Meet the Board
Over the last 40 or so years, the Litfest board has been home to many valued trustees from a diverse range of backgrounds and interests. Our current band of trustees is: Julie Bell (Chair), Dr Natalie Sorrell Charlesworth (Company Secretary), Bill Swainson, Jake Hope, Emma Crighton, Beth Daley, Tony Durcan, Benjamin Guilfoyle, Sakhti Karunanithi, Oliver Langmead and Gurmit Singh.
You can learn more about our board through their profiles below.
We are currently recruiting for the position of treasurer, if you love books and have a background in the finance sector we would love to hear from you! Simply drop us a line at [email protected] to find out more!
I am a qualified librarian and began my career as a children’s and schools librarian in Blackpool. I have worked all over Lancashire including Lancaster. I went to school in Lancaster and if I didn’t live in the lovely place I live in I would definitely choose to live there! I currently hold a senior manager role in local government.
I volunteer for Girlguiding, I am a unit leader for two units and have just finished my term in a national role as trustee of Girlguiding and Deputy Chief Guide.
I have a wide range of interests in my reading and like to challenge myself. I have kept a list of all the books I have read since 1974!
I am proud to have been chair of Litfest for the last 4 years. I get so much enjoyment from the work we do at Litfest and love seeing people enjoy the events and workshops we programme!
Jake is a reading development and children’s book consultant with a keen interest in librarianship, visual literacy and diversity. Jake is a regular reviewer and commentator on children’s books for numerous publications and websites. Jake has written professional books on librarianship and has written picture books. He has judged many books awards including the Yoto Carengies which now helps to oversee in his role as awards executive.
Bill got (re)involved with Litfest in 2019. (He was there for Writing ’78, rather starstruck by the likes of Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, John Le Carré, Alan Garner and Michael Moorcock.)
He enjoys working with the board to devise reading challenges, digital poetry maps, documentary films, debates, and especially helping to set up Litfest’s first hybrid festival. He is co-convenor with Sam O’Donoghue (Lecturer in Spanish at Lancaster University) of the Litfest International Fiction Book Club, and works with festival partners like Lancaster Arts, different university departments, Lancaster Black History Group, RSPB Leighton Moss, several local schools, The Storey, and, most recently, The Sewing Café Lancaster, to help keep the festival bubbling with ideas.
Bill made his living as an editor at The Harvill Press and Bloomsbury. Today he edits a small list of fiction in translation with MacLehose Press and an even smaller list of non-fiction at Oneworld. Born in Lancaster, he now lives near Bentham
Natalie Sorrell Charlesworth
Hooked on reading from a very young age, Natalie stumbled on the Litfest volunteer corps in 2012 whilst studying for her undergraduate degree at Lancaster University. This was, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “a dangerous business… you never know where you might be swept off to”!
10 years & 3 degrees later, Natalie is now the 3rd longest-serving trustee, Company Secretary & Marketing Lead. She loves getting stuck in to all aspects of the festival, contributing to creative programming, running our marketing campaigns, organising the volunteer corps & managing a variety of events. Creating & designing each Litfest Programme is a real highlight. Past programme covers have included a Tardis, Nifflers, witches, book balloons and a trumpet!
Outside of Litfest, Natalie spends her time on all things bookish. She works as a part-time Library Assistant for Lancashire Libraries and as a Freelance Writer, Artist and Genealogist. She was previously employed by Lancaster University as an Associate Lecturer & later as Outreach & Schools Liaison Officer from 2016-2022.
She’s currently very excited about becoming a “proper writer”. Her debut poetry pamphlet is forthcoming from Broken Sleep in July 2023!
Emma began as a Litfest volunteer in 2019, before moving onto the Board in 2020 and quickly getting stuck in! She works on tech projects, including the Litfest website, and has particularly enjoyed working on making Litfest a more accessible ‘hybrid’ festival over the last few years.
During festivals, Emma also helps to train and co-ordinate our volunteers, and loves getting involved on the ground with running events and meeting all of our lovely festival-goers, both virtually or in-person.
Outside of Litfest, Emma is an editor specialising in educational publishing. She currently works for leading educational publisher CGP Books. Her work has a particular focus on literature, language and early learning for UK schoolchildren.
When not editing revision guides or working with Litfest, Emma can usually be found halfway up a mountain in the lakes, or else with her nose in a good book. She is also interested in literary, historical and educational projects across Lancaster and South Cumbria, including working with oral histories at the National Trust.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi
Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi is an experienced public health professional serving the residents of Lancashire as the Director of Public Health. He has a demonstrable history of working in the NHS, local government and industry. Sakthi’s breadth of knowledge covers evidence based policy advice, Prevention, Health Promotion, Population Health Management. Sakthi has an active interest in insightful system leadership and community activation to reduce inequalities. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate (DSc) by Lancaster University in recognition of his services to improve public health.
Beth Daley is Editorial Adviser for Europeana – a European Commission funded digital cultural heritage initiative, and has a PhD in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Manchester. Her debut novel, Blood and Water, is published by Manchester-based publisher Hic Dragones.
With Europeana, Beth works across all things writing – from tone of voice and strategic messaging to writing blogs and helping peers improve their storytelling and communications skills.
Beth runs creative writing workshops and offers writing coaching and mentoring, is a member of the ‘Mum Poet Club’ and is writing a first draft of a second novel.
Besides books and writing, Beth loves everything to do with food, music and theatre.
Beth grew up in Ulverston and looked to Lancaster for everything from clothes shopping to Christmas pantos, and was on occasion seen dressed in Georgian garb selling nettle beer or joining in sea shanties as part of Lancaster Tourism’s festivals.
One of Litfest’s new Trustees, Tony is a retired public librarian and cultural officer. He started his career as a children’s librarian in inner city Derby, and has worked in a variety of local authorities, most recently Newcastle upon Tyne where he was Head of Libraries and Culture. Tony has recently completed a nine year term as Vice Chair of the Reading Agency, and is Chair of Settle Stories.
Tony and his wife Jacqui live in Ingleton and also Newcastle upon Tyne, have three grown up children, and a charming border collie called Flynn.
Benjamin has loved reading since he was very small and is a great believer in reading being the key to unlocking a truly great imagination.
Since 2014 he has been a performance poet in and around Lancaster and has mainly used his poetry as a means to raise money for local Lancaster charities. He is the host and co-creator of The Wordarium, Lancaster’s monthly spoken word and poetry evening.
Benjamin holds a degree in performance arts from Huddersfield University, a teaching qualification from the University of Cumbria and currently works as the Audience Engagement Manager for Lancaster Arts.
Oliver joined the Litfest board in 2022, and is working with the trustees to develop its genre fiction events and relationship with Lancaster University.
Oliver is a Scottish author and poet. His most recent novels are Glitterati and Birds of Paradise, and his long-form poem, Dark Star, was one of the Guardian’s Best Books of 2015. He has a Doctorate in Fine Art from the University of Glasgow, and works as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster. In late 2018 he was the writer in residence at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Centre in Cologne.
After a long career traversing education and healthcare sectors as a teacher, trainer, researcher and HIV activist, in four countries and at the global level, I co-founded and now run an independent LGBTQ+ arts initiative, Kalamos, based in Lancaster.
I have had two plays performed in the Netherlands, when I lived there, and have recently completed a play drawing on my working class childhood growing up in Singapore.
I am currently working on a podcast project on Catholic cults, exploring digital publishing and co-writing a queer-centred novel.
In my spare time, I enjoy baking, trying my hand at fusion cuisine, collecting lithograph prints, and dabbling in mixed media collage.
I have a degree in International Relations from Brown University (USA), Masters from Exeter, and PhD in Education from the University of Leeds.