Novelist Marian Keyes to headline Primadonna literary festival

Celebration of female writers will have alternative wedding chapel where women can ‘marry’ themselves

The award-winning novelist Marian Keyes has been announced as one of the headline acts at a feminist literary festival where women are being encouraged to “marry” themselves.

The Primadonna festival, which focuses on female writers to redress the gender inequality in publishing, is to follow the lead of the actor Emma Watson in celebrating self-partnering.

Watson famously used the phrase in a Vogue interview describing how she was happy to be single, adding: “I call it being self-partnered.”

Now organisers of the second Primadonna festival, to be held in Suffolk from 31 July to 2 August, have announced it will feature an alternative wedding chapel where festival-goers can book in to wed themselves.

And anyone who makes a donation to the Primadonna festival GoFundMe page on Saturday 29 February – the leap year day when women are traditionally encouraged to pop the question to their partners – will be in with a chance to self-partner in style courtesy of the festival.

Keyes, the international bestselling author, whose books include Watermelon and The Mystery of Mercy Close will be among the headliners for this year’s Primadonna, organisers said on Friday.

Keyes, whose bestselling books include Watermelon and The Mystery of Mercy Close, said: “I’m really excited to be part of the festival, as I love what it’s doing to open up the literary world to new audiences. I’m going to be talking about love, comedy, writing and everything in between: I understand that nothing’s out of bounds at the Primadonna festival (what a challenge!). And I can’t wait to meet readers and aspiring writers who are also excited by what Primadonna’s all about.”

The broadcaster, comedian and author Sandi Toksvig, one of the co-founders of Primadonna, said: “It’s not only for single people. We’re happy to have conventionally coupled-up people marry at the Primadonna wedding chapel: only not to each other, just themselves.

“The point is to show a commitment to being kind and good to the most important person in your life: you.”

For the winner of the prize draw, Primadonna will provide the cake, the confetti and the congregation. “It’ll be much cheaper – and a lot more fun – than getting a wedding planner,” said Toksvig.

On self-partnering, Toksvig added: “We like the message behind Watson’s headlines, which is that being in a relationship does not define a person as successful or approved or socially acceptable.

“We set up Primadonna to create a space where we can push back against mainstream messaging like this that damages women in particular. And we’re fundraising to make what we do sustainable, so that more people can share in the Primadonna vibe of creativity and equality and fun. So we’re saying that this 29 February, let us be your significant other.”

The festival, held at Laffitts Hall at Pettaugh, near Stowmarket, will feature writers, comedians, musicians, artists and other creatives with an emphasis on spotlighting female writers and voices from the margins. A full lineup is yet to be announced.

The winner of the first Primadonna prize for unsigned and unrepresented new writing talent will be announced on Monday 2 March at a special event hosted by Toksvig.

• This article was amended on 29 February 2020. Due to incorrect information supplied by Primadonna promotors, an earlier version wrongly said in the text and headline that Marian Keyes would be marrying herself at the festival. This has been corrected.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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