Bring us your family diaries!

Actor Connor McIntyre to join Caroline Catz, Travis Elborough, Irving Finkel, Simon Garfield and Michael Higgs for the Great Diary Project event.

Port Eliot Festival is very pleased to confirm the details of The Great Diary Project – a new live event experience celebrating the nation’s diaries – and to throw open a challenge to festivalgoers. On Sunday 29th July, the festival will present The Great Diary Project, an interactive event inspired by the work of Irving Finkel of the British Museum, who began the Project as a way of helping preserve our social history.

Many people struggle to know what to do with diaries written by family members and they are often thrown away – the Project was set up to offer a home to diaries and has set an aim to collect and archive 20,000 diaries by 2020; already, 10,000 diaries have been donated and have joined the world-renowned archive at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. Festivalgoers are invited to bring their family diaries to Port Eliot to join the collection.

The Great Diary Project event will highlight the rich stories contained within the nation’s diaries and celebrate the historical importance of these precious items of social history. It may feature encounters with the likes of Winston Churchill, the Suffragettes, Noël Coward, HG Wells, Vera Brittain, Barbara Castle, Siegfried Sassoon and immediate (and often surprising) reactions to all sorts of world events and happenings such as the funeral of Queen Victoria, new 1920s fashions, the declaration of World War II and screening of Star Wars.

To make the event extra special, the festival is inviting members of the audience to keep a journal of their days and nights at St Germans. Notebooks will be left across the festival site for people to use to document their experiences and thoughts on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the festival and then to be hand in on the Sunday morning. Extracts will be chosen by the Great Diary Project team and read from the Bowling Green stage as a grand finale.

Join Irving Finkel, mastermind behind the project, to delve in the diaries of the famous and ordinary. He’ll be discussing their importance alongside writer and social historian Travis Elborough, whose most recent book, Our History of the 20th Century: As Told in Diaries, Journals and Letters, was named one of the Observer’s Best Books of 2017, and Simon Garfield, the author of 18 books of non-fiction, including the bestsellers Just My Type and On The Map. Simon edited the 2015 book, A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt, which draws on the journals kept for 61 years from 1925 by Jean Pratt, an ‘ordinary’ person whose diaries are anything but.

They will be joined by some extraordinary, award-winning performers who will breathe life into these historical voices:

Actor Connor McIntyre has had millions of television viewers gripped for the past couple of years, in his role of the beyond-infamous psychopathic killer, Pat Phelan, on Coronation Street. When not being on the receiving end of double-takes from alarmed members of the public, Connor is to be found at The Alamo, the art studio he runs with his partner in the docklands of Plymouth. The largest independent studio space in Plymouth, The Alamo works with graduates in the visual and performing arts.

Actress Caroline Catz works in theatre, TV, film and radio, and is perhaps best known for her leading roles in Doc Martin and DCI Banks. She has also made documentaries on the Tapestry Music Festival, Jesse Hector and The Hammersmith Gorillas and the ambient music pioneer Delia Derbyshire.

Actor Michael Higgs is best known for playing Eastenders’ ‘bad guy’, Andy Hunter and all sorts of other television roles, including that of Eddie Santini in ITV’s The Bill.

Image credit: Vincent Dolman