Review of the first ever Byline Festival

As you will recall I was invited to the Byline festival as a guest, with the lovely DD, to review the festival and tell you all about it! So you'll be wondering if it lived up to the hype - or was it fake news!

Byline Festival was described on its own website as A RIOT OF FREE SPEECH
PROTEST AGAINST FAKE NEWS AND ALTERNATIVE FACTS something that rather worried the chaps at the local BBC radio station it seems.
But they needn't have worried, far from fields of violent rioting hooligans, the fields were in fact full of a diverse band of intelligent people, keen to learn how to spot truth from fiction, how to survive in a world so rich in information that it can be hard to spot the important bits, how to be their own journalists but also how to find journalists to trust...and why even today in a world of 'instant news' via social media, journalists and their skills are vital. I really enjoyed the satirical comedy by Hardeep Singh Kohli, and of course the bad press awards presented by John Cleese  (who understandably got a fit of the giggles trying to talk about the famed Werewolf of Hull!). But I was also delighted to listen to a talk 'No Platform' about lesser known stories and the stories behind and around the headlines.

I failed miserably to attend the few talks and workshops related to blogging (what am I like!) I do hope there will be more next year. But I did manage some great debates.

As the festival was brand new there were of course a few things that could be improved, better signage from the car park for instance, printed maps handed out along with programs when we arrived, rather than relying on an app or us finding the Info tent (and enough programs that they didn't run out!) but I can't fault the posh loos (flushing!) the free showers and the great bars, with frozen cocktails no less! The lineup and choice of debates was varied and everyone was extremely helpful and friendly. The food catering was good, though I wish the food consessions had been told they should stay open until the festival officially closed at 3pm on Sunday. We managed to try burgers, crepes and pizzas as well as ice cream and booze during the weekend, and having a bread and baked goods stall was an excellent idea.

I loved the fact that there was a real mix of genders, ethnicity, nationality and even political leaning at the festival. Loads to learn and an excellent atmosphere. While the festival is family friendly and certainly happy for you to bring the kids there is not much structured stuff for them to do (though playing in the woods seemed popular) so you might be wisest to leave the kids with friends or relatives and taking a weekend away for an adult only break.

The festival is running again in 2018 and currently super early bird tickets are a simply barmy £30 (they will be £120 at full price - still great value.) I highly recommend it to any journalists, serious bloggers, writers and anyone with an interest in politics, life and the truth.

Disclosure : I was sent complementary tickets for this event for the purpose of this review - the words are all my own.

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