Get ready for the first Westgate Literary Festival

Literary festival event

A full programme of authors and speakers will take part in the new Westgate-on-Sea Literary Festival this weekend.

The two day event celebrates literature for all, embracing established and new authors and works across all genres for all age groups. The festival includes talks and activities delivered by writers and experts from the industry. It runs on September 14-15 in venues across Westgate.

The aim is to showcase local and national authors and literary talent through workshops, talks and panel discussions, experts in children’s writing, published novelists and non-fiction authors. Current strands include crime fiction, romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy, children’s fiction, ePublishing and autobiographical writing. There will also be a range of writing workshops and a wandering poet who will be writing about Westgate as they go.

Running alongside this are events across the two days for children. These include children’s authors reading from their stories and talking about the characters, dressing up, a writing workshop and much more. Waterstones will provide a pop-up bookshop where signed copies of the authors’ work will be available and there will be refreshments available across all the venues.

Guests include Westgate historian Dawn Crouch, who will be in Church Hall Room 1 at Christ Church United Reformed Church at 10am-11:30am on Saturday, September 14.

Dawn became churchwarden of St Saviour’s Church in Westgate Bay Avenue in 1993 and it was then that her fascination with the history of the town began.

She will be speaking about acclaimed author A.A. Milne and his close links to Westgate-on-Sea after moving to the town when he was 12 years old. His father, John Vine Milne, was to found a boys’ preparatory school.

Author Nick Evans, who has produced books about Dreamland and Birchington among others, is also appearing.

He was career journalist for more than 40 years, working mainly in the specialist arenas of public relations and internal communications. He grew up in Birchington during the 1960s and 1970s, leaving school aged 17, in 1977, to become a trainee reporter with the Isle of Thanet Gazette in Margate.

He has worked for large corporations, public sector organisations, PR agencies and newspapers, in a range of writing, design and production roles. For 20 years he ran his own communications business hired by a number of blue chip clients.

Nick has two spots at the festival, one talking about his Deamland books and the other, alongside Giles Chapman and Trevor Agnew called Petrolheads – the Top Gear of Westgate.

Author Julie Wassmer Photo Peter Tarry

Kent crime author Julie Wassmer will also be giving an author talk on Saturday, September 14 when she’ll be showing photographs of locations featured in her crime novels.

Julie previously wrote for TV series such as EastEnders and London’s Burning before netting a publishing contract for her Whitstable Pearl Mystery series which has now been optioned for TV by the makers of Marcella, starring Anna Friel. The books feature private detective and restaurateur, Pearl Nolan, and her stormy relationship with a Canterbury police detective, DCI Mike McGuire.

Julie says her Westgate event will take a different form to most author events by screening the work of Kent photographers: George Fisk, Gerry Atkinson, Simon James Dunn and Kentish Dweller. She explains: “My fictional heroine, restaurateur and private detective, Pearl Nolan, is Whitstable-based like me, but her crime cases have taken her all over the county – to Canterbury, Chartham, Sheppey, Reculver, Herne Bay, Oare, Faversham and Seasalter – magical places that have served as inspiration, so I’m thrilled to be showing stunning photographs of all these locations at the event – during which I’ll also be talking about the importance of location in my books.’

Julie’s current book, Murder Fest, centres on the murder of a famous author at a local literary festival  but she says: “I can guarantee that any murders at my book best events will remain entirely fictional!”

The event will take place at the function room above the Carlton Cinema in Westgate at 2pm. Tickets are £8.50.

Author Jane Wenham-Jones with Terry Waite Photo by Encade

Also on the programme is Terry Waite CBE who was a hostage in Beirut for five years.

The one-time envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also recently appeared at BroadstairsLit with local author Jane Wenham Jones, spent much of that time in solitary confinement.

Following his release in November 1991 he was elected a Fellow Commoner at Trinity Hall Cambridge England where he wrote his first book Taken on Trust. This quickly became an international best-seller and headed the lists in the UK and elsewhere.

His talk on September 14 from 6pm-7pm will be held at Christchurch URC Main Church Hall, Westgate Bay Avenue, Westgate.

Maurice held his first photo exhibition at Cliffs in Cliftonville

Poet and artist Maurice Rutherford also takes part. The 96-year-old Westgate resident has published a number of poetry collections, notably with Peterloo Poets, Calstock, Cornwall and then with Shoestring Press, Nottingham, from where his latest book, ‘And Saturday Is Christmas’ was launched in 2011.

Impaired eyesight now puts lengthy writings and proof reading beyond his reach, but he retains an interest in the haiku form of poetry and might be seen being shepherded  around Westgate, Margate and surroundings, taking photographs from which to compose his own version of haiku.

In January 2019 he held a solo exhibition of this companion form of photography and literature in Cliffs Gallery, Margate, and is currently collating a portfolio of photographs with haikus, aiming toward publication in book form.

Maurice will be at the Westgate Town Council offices from 6pm-7pm on September 15 to give his talk.

The resident author for the festival is Gary Studley. For the past three years Gary has run creative writing courses for new or experienced poets & prose writers at Beach Creative CIC, with safe sharing & good well being for participants.

In addition, Gary tutored vulnerable young adults in Margate Bookie’s Poetry Journey; facilitates workshops for ex-detainees alongside Kent Refugee Help & teaches children art.

Co-founder of SoundLines’ Poets, he designed their eponymous anthology & illustrates many publications, including SaveAs Writers’ Between The Lines and The Bigger Picture; & his own poetry collection, There Is Another Way.

Gary runs 3 Dead Hoarse Writers groups for prose & poetry enthusiasts in Deal & Margate.

To encourage budding authors, there is a short story competition which has both adult and children’s categories. This year also sees the launch of a new literary competition specifically for authors aged over 65. The Dee May Prize for Fiction has a 5,000 word limit and must be on the topic of aging.

Find the full programme and to book tickets go to