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Marlborough LitFest gets out into Savernake Forest to watch and listen for birds

Stephen Moss in Savernake ForestStephen Moss in Savernake ForestOn a misty Sunday morning the LitFest went al fresco: the naturalist, television producer and author Stephen Moss took a group into Savernake Forest for an autumn 'look and listen' walk.  Adding local knowledge was Avebury's renowned ornithologist Robin Nelson.

Autumn, it was agreed, is not the best of times to watch and hear birdlife.  However Savernake produced some good sightings and good sounds.

There were several robins showing how they were still marking out their territory - as they always do.  And there were very close views of a fiesty nuthatch which responded with some anger when Stephen Moss played the nuthatch's alarm call from the ap on his mobile 'phone.

There were also thrushes and good views of a tree creeper.  The latter spotted by the young eyes of Stephen's ten year-old daughter Daisy.  

All in all there was more to listen to than to see.  And just as we were leaving the forest, the sun broke through!

Back at the Green Dragon in the High Street, Stephen Moss gave a talk on birdsong with plenty of examples.  He was co-author of the book of the BBC's popular mini-series - mini in duration though not in the number of episodes - of bird calls: Tweet of the Day.  In case you wondered why you had missed it, it comes on Radio 4 just before 6.00am.

He is about to publish a book on bird names and noted that it was amazing how many of bird names in English and in many languages were onomatopoeic reflections of their calls - like our cuckoo, chiff chaff and crow.

Was that a distant group of thrushes?Was that a distant group of thrushes?Stephen Moss is alarmed at the severe decline in hedgehogs (Daisy has never seen a live one) and house sparrows - among Britain's many 'at risk' species.  But he says there are reasons to be hopeful.

Many habitats are doing well for wildlife - he cites the revival of wetlands.  And he had nothing but praise for the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area scheme - which had done so much to bring back the tree sparrow to Wiltshire as well as nurturing butterflies, raptors and other wildlife species.  

He hoped the farmers who had run the scheme over 25,000 acres of Wiltshire's land with some government seed money, would continue their good work now the funding had ceased.

Bird fact of the day (courtesy Stephen Moss): Wiltshire has more corn buntings than any other county in the UK.

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REVIEW - MARLBOROUGH LITFEST: Peter Kosminsky tells how Wolf Hall came to our television screens - by candle light

Peter Kosminsky & Jon Snow (Photo courtesy Ben Phillips Photography Ltd)Peter Kosminsky & Jon Snow (Photo courtesy Ben Phillips Photography Ltd)Peter Kosminsky is the television director director who brought the first two parts of Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell to television - and six million BBC viewers.  On the Sunday afternoon of the 2015 Marlborough LitFest, Kosminsky was grilled - in the gentlest possible way - by Channel 4 News' Jon Snow.

Wolf Hall the building - Jane Seymour's home before she became Queen - has vanished.  Leaving a sad hole on Marlborough's tourist map.  But it was obvious from the full house at the Town Hall, that 'Wolf Hall' - the novels (Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies), the Royal Shakespeare Company plays and the television drama - still has a firm hold on many people.  

Snow's interview revealed a great deal about the directorial process and the production itself.  Mark Rylance - described by Kosminsky as one of the world's best actors - was chosen to play Cromwell, and he chose Kosminsky as director: "A hell of an honour."

Kosminsky said he had "Searched for Tudor England in Belgium - and could not find it."  He was saved from the familiar low-cost Eastern Europe locations with Dracula castles standing in for Hampton Court and Wolf Hall, by a change in government policy: "Just when we were cranking up the production the new tax breaks came in and we could bring the show home."

To get an authentic feel to the films, Kosminsky and his Director of Photography experimented shooting by candlelight - just one candle.  The technology worked: "Unfortunately some people thought it was invisible as a result!"

Full house for Kosminsky & Snow (Photo courtesy Ben Phillips Photography Ltd)Full house for Kosminsky & Snow (Photo courtesy Ben Phillips Photography Ltd)But the insurers and risk managers insisted on someone being hidden from the camera in case things caught alight and having a man with a measuring stick checking the candle was never too close to anything flammable - he tried the patience somewhat.

Kosminsky told the audience that his aim had been to portray Cromwell's thoughts without using explanatory voice-over.  Mark Rylance's performance achieved this - with the director emphasising 'the space between the words': "Cromwell was powerful but terrified - he was so easy to get rid of.  We had to show how thin the ice is on which he's skating."

Kosmisnsky also emphasised work done in the edit suite - what used to be 'the cutting room' and have a 'floor'.  The series was six hours long on the BBC: "We shot a lot more than that - a lot more."

Later he was asked from the audience whether he might produce a longer cut - 'Wolf Hall the director's cut'?  After some thought, Kosminsky said: "'No' is the answer - I watched the assembly [of all the final takes] and was glad I was going to be able to take quite a bit out.  I think what we produced is better and editing is, I find, an intensely creative process."  

But there is a downside too: "One of the hardest things I have to do is to write to actors and tell them their parts have been cut or decimated."

Wolf Hall is intensely political and was very expensive to make.  There followed some gloomy to and fro about the future of such productions.  Kosminsky had worked in the old, regionally based ITV which had made brilliant programmes like Brideshead Revisted: "ITV was destroyed - it's now a vehicle to make money for its shareholders.  It was destroyed quite wilfully."

"It looks like the sights are set on Channel 4 and the BBC.  That's a slightly terrifying thought for all of us who care.  The government does not own the BBC - we do - you do."

Snow asked Kosminsky what his ambition was: "To make a bit of mischief. It's felt to me for sometime that people are quite passive - politically."  He recognised that people could be pushed too far: "The British public are slow to anger - unlike the French. But once you've pissed them off - stand back!...Maybe I'm being over optimistic."

Snow asked, slightly tentatively, whether Mantel had liked the BBC Wolf Hall films. He described sitting in the viewing theatre with her watching two episodes ending with Wolsey's death - she was so moved she could not speak and just raised an arm with a thumbs up: "You're talking about one of the best moments of my life."

Hilary Mantel is still writing the third volume of her decidedly revisionist history of Cromwell: The Mirror and the Light. The audience hummed with pleasure at the thought of Peter Kosminsky turning that into another television masterpiece.  

But it will be matter of all the team - writer, actors, technicians and the director too - being available at the right time: "We will find a way to bring us all back together."  "Perhaps in five years?"  "I hope it will be in two years."

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Review: Marlborough Literature Festival: Pig-gate, Corbynomics and an alternate Swindon under the microscope


John Crace – picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdJohn Crace – picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdLabour leader Jeremy Corbyn dominated the discussion during at least two events at the Marlborough Festival of Literature last night.

The Saturday night headliner was the Guardian's parliamentary sketch writer John Crace. His most recent book is I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, a reference to the short-lived honeymoon of David Cameron and Nick Clegg after the 2010 coalition deal was signed.

Crace read from the book, but he knows, as well as any of us, that politics is a fast-moving game, and he was keen to discuss Corbyn, pig-gate, and the struggles David Cameron will face honouring manifesto pledges written for an election he never thought he'd win.

May 2015 seems a long way away now. Crace admitted that everyone had called the election wrong. Even ten minutes before the 10pm exit polls were published, he told his Town Hall audience, senior Tories were braced for defeat.

"No-one looked more surprised than David Cameron," Crace recalled. "There was a noticeable hiccup in his throat when he promised to uphold his election promises - this was never the plan."

He recalled the Labour Party Conference of 2014 - and Ed Miliband's speech, delivered from memory, in which he forgot to mention the economy. "It was the beginning of the end," said Crace. "A car crash."

The election surprised everyone, he admitted. No-one predicted the SNP winning all but three seats in Scotland, or the Liberal Democrats being reduced to eight MPs. And no-one called the Labour leadership contest correctly either, with the 100-1 outsider winning the race.

"It was weird being at the Labour Party Conference this year, where Corbynmania was so intense,” said Crace, who recalled how, in the new leader's speech, Corbyn read aloud the stage direction 'strong message here.' "They loved him even more for it."

Crace applauded Corbyn's stance on austerity and a 'making people pay their taxes' but his support came with a note of caution: "If this was an aeroplane and a voice came over the tannoy saying none of our pilots are up to it anymore and it's about time one of the baggage handlers had a go, most people would be running for the door."

Next stop for Crace will be the Conservative Party Conference. “When Cameron makes his speech on Wednesday everyone will be thinking ‘Yes, but did you do that with a pig’s head?’

“When we look back on 2015 we will remember two things: that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t sing the national anthem, and that David Cameron may or may not have have done something unpleasant with a pig’s head.”

John Lanchester  – picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdJohn Lanchester – picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdEarlier in the day, the question of Corbynomics was raised during a Q&A session following a lively presentation by John Lanchester, author of Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, and the novel Capital, which is said to predict The Crash of 2007.

His new book, How to Speak Money, promises to explain the language used by The City, politicians, and financial journalists like Observer economics editor Heather Stewart, with whom he was In Conversation.

The book, says his spiel, is aimed at those who don’t know the difference between debt and the deficit, or what a Dead Cat Bounce is.

“The language creates a gap in our understanding, and reinforces the structures of political power,” said Lanchester. “It’s a fault in our education system – I didn’t know the difference between fiscal and monetary policy until I was 50.”

He reckoned some words and phrases were purposely confusing. “Quantitative easing sound like a brand of laxative,” he said, “rather than a radical technique that allows governments to print money like it’s going out of fashion.”

On Corbynomics, he said: “It’s interesting how freaked out a lot of the banking establishment is. The genie of QE is out of the bottle. They are worried that printing money and linking it to projects (People's QE) will look too much like the government seizing the printing presses.

“It could work. A controlled, focussed, careful use of QE tied to infrastructure could certainly work, but it’s interesting to see people scared of a monster of their own creation.”

And he said right wing governments – which are more naturally trusted by the general public with economic affairs – would find it far easier to introduce radical solutions like QE than left wing ones.

To prove the point, he quoted the ‘old Vulcan proverb’ delivered by Mr Spock in Star Trek IV: ‘Only Nixon could go to China’.”

Another question from the floor asked whether any of the money issued through QE had made it out of the banking system. Both Stewart and Lanchester doubted it had, although no-one seemed quite sure where the £375bn of printed money had gone.

“A lot of it is in emerging markets,” said Lanchester. “It tended to benefit people who already had assets,” said Stewart.

Lanchester compared it to the £24bn in fines paid out to account holders in the wake of the PPI scandal. “It was three times the cost of The Olympics. But that money has gone to people, and they’ve spent it. It’s had a positive effect on the economy.

“It’s a hell of an indictment on the way banks work that paying fines is better for the economy than the way banks actually function, because we’ll do something with it.”

“Modern money is so strange. There’s something strange about the way we willed money into being. If you take out a £20 it says ‘I Promise to Pay the Bearer on Demand the Sum of £20.’ But £20 of what? It’s not gold – that ended in 1976.

“Money is fictional, but it’s a fiction we all believe in.”

Jasper Fforde – picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdJasper Fforde – picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdThe signature of novelist Jasper Fforde’s father – John Standish Fforde, the 24th chief cashier for the Bank of England – used to appear on all sterling bank notes, back in the days when you could demand a quantity of gold in exchange for your £20 note.

Fforde is probably the only author on the Marlborough Lit Fest line-up to have his very own festival in his honour. Every two years, the Fforde Fiesta (obviously) is held in Swindon, the setting of his popular Thursday Next series. Fans play croquet (an important sport in Fforde’s Swindon) and some dress as lobsters.

These devoted fans were not easy to come by, though. Fforde suffered 76 rejections between 1993 and 2000 before anyone considered publishing him.

His method of writing, he explained, was to set himself a ’narrative dare’ which he had to write his way out of. ‘Humpty Dumpty is murdered and someone is responsible’ became the first of the Nursery Crime novels, police procedurals starring Jack Spratt and Mary Mary.

After The Big Over Easy (finally published in 2005) was widely rejected, Fforde wrote the sequel, The Fourth Bear, an answer to the narrative dare of explaining the porridge conundrum in the Goldilocks story – just why was Baby Bear’s porridge ‘just right’ when Mummy Bear’s porridge, in a larger bowl, had gone cold, and Dady Bear’s porridge, in the largest bowl, was still too hot?

“It’s thermodynamically impossible,” said Fforde. Someone ate the porridge and refilled it from the pot – that suggests the existence of a fourth bear.”

Fforde’s first book in the Thursday Next series – The Eyre Affair – was the first to be picked up by a publisher. In this case, the narrative dare was that Jane Eyre had been kidnapped from the eponymous book, and that someone had to get her back.

Fforde told the audience he set the Thursday Next series in Swindon, as he was familiar with the town from his time living in Bedwyn, but also because it’s not a conventional place to set a novel.

“Swindon is a shorthand comedy town. The well trodden path would be to make fun of it. I made it vibrant and exciting. The Clary-Lamarr transport hub is named after two of its most famous sons. Swindon is considered The Jewel on the M4.”

He urged aspiring writers “Follow the path less trodden. If you look down and there’s no path at all, you might stumble on some originality.”


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Marlborough’s sixth Literature Festival opens in a blaze of publicity


Marlborough Town HallMarlborough Town HallMarlborough’s sixth annual Literature festival opened yesterday (Friday) in a blaze of publicity, as the BBC Wiltshire Drive Time show came entirely from the High Street.

Presenter Lee Stone was on the steps of the Town Hall, interviewing authors, organisers, volunteers and ticket-holders about the festival experience.

Meanwhile, inside the building, sponsors and VIPs mingled at a private launch party. In a short speech before author Salley Vickers gave the annual Golding Lecture – the festival’s tribute to Marlborough’s greatest literary son, William Golding – festival chairman Jan Williamson found time to praise everyone who had been involved in the event.

And there were particularly fond words for Angus MacLennan and the White Horse Bookshop. “You can’t have a literature festival without a bookshop,” she said. “and we have one of the best independent bookshops in the country.”

  • Marlborough News Online will be carrying reviews across the festival weekend

Pictures courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography Ltd

Lee Stone interviews author Sean McGlynnLee Stone interviews author Sean McGlynnJan WilliamsonJan WilliamsonSalley VickersSalley Vickers


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Review: Marlborough Literature Festival: Why do we read? It’s not as simple as you think, suggests Golding Speaker

Salley Vickers  picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdSalley Vickers picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdThere was no gentle easing into the weekend for the audience at the first night of the Marlborough Festival of Literature. Instead, attendees of the Golding Lecture were mentally challenged, as Jungian psychoanalyst, lecturer and author of eight novels, Salley Vickers, asked us to consider: Why do we read?

Vickers argued that there was nothing wrong with reading to be entertained, but suggested that "the reader who seeks merely to be distracted will be left feeling abstractly hungry."

Conversely, there are writers who seek to be insufficiently entertaining. “There is an intention to shock or mystify, and a good deal of ‘literary books’ fall into this category,” she told a packed Town Hall. “On the whole these impenetrable books are so because the writer doesn’t have real faith in what he or she has to say.”

We read, she suggested, to know more about the world: by reading we are taken out of ourselves: to another time or another place, and learn about those times and places. William Golding, she reminded us, was an admirer of Homer. “We can learn a lot about archaic armour, and ships, and military tactics by reading The Iliad,” she said.

But we also gain an insight into human nature. Achilles’ dragging of the corpse of Hector around the funeral pyre of his friend Patroclus tells us about grief and the desire for revenge, while the grovelling of King Priam for Hector’s body tells us of a father’s grief for his son.

“In moments like these we learn something wholly familiar; we learn something about human kind and human nature that doesn’t change."

And reading, said Vickers, affords us an insight into human nature – through the gods’ eye view of the novel “we come to know characters in ways we can never know our partners, children, or best friends.”

In fact, she argued, we can vicariously experience things we would not want to experience first-hand through the actions of characters in a book. She called this the ‘scapegoat factor’. In Lord of the Flies we are vicariously experiencing the state of being both the victim, and the oppressor, through Golding’s writing.

“I can never be a man, or 21 again, or a virgin, or a rapist, or a murderer, or a rally driver. But when I read I can be any of those things,” she said.

“We read to get away from ourselves, but we also read to find ourselves. I think it may be part of our evolutionary process: in doing so we are perpetually recreated.”

Sean McGlynn  picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdSean McGlynn picture courtesy of Ben Phillips Photography LtdEarlier in the evening we were taken to another time, and another place – although not always so far away – by historian Sean McGlynn.

One of the leading authorities on King John – although far from a fan of the monarch – McGlynn took us back 800 years to the signing of the Magna Carta.

Knowledgeable and entertaining (“If there’s one document that could benefit from bullet points, it’s the Magna Carta”) McGlynn brought his subject to life.

And as the title of his book, Blood Cries Afar: The Magna Carta and the Invasion of England 1215-1217 suggests, there was more to this short but pivotal period of history than the pow-wow at Runnymede.

Blood Cries Afar is hailed as being the first book to examine the dramatic – and largely forgotten – French invasion of England by the French prince Louis at the invitation of the barons.

McGlynn argued that the arrival of a French army on English soil constituted a ‘second Norman conquest’. "At one point, two-thirds of the barons paid homage to Louis, and most of England was under his rule,” said the author. The prince was a de facto Louis I of England.

In fact, the action came close to home as, in 1216, Hugh de Neville ceded Marlborough Castle to the French invaders. King John may have granted the town its charter in 1204, and was married within its walls, but, for a brief time at least, the French occupied its defences.

A cause for commemoration next summer, perhaps?

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PREVIEW: In Conversation gives audience the chance to hear from two debut novelists


Alex Hourston and Jemma WayneAlex Hourston and Jemma WayneThe annual Marlborough festival of Literature Hiscox Young Authors In Conversation event will take place at on Sunday, October 4 from noon in the Merchant’s House.

The conversation will be from two authors, Alex Hourston and Jemma Wayne, discussing their debut novels in what promises to be a refreshing and insightful event.

Wayne’s novel, After Before, and Hourston’s In My House explore in different ways the thorny, complex but often necessary relationship between women who, for wildly differing reasons, find themselves detached from life and perhaps themselves.

Hourston, who left a career in advertising before writing her novel says that her protagonist, the 57 year old Maggie, and her dog-walking friends are ‘outsiders by choice’, adding that perhaps her attraction to writing such characters was a ‘sort of subconscious rejection’ of the West End world of media that she was so used to.

Maggie’s measured way of living and her wilful rejection of intimacy is thrown into disarray when her life suddenly becomes entangled with that of a teenager. Anja, the Albanian girl Maggie helps escape from being trafficked, enters her life in a way that unexpectedly and irrevocably alters both of them.

Their claustrophobic, uncomfortable, but blossoming friendship reveals the ultimate impossibility of hemming in emotions and shutting oneself off from the messiness of life and love. With Anja’s presence, Maggie’s life-defining secret, over which she has been plagued with guilt, eventually emerges.

Contained within In My House are many fascinating ideas about character and the self, which should make for a dynamic conversation at the Merchant’s House.

Hourston tells me that the idea of Maggie arose from a discussion between her mother and brother-in-law over whether human character is innate or far more fluid, liable to be revised, reworked and transformed many times over one’s lifetime. She also explains that writing Maggie felt ‘less invention and more discovery’.

Maggie’s secret revealed itself to Hourston unexpectedly, as if she felt the answer ‘leap from the page’ She describes the moment as ‘truly beautiful… and one that has never been repeated since, but does support the idea that plot, at best, arises from character’.

Jemma Wayne’s After Before also explores the interweaving of different lives and the power of unlikely friendship. She portrays with great perception the plight of three very different women thrown together by circumstance and all barely existing on the verge of both their lives and society.

In the same way as In My House, outward appearances of a grey existence are disguising scenes of desperation, and sometimes pure horror. Again, as in In My House, the female characters all struggle with painful re-livings of their past, or ‘Before’, that they would much rather keep contained.

Both haunting and evocatively describing the haunted, this novel explores the inescapable nature of one’s ‘before’ and the redeeming and regenerative potential of friendship. A thoroughly bold and powerful novel, this is Wayne’s first after a background in journalism.

With such daring new novels, the event should be an hour of innovative and stimulating discussion, with the chance to listen to and interact with two exciting upcoming authors.

For ticket details log on to



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Supporters and sponsors celebrate the launch of Marlborough LitFest 2015


Nick Fogg Vanessa Lafaye and Mavis Cheek Nick Fogg Vanessa Lafaye and Mavis Cheek There was a very special book launch at Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop this evening (Thursday) when hot-off-the-press copies of the Marlborough LitFest brochure were presented to festival supporters and sponsors.

The event also marked tickets going on sale – and they’re expected to sell like proverbial hot cakes.

Among the guests were two novelists who met for the first time: Mavis Cheek, author of 15 novels and founder of the LitFest, and Vanessa Lafaye, whose debut novel Summertime has been collecting plaudits, including a place on Richard and Judy’s summer 2015 Book Club list.

Big names at this year’s event include bestselling author of the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, Alexander McCall Smith, prizewinning novelist Helen Dunmore, historical biographer and novelist Alison Weir, children’s author Ian Whybrow, and National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke.

Festival chairman Jan Williamson with sponsors Stephen Depla and Myles Palmer of Brewin Dolphin and jeweller Peter PageFestival chairman Jan Williamson with sponsors Stephen Depla and Myles Palmer of Brewin Dolphin and jeweller Peter PageBAFTA-award winning director Peter Kosminsky will be in discussion with Channel 4’s Jon Snow about the TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels of Wolf Hall, the Golding Speaker is Salley Vickers, and the Big Town Read author Rachel Joyce.

A far more comprehensive list can be found in our previous feature here.

Twenty five events will place over the weekend of October 2 to 4. Tickets and programme catalogues are available from The White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough High Street, or Pound Arts at

Further information is available on the LitFest website at



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Sixth formers to replace established author on LitFest bill


Adam ThorpeAdam ThorpeSixth formers from St John’s Academy in Marlborough have stepped in to fill a gap in the Marlborough Literature Festival bill left by Adam Thorpe, who had to pull out.

Thorpe, who was educated at Marlborough College and has been shortlisted for several major literary awards, was due to have been talking about On Silbury Hill, a memoir and a tribute to the architects of the ancient monument.

Instead, the St John’s students will be showing a 20-minute film they made about books and reading.

The 20 minute film – edited down from an original 45 minutes – will be screened to a LitFest audience and then a discussion will take place between the student panel, chaired by Richard Lamb, a St John’s English teacher.

The event takes place at St Mary’s Church Hall from 1.30pm on Saturday, October 3.

The Year 12 students were caught on camera by Richard, discussing books and reading in general, although the content also included chat on austerity measures by the government such as cutbacks to public libraries.

Freya Pigott, St John’s sixth former and co-organiser, said: "It's crucial that young people are involved in events such as Marlborough Lit Fest, as so often young people go unheard.

“This year we've organised a film of sixth form students discussing things from their favourite reads to the controversy of watching a film before the book, reforms of GCSE English to whether books being gendered is necessary… It's a really intriguing project that should prove to be very interesting for those wanting an insight into the minds of students."

This initiative is a follow up to some digital book vlogs created by St John’s students from Years 8, 9 and 10 and co-ordinated by digital content director Terence O’Connor.

In this project, the students filmed ten short video segments where they discussed the books they were currently reading or had read.

Recorded and edited on their phones or with Apple computers, these candid videos capture the teen voices and can be viewed on the LitFest website at



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Top literary prize placing for Marlborough LitFest author


Andrew OHagan © Tricia Malley Ross Gillespie broaddaylightltd Andrew OHagan © Tricia Malley Ross Gillespie broaddaylightltd Marlborough LitFest author Andrew O’Hagan, has just been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize for his fifth novel, The Illuminations.

Out of 13 authors on the longlist (known as the ‘Man Booker Dozen’), Scottish novelist O’Hagan is one of only three UK authors – this is the second year the £50,000 prize has been open to any writer, writing originally in English and published in the UK, irrespective of nationality.

The shortlist of six books will be unveiled in September with the winner announced in October. The judging panel initially had to read 156 novels to reach their longlist decision.

Marlborough LitFest focuses on the best in excellent writing, championing new, upcoming authors as well as established names. An eclectic line-up for the sixth annual Festival from 2 to 4 October offers a mix of fiction and non-fiction, poetry, children’s events and creative writing workshops for adults and teenagers with over 20 events taking place during the festival weekend.

LitFest chairman Jan Williamson, said: “We’re delighted for Andrew’s longlist nomination for the 2015 Man Booker Prize – one of the most prestigious literary awards there is. The Illuminations is a very fine book and we look forward to welcoming him to Marlborough in October.”

Andrew will be appearing on Sunday, October 4 at 1.30pm at the Town Hall, Marlborough. Tickets cost £8.


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TV greats to discuss Wolf Hall at Marlborough Literature Festival


Jon SnowJon SnowChannel 4 news presenter Jon Snow will be in discussion with BAFTA Award-winning director Peter Kosminsky about the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall as part of this autumn’s Marlborough Festival of Literature.

The pair will be discussing the TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels, named after the Tudor manor home of the Seymour family, near Burbage, where King Henry VIII first wooed his third wife Jane.

Highlights of the programme – which has yet to be officially launched but was teased on social media this week – include Salley Vickers, who will be headlining the first night of the festival as this year’s Golding Speaker.

Each year the LitFest hosts an annual Golding Speaker to highlight Marlborough’s long connection with the Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize winner, William Golding, at an event sponsored by the William Golding estate. Past Golding Speakers have included Louis de Bernières, Fay Weldon and Harold Jacobson.

Salley is bestselling author of books including Miss Garnett’s Angel, Mr Golightly’s Holiday, The Other Side of You and The Cleaner of Chartres. She was winner of the 2007 IMPAC Dublin award and judge of the Man Booker Prize in 2002.

Festival chairman, Jan Williamson, said: “We are thrilled that Salley Vickers will be appearing as this year’s Golding Speaker. Salley is best known for her first novel Miss Garnet’s Angel. She’s a novelist full of the unexpected, whose characters wrestle with life’s problems.”

Elsewhere in the programme is Zimbabwe-born Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which sold over 20 million copies; Scottish novelist and journalist Andrew O’Hagan, twice nominated for the Man Booker Prize; poet, and novelist and playwright Adam Thorpe, whose 2014 book, On Silbury Hill concentrates on his relationship with the neolithic Wiltshire mound during his time spent in Marlborough.

Sally VickersSally VickersGuardian journalists John Lanchester – author of Whoops!: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No-One Can Pay, about the global financial crisis – and John Crace – author of Never Promised You a Rose Garden: A Short Guide to Modern Politics, the Coalition and the General Election – will also be in attendance.

Sci-fi author Jasper Fforde – whose Thursday Next novels are set in a parallel Swindon in the 1980s – historian Sean McGlyn, who will be talking about Magna Carta; naturalist, Springwatch producer Stephen Moss – who will be leading a walk around the Savernake Forest – historical non-fiction author Matthew Dennison, who will be speaking on the Life of Vita Sackville West; acclaimed translator Rosamund Bartlett, who will talk about her new translation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina; China writer Alexander Monro on The History of Paper; and Calcutta-born novelist Neel Mukherjee – author of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted The Lives of Others – are also on the bill.

“We’re very excited about this year’s programme,” said Jan. “There’s lots to interest everyone including history, biography, humour, poetry, politics, fantasy and prize-winning fiction. We’ve got some wonderful new writers as well as better known ones. We hope you’ll come and meet them later in the year.”

Marlborough LitFest takes place over the weekend of October 2 to 4. For details, log on to


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