JP Flintoff

How to be free

By John-Paul Flintoff

Early last year, I took part in an experiment with two other authors, Mark Stevenson and Oliver Burkeman.

We decided to put on an event of our own, and sell tickets. We found a theme for discussion over the course of a whole day, hired a large room, and put up an Eventbrite page. And largely thanks to Mark's sheer drive and oomph it came off well, with many participants stating afterwards that the collaborative approach was something they specially enjoyed – our different styles, and the way we played off each other – as well as the way we interacted with our audience. What's more, they liked finding people with shared interests, and many stayed in touch with each other afterwards.

I was gripped by the experience, and wanted to do more, because I'm very keen on ways for writers to take more control. Particularly of the events we do, at a time when some literary festivals really take the piss. (There are outstanding exceptions, particularly Wigtown.)

By doing it ourselves, authors can choose the time, the place, and the topic – and that's no small thing. We can choose who we work with. And we can even use the event to learn something ourselves, rather than merely reading from a book that we wrote a while ago.

I wanted to do it again! With Mark and Oliver, but also with others. So that's what I'm doing – inviting some of the finest people I know to join me for a day to think about a topic that is really important, something that matters to everybody who comes along.

On 25 June, I'm working with the author, broadcaster and gardener Alys Fowler and the author-explorer Robert Twigger to explore freedom.
- What would it be like to feel a bit more free?
- And if we felt a little freer, what could we do then?

Each of us will talk briefly about this idea, but the day is absolutely not only about what we three “experts” think about this subject. We are using a structure that makes it truly collaborative, so that absolutely everybody who comes along will have the chance to raise their own burning questions – and to share answers with each other.

Nobody will be forced to participate – you can be a quiet observer if you want – but nobody should leave with regret that such and such a thing wasn't discussed, because if you want to raise something, you can.

So: would you like to feel a bit more free? What would you do then? To find out, please join us.

Book tickets here

Posted: May 12, 2016

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