events & festival consultancy
Lyndy and Jo would like to welcome you to the Hand Held Events website. We’re called Hand Held, because that’s exactly what we do – with as much or as little involvement as a client would like, we’ll work with you every step of the way to deliver the event you want.
Between us we have more than 60 years of experience in the book trade, including at least 35 years running festivals. We’ve worked with Presidents and Prime Ministers, legends of literature, radio, stage and screen, sports stars, chefs, artists and musicians. We work our socks off, but love what we do and really enjoy working with all of our clients, building the perfect event with every single one.
Whatever your objectives are for your project, they become our objectives.
We are an independent festival and exhibition organiser helping businesses or individuals run intelligent, creative, live in-person and online events. We always go the extra mile, using our experience of curating events with some of the best and most notable contacts in the creative worlds of literature & art. This extends from our UK base to associations and partnerships across the globe.
With our vast experience of programming and production we take the stress out of the unknown, having a simple mission to work with our clients to create extra special events that really work for them. Hand Held Events and all our associates have a completely interactive and collegiate way of working which produces great results. Don’t be put off by our star studded client list, we are just as keen to work with start-up events, fundraisers and people who simply enjoy and are proud of what they do.
Our involvement with each event can vary enormously, from initial idea brainstorms, getting quotes from potential suppliers for areas such as AV or venues (including marques), dealing with licences and risk assessments, through to programming, writing programme copy, sorting tech requirements, artist liaison, delivering the festival, event take-down and post-event wash-up. We are just as happy getting our hands dirty with the physical side of event planning and delivery as we are dealing with publishers, authors, artists, agents and sponsors. We’ve even been known to be happy standing in the middle of a rain soaked remote Irish beach with a tent (we won, the weather did not).
Jo James has been in the book trade for more than 30 years, firstly as a bookseller and bookshop manager, and then managing events for the bookshop chains Ottakar’s and Waterstones.
Since moving to freelance in 2010, Jo has helped to run and programme a large number of festivals, including the Times & Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, The Stratford Literary Festival, Chiswick Book Festival, the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival (part of the Destinations Show at Olympia), the Cheltenham Science Festival, Queens Park Book Festival and the Oxford Science Festival.
Jo considers herself lucky to live in the beautiful Cotswolds with her two dogs and de-stresses by going for long country walks (preferably with a suitable refreshment stop half-way round). She does a lot of gardening, loves growing her own veg, and really enjoys cooking.
Lyndy has worked in the literature and publishing sectors for more than 35 years, owning a chain of bookshops and being Managing Director of Hay Festival for 20 years. She is a highly experienced events producer, creator and curator for arts and cultural events.
Now working closely with organisations across the UK and worldwide such as the National Trust, British Council, Commonwealth Foundation, Queens Park Book Festival, York Festival of Ideas, Jaipur Literature Festival and Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. She is currently also working on a major research project for the Arts Council Wales and the National Museums Wales.
To keep her grounded, Lyndy, also co-owns a small herd of faithful pack ponies, leading guests and their equipment across the Cambrian Mountains, enjoying their stunning scenery. Lyndy retains an honorary role with Hay Festival and is a Trustee of Hay Castle.
“Jo James is one of the ablest people I’ve ever dealt with. She is well-organised and unflappable, good with people but not tolerant of fools. She has organised very large book events for me both here and abroad and I have never found any cause for complaint. She is consistent and utterly reliable.”
“Lyndy is the necessary oil to smoothen complicated literary operations, the guru with a million contacts who knows exactly which one you need, the hand holder who laughs with you through the joys and lifts you through the troubles. Her insight, contacts and joyous laugh helped bring to life the Storymoja Festival in Nairobi.”
“If I am taking part in any event in which Jo James is involved, I know I can relax. I know that things will run like clockwork. I know that author and customer alike will be wonderfully catered for and that only an act of God could spoil anyone’s fun. Actually, even then I think Jo could handle it...”
“Lyndy worked with me producing Brian Friel’s adaptation of the Odyssey amongst other projects in Ireland. She was a superstar to work with, many times soaking drenched on a far flung remote beach in Donegal, always smiling and making the performance a perfect experience for actors and public, even the tide waited for us on the closing night. She’s a great girl in a tight corner.”
“Jo is a great asset, she shows great skill in programming everything from panel discussions to complex celebration events, featuring food, music and comedy. Jo also hosts our Writers’ Room where her calm, friendly and amazingly efficient stewardship is greatly appreciated by the hundreds of writers and by the in-house team who can’t imagine Cheltenham without her.”
“Jo and Lyndy are an amazing team, bringing their enormous experience, talent and passion to the festival every year. I could not imagine a more accomplished pair and they make the festival a joy for everyone. We can’t wait for next year!”