health issues in children.

The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, warned yesterday that many youngsters whose parents did not read them stories were trapped in a “vicious cycle” of disadvantage.

“Some children have less than a third of the English vocabulary of their peers,” she said.

In December the National Literacy Trust found that one child in 10 did not own a book.