2021 funding and move

We’re moving to a bigger venue in 2021, thanks to Arts Council England…

Primadonna will move to a bigger venue for 2021, with backing from Arts Council England (ACE). The festival’s £48,000 grant from ACE will help support its move to the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

“We call Primadonna ‘the world as it should be, for one weekend’, and after what 2020 has brought, we can’t wait to provide that glorious interlude of inspiration and joy,” says Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the festival along with 16 other women from the world of arts and culture (dubbed the ‘Primadonnas’).

“We think of Primadonna as a ray of sunshine – or a ‘hug in a field’ as someone who came in 2019 put it. Then, we were honoured to welcome not one but two Booker-shortlisters in Elif Shafak and Bernadine Evaristo (both booked before their nominations and Bernadine’s win), as well as other big names and brilliant emerging voices from fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comedy, music and screenwriting who bought into, and helped build, the festival’s incredible spirit of openness and optimism.

Kit de Waal, another Primadonna who contributed to both the inaugural event and this year’s successful virtual edition, says the festival will retain its inclusivity, edge and sense of ‘purposeful fun’: “We know that one of Primadonna’s USPs – and perhaps its biggest draw – is the opportunity the festival offers for ticketholders to mingle with agents, publishers, and top talent from the worlds of literature and culture,” she says.

“We’re keen not to dilute that, but our new home at the Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL) will allow us to welcome more aspiring creative talents and curious minds, while maintaining the same kind of intimate setting, and beautiful backdrop, for the stellar talent we will welcome in 2021.”

The festival’s general manager Catherine Riley adds that the move to Stowmarket will offer much-needed regeneration for an area of Suffolk often overlooked by the arts and culture sector. “Primadonna is rooted in the idea of arts for all: for us, it’s vital that we share the joy of our world-class, forward-looking and inventive festival with those who wouldn’t necessarily think a literary festival is ‘for them’. That’s why we’re so grateful ACE have invested in our vision, and delighted, too, to be partnering with MEAL, who are committed to making museums relevant and accessible to 21st-century audiences.”

Primadonna has already had some considerable success in its mission to level up the publishing industry through the discovery of raw new talent – both via the festival itself as well as through the Primadonna Prize for unsigned and un-represented writers.*

“Two festival-goers from 2019 have now negotiated publishing contracts with major publishers as a direct result of contacts made at the festival,” says Mayer. “And this year’s winner of one of our virtual festival events has joined the writers’ room for Radio 4 Xtra’s NewsJack, and continues to be mentored by Sioned Wiliam, R4’s commissioner for comedy (another Primadonna).”