I’ve just returned from Lesvos (again!), having eked out the last of the annual leave from my day job for 2016 to treat myself to six nights slap bang in the middle of the annual womens’ festival.
This two-week long extravaganza, based in Skala Eressos, runs through the first two weeks of September and has been running for years, although this was my first look at it. While I was there I was honoured to be invited to read from ‘The Club’ at the second of the ‘Women, Wine and Words’ literary events that take place during the festival. These two evenings were held this year in the beautiful gardens of one of the many restaurants in the beachside village. Surrounded by lush plantings and given respite from the sun by the cooling sea breeze, the evening has a free format. Some readers are invited, others simply appear and offer to read. On the evening I appeared, I was joined by fellow Ylva author Gill McKnight, who read from her latest release, ‘Welcome to the Wallops’, and independent lesbian filmmaker and writer Wollie Boehm, who read from the first of her Sam Skyborne series, ‘Simulation’.
The beauty of this evening, however, is not necessarily the opportunity to hear from more established writers. As the floor is open to all, you can find yourself listening to some amazing unpublished works as well. And this night was no exception. Now, I have to admit, I am not a poetry lover. But hand-on-heart I can honestly say I was blown away by the poetry readings that interspersed with those of us novelists. With works presented by UK, Danish and Dutch authors, it really was an international affair. Their poems were funny, sad, heart-warming and thought-provoking. Just what all good writing should be. It was a magical evening.
Away from the literary pursuits, the festival itself offers something for all tastes. There is theatre, an alternative fashion show, a drag king competition, nightly showings of lesbian films (which this year included hits such as Carol, and Freeheld) in the open-air cinema, quizzes and auctions. Oh, yes, and parties. Every night. Some of which I even remember.
And aside from all that there is the lovely village of Skala Eressos itself. Fantastic restaurants and bars (including three that are most definitely lesbian-centric), a good stretch of beach—with wonderful weather at this time of year—and opportunities to go swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, walking or even out on a sunset cruise around the bay. The atmosphere is laidback but fun—everyone is there for a great time, whatever their definition of that is. Old friends meet again and new friends are made very quickly—there’s a real sense of community that’s very appealing.
So, if you’re looking for a great escape next year, mark the first two weeks of September in your calendar right now…