21st September 2007 at 01:00
Small Wonder short story festival, East Sussex

It could be the perfect location for a literary festival. An ivy-clad house in rural Sussex, complete with decor provided by the bohemian painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, and a glorious rambling garden once favoured by the Bloomsbury group.

But if all that makes you feel slightly sick, don't worry. The Small Wonder short story festival at Charleston, near Lewes, is a modern and slightly funky affair where you could find Colm Toibin (above) rubbing shoulders with The League of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson, and slacker guru Will Hodgkinson.

Its aim is to celebrate the short story, an unfashionable art form that has suffered decades of decline, particularly in Britain, where it has gone from being an established proving-ground for new writers to something The Guardian does once a year.

Small Wonder hopes to change all that, with a varied programme that includes an audience with the winners of The National Short Story Prize and a storytelling slam (think 8 Mile meets Dead Poets Society).

This weekend you can catch Jenny Diski, Fay Weldon and Yiyun Li, the Chinese born writer, among others. While they might not resuscitate the short story single-handed, they might make it look a little less pale around the lips


Madeleine Brettingham

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