Author and Garden Designer Kit Peel, is the Artistic Director of NiddFest.
It wasn’t foreign news reporting in South Africa or a year on a Greek island, but Nidderdale where Kit Peel finally fell in love with nature.
The seeds of Niddfest were planted during a train journey, dreamed up by the children’s author and garden designer, Kit Peel, and his wife Megan. The first festival in 2014 attracted no less than the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, as its Patron.
“The experience of the natural world is enriched through literature,” Kit said. “If you go into a natural environment thinking about Gerald Manley Hopkins, or Carol Ann Duffy, it adds layers of connectivity to the natural world.”
For a decade, Kit worked as a journalist turned newswire junkie, firstly in South Africa before moving to London. Although brought up in the south of England, Nidderdale was always in his psyche.
“We went up to my gran’s house in Pateley Bridge in the holidays. We lived in central London so I loved being out in the countryside, we had horses, my friends were there.”
Jet-setting journalism had a ‘shelf-life’. “I’d done enough in that particular type of journalism, there’s a limit to how much of that you want to do in your life.”
In 2010, Kit and Megan moved to his grandma’s old house in Nidderdale to start a family, and complete his first children’s book, Snow Summer.
He speaks highly of the Nidderdale AONB team supporting NiddFest. “It’s the most important aspect of the festival, the time they put behind it, the funding from Heritage Lottery Fund that they have brought to support it – what I do is a very small part.”
It attracts big literary names, including this year, Fiona Mozley, who was nominated for the Man Booker for her novel Elmet, Helen Scales whose Eye of the Shoal, is a guide to life, the ocean and everything, and Miriam Darlington’s book Owl Sense was picked as one of the Guardian’s books to look out for in 2018.
“Nidderdale is beautiful so authors want to come, and audiences appreciate seeing nature in so many different ways. We have such a fun, outdoor programme this year. We beat a quiet drum for the natural world.”
Garden Design Workshop with Kit Peel and Helen Voisey will take place on Sunday 17 June, 10.30am-12.30pm at No.6 Studio Gallery, Pateley Bridge. Tickets £15. Book here.