The Gibraltar International Literary Festival or GIBUNCO is so much more than the books it promotes.
Every year, in November, Gibraltar celebrates its International Literary Festival. It features a wide variety of new books, the authors and those they have written about. A unique characteristic of this event is that the participants generally stay for the duration of the festival. The Eliott Hotel in the centre of town is a favourite with everyone, participants and attendees. It is close to the hub of the festival, the Garrison Library. Many of the presentations take place here as well as three other venues City Hall, the Convent and the John Macintosh Hall.
A diverse group of participants include fiction and non-fiction writers as well as celebrities and politicians are interviewed by professionals. These interviews are not only entertaining and interesting but above all provide insights into the lives of the personalities involved. Question and answer discussions follow each session which often develop into interesting discussions. There is a temporary bookshop in the Garrison Library but copies of the relevant book are also available at each event as well as a book signing session.
This event was first held in 2013 and since then it has become an internationally popular event attracting participants from all over the world. When I attended in November 2023 the distinguished list of guests included Lady Mary Peters, Lady Teresa May (a former Prime Minister), culinary icon Dame Mary Berry, novelist Ann Reeves and Ukrainian teenager Yeva Skalietska who has written the best-selling You Don’t Know What War Is. Wendy Mitchell spoke about her personal journey dealing with dementia and was happy to chat with visitors at the event about her techniques for dealing with the condition.
Attendance at the literary festival is also the ideal opportunity to explore Gibraltar itself and its many historic buildings. Towering above Gibraltar, The Rock is its most famous attraction. The summit can be reached either by the cable car, car or on foot. Once at the top there are a variety of trails offering fabulous views and leading to some interesting sites including St Michael’s Cave and the Second World War Tunnels. All under the scrutiny of the Barbary Macaques who inhabit the slopes of the Rock.
A new attraction in Gibraltar is its Right Royal Street, a self-guided walk along Main Street. It is thought this is the only street that has an example of a post box from every British monarch since they first came into use during the reign of Queen Victoria in 1852. Anthony Trollope, the novelist, introduced the idea of post boxes while working as a Royal Mail post office surveyor. Following the introduction of the Packet Boat Service, the precursor to the Royal Mail, and irregular crossings due to weather and tides secure storage for mail was essential. Trollope remembered seeing post boxes in Paris and proposed a similar system on Jersey. The first post box was introduced here in November 1852. Post boxes first appeared in Gibraltar in October 1858 following the introduction of a local mail delivery service when it was no longer necessary to collect mail from the post office.
Getting there: There are regular scheduled flights from London with British Airways and Easyjet offers scheduled flights from London and regional airports. There is a good public bus service from the airport to the town.
The Gibraltar International Literary Festival takes place during the third week of November every year, for more information about the festival click here and to book the Eliott Hotel click here.
Reviewed by Valery Collins, the Experienced Traveller An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 27 years ago. After publishing four books she turned to online travel writing.