Most book festivals work on a system of the visitor paying for each event they attend. It's cheaper no doubt but it does mean that I, and no doubt others, rather pick and choose my events, generally authors whose work I've read and liked, occasionally someone who's grabbed headlines or I've heard praised by fellow reviewers. By contrast, at Curious Arts ALL author events (and music, comedy etc) were included in the admission price, and, with them taking place in open-sided tents, it was possible to join proceedings a little late, and to leave a little early. I took advantage of this to catch part of Rowan Pelling's talk with author Andrea Wulf.
Now, I must admit that before she won this year's Costa Biography award I hadn't heard of Andrea Wulf, but hearing her speak so passionately about her subject, Alexander von Humboldt, has convinced me that I'm probably missing out.
Who you might ask (I did) was von Humboldt?
Well, it seems to be only here in Britain that he's unknown; in other countries, not limited to his native Germany, he's as well known as Darwin. Born in Prussia in 1769, his early life was dominated by his mother, and it was only after her death that he could fulfil his dreams of scientific exploration. He headed off to Latin America, climbing mountains, peering into volcanoes, recording the changes in vegetation according to altitude; definitely a very hands-on scientist! I found it fascinating that as early as 1800, he was predicting the impact that human activity might have on climate change, after noticing the devastating effects of clearing and destroying natural habitat as plantations expanded across Latin America.
Although I couldn't stay for the audience questions at the end, I came away feeling that this was a book and an author that I'd missed out on, and should catch up with both as soon as possible.