Booking for the 2016 Winchester Writers’ Festival is now open, and so are applications for bursaries and scholarships. Since these schemes helped me get to the festival twice–in 2014 with a bursary and in 2015 with a scholarship–it seems well worthwhile passing on the message and making sure that the event is open to everyone who wants to go.
- Are limited to writers aged 18-25.
- Cover the entire cost of a full weekend ticket to the festival.
- Are extremely competitive: there are only 10 places available.
- Close on April 7th, 2016.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a student to apply for a scholarship. If you are, it’s probably to your advantage because that demonstrates a commitment to writing, but you can demonstrate that commitment in any number of other ways. Full details of the application process can be found here, but it ultimately boils down to showing that you’re already working hard at becoming a better writer and that a ticket to the festival would further your goals.
- Are open to anyone.
- Cover £50 of the cost of any festival ticket.
- Are far less competitive than scholarships.
- Close on April 15th, 2016.
A bursary will only cover a bit more than a tenth of the cost of a full weekend ticket, so probably won’t make for an opportunity to stick around for the whole thing. However, every little helps, so if you aren’t eligible for (or don’t manage to get) a scholarship then applying for a bursary would still be well worthwhile. It would, for example, nearly halve the price of a Sunday ticket (though I’d highly recommend choosing a day that includes some one-to-one appointments as these are extremely helpful). Full details are available on the same page as the scholarship information (but you have to scroll down a bit).
And in general:
The Friday evening events at the Winchester Writers’ Festival are open free to the general public, so if you’re not too far away then it’s worth turning up then even if you don’t have a ticket. This also makes the Friday/Saturday tickets fairly good value, since you can get a couple of one-to-one appointments with agents/authors/publishers, your choice of classes (Friday) or talks (Saturday), and the free public events for about half the cost of a full ticket.
The Writers’ Festival is a big help when it comes to making contacts and getting noticed, in an environment where new writers typically just have to fling their manuscripts at agents over the internet and hope one of them likes it. Talking to these people in person won’t make them any more likely to publish your work, but if nothing else it’ll let you know why they won’t, and that’s an opportunity to improve it when you’d otherwise have just had a generic rejection email. If that. Agents and publishers are busy, but they set aside time for festivals.
The downside of this is that it costs you to turn up. The Winchester Writers’ Festival isn’t cheap. Just turning up on Sunday and catching the tail-end of it–which won’t include a one-to-one meeting with anyone–will cost you £110. If you want to attend the full three days, it comes to £425. You can find a more complete list of packages here. How much you have to spend on transport and/or accommodation will depend where you’re coming from and how long you’re staying, but it all adds up. Long story short: it’s a great opportunity, but it isn’t cheap.
This is why the bursaries and scholarships are so important. The kind of people who’d benefit most from the literary leg-up the festival offers–those who haven’t made a name for themselves yet–are exactly the same kind of people who aren’t likely to have half a grand sitting in the glovebox of their Ferrari. For me, the bursary in 2014 helped me cover the cost of a single day at the festival when I didn’t have a job and hadn’t yet started my MA. The scholarship in 2015 was pretty much my only opportunity for a whole-weekend ticket. I’m guessing that a good chunk of the people reading this will be in a similar situation: that is to say, typically young and without a whole lot of disposable income. If that sounds like you, but you’d still like to attend, I’d really recommend applying for a scholarship or a bursary (and hopefully I’ll see you there!).
Finally, if there’s any chance you could help spread the word about the festival and the schemes available to help people attend, that would be fantastic.