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Countdown to LitFest '17 - tickets now on sale

Last night (13 July) at the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough the countdown to Litfest '17 commenced.

Chair of the LitFest Committee addressed the audience of volunteers to announce the launch of the programme which features an ever stronger line-up of speakers, headed by Will Self, Frank Gardner, David Mitchell to name but three.

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Oh Horrid Henry! Children's author Francesca Simon joins LitFest's 2017 line-up

Marlborough LitFest has announced that the bestselling children's author Francesca Simon is joining the line-up for its 2017 line-up - its eighth year (28 September-1 October).

Francesca Simon is universally renowned for her phenomenally popular Horrid Henry series - the books and CDs have sold over 20 million copies in the UK alone and are published in 27 countries.

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The Bees are coming: author announced for Marlborough LitFest’s Big Town Read

Laline Paull Laline Paull Marlborough LitFest in partnership with The Reading Agency has chosen author Laline Paull for their 2017 Big Town Read.

The Big Town Read is back for this year's festival by popular demand - giving local book clubs the chance to read the chosen author's book in advance of the LitFest (28 September-1 October) so it can be discussed in a Q&A session with the author.

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Marlborough LitFest branches out with a June day celebrating summer & nature writing

Fiona ReynoldsFiona ReynoldsFiona Reynolds' message will chime with many people who live in and around Marlborough and enjoy its special countryside.   She will be part of a new venture, quite separate from the main festival weekend, that Marlborough LitFest is arranging to celebrate June's start of summer with a day devoted to nature writing - Saturday, June 3.

This will be held at the White Horse Bookshop and has been made possible by the LitFest's lead sponsors Brewin Dolphin. 

The programme includes four speakers and - at 1.30pm - the announcement of the winner of the Richard Jefferies Nature Writing Prize - now sponsored by White Horse Bookshop.  This prize is named after Wiltshire's celebrated and ground-breaking Victorian writer and naturalist.

The four speakers are:

Fiona Reynolds has been Director General of both The National Trust and The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). Her new book, The Fight for Beauty, demonstrates her tireless enthusiasm for the countryside and her passion for conservation.

John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and historian who lives in Herefordshire on land his family has farmed since the 14th century. He is the author of Meadowland and The Running Hare : The Secret Life of Farmland. He is the winner of the 2015 Wainwright Prize for Nature and Travel Writing.

Rosy Hardy is a garden designer and founder of Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants. She's won many gold medals at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace flower shows.  She is well known as an inspirational speaker on gardening and design. After her talk Rosy will be signing copies of her new book, Rosy Hardy - 25 Years of Chelsea.  

   Rosy HartyRosy Harty     

Simon Cooper's new book The Otter's Tale recounts his special relationship with a family of otters. Anyone who heard Simon talking about his previous book Life of a Chalkstream at last year's LitFest will know what a treat it is to hear him speak.

All the details of the times and ticketing can be found here - where there's also a link to the LitFest website.

And for diaries: the 2017 Marlborough LitFest will run over the weekend September 28-to-October 1.

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Marlborough LitFest: BBC’s Frank Gardner & a celebration of William Golding's 'Marlborough novel' amongst 2017 line-up

Frank Gardner (Photo copyright Colin Thomas)Frank Gardner (Photo copyright Colin Thomas)Marlborough LitFest has announced more names for its 2017 line-up in its eighth year (28 September – 1 October, 2017), including BBC Security correspondent, Frank Gardner, Graeme McCrae Burnet, local crime writer Jon Stock, as well as a talk hosted by the William Golding Estate.

These authors will join this year’s Golding Speaker, Will Self, who will open the Festival on 29 September.

BBC Security correspondent Frank Gardner OBE will be talking about his latest thriller, Ultimatum (published in September 2017), the second book in a trilogy.

]Ten years after himself surviving an Islamist ambush in Saudi Arabia during which his cameraman was killed, Frank Gardner, although partly paralysed, continues to travel the world reporting for the BBC.

He has written for The Economist, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph as well as writing a memoir and travel anthology.

Graeme McCrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project was shortlisted for the Man Booker 2016. Renowned as a real 'word of mouth' book, The Guardian reviewed it as ‘a psychological thriller masquerading as a slice of true crime; a collection of “found” documents that play lovingly with the traditions of Scottish literature; an artful portrait of a remote crofting community in the 19th century that showcases contemporary theories about class and criminology’.

McCrae Burnet, a former teacher, is considered one of the brightest stars on Scotland’s current literary scene.

Local crime author Jon Stock is the author of five spy novels (Warner Brothers bought the film rights to his Daniel Marchant trilogy) and a new standalone psychological thriller, Find Me, (published in February 2017 under the pen name of JS Monroe).  

There are more details about Jon Stock on Marlborough.News - and there is also a review of Find Me by Adrian Clarke.  

Stock previously was a freelance journalist and until 2015 he headed up the Weekend and Living sections of the Saturday and Sunday Telegraph. He will fill the popular crime spot at the 2017 LitFest.

To coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of William Golding’s novel, The Pyramid (which is described as a ‘Marlborough-disguised’ novel) a talk will be given by the William Golding Estate on ‘William Golding’s Legacy and his debt to Marlborough’.

The Marlborough LitFest committee say they are especially pleased to celebrate the town’s long connection with the Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize winning author.

Jan Williamson, Festival Chair, said: “We are very excited about this year’s line-up.  We’ve got some brand new authors and some very well-known ones.”

More names for the 2017 programme will be announced later.  The organisers are including a wide variety of speakers throughout the festival weekend.  

The list will feature new and young fiction writers as well as established names, children’s authors, workshops and poetry events.   The Festival’s intention is to bring the best of good writing to the town of Marlborough.

The Marlborough LitFest is supported by a number of sponsors - notably their founder sponsor ALCS  (the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society.) The lead sponsor is Brewin Dolphin

And LitFest's events sponsors are: Hiscox Insurance, the William Golding Estate, Marlborough College and St Francis School.

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Marking the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death: Marlborough LitFest's winning sonnets

LitFest's winning sonneteers Ann Johnson and Lucy Jones (copyright Ben Phillips Photography) LitFest's winning sonneteers Ann Johnson and Lucy Jones (copyright Ben Phillips Photography) Marlborough LitFest 2016 featured one real novelty in its pleasing mix of literary styles and books for all ages: a sonnet competition attached firmly to the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

The challenge for entrants - one section for adults and another for under-nineteen year-olds - was to 'write back' in verse to any of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets.  The verse could be in strict Shakespearian sonnet form or it could be in a much freer verse style.

The competition was judged by the poet Sarah Howe, winner of this year's TS Eliot Prize and of the 2015 Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of The Year Award for her volume Loop of Jade.   

Sarah provided the LitFest's grand finale talking about and reading her poetry at Marlborough College on Sunday (October 2.) The winners in each category received £100 and winners and runners-up received copies of Loop of Jade.

And the winners were:

--in the Adult section: Ann Johnson, who lives in Marlborough. She wrote a highly amusing response to Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun") - in a wondrously modern idiom. Simon Russell Beale read her sonnet to the audience at his sold-out talk in the Town Hall on the Sunday afternoon.

--in the Under-19 section: Lucy Jones - aged fourteen and in Year 10 at St John's Academy.  She wrote a bittersweet response to Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?")  


My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damnask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go -
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
         And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
         As any she belied with false compare.


Will, thanks a lot for posting thy remark
On FB's Timeline, where my Selfie's shewn :
You diss my face too pale, my hair too dark
And comment on bad breath on thy Smartphone,
Yet oil painting art thou none, my deare,
Thy face a moon, thy Haire like tide drawn back
And flowing down thy collar (so last yeare).
Thine pigges are cute in Hamlet on YouTube,
Tho' Marlowe's Kittens got more Likes I see.
Then eff off with the colour of my boob,
Thy sonnet's rubbish as you will agree.
           And yet thou'rt not a waste of space complete
           So LOL, I shall not presse Delete.


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all to short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair some time declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
        So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
        So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


I am nothing like a summer's day,
my face does not show who I truly am.
True beauty always seems to fade away,
proving that love is nothing but a sham.
There is no room for a man in my life;
I want to be so young, alone and free.
I have no interest in being a wife;
I don't need anyone restraining me.
So come, foul weather, do your worst,
I feel a thunderstorm brewing within.
Such words of vile love, may they be cursed,
to stop the foul crawling of my skin.
        Such darkness hides within those deep blue eyes;
        I will not be deceived by all your lies.

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Will Self to open Marlborough’s 2017 literature festival

Will Self image courtesy of Chris CloseWill Self image courtesy of Chris Close 


Novelist, journalist and television personality Will Self will open this year’s Marlborough LitFest, organisers have confirmed.

Self will be this year’s Golding Speaker, talking about his latest novel, Phone – due out later this year – on Friday, September 29 at Marlborough Town Hall.


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.


Self is the author of ten novels, five collections of shorter fiction, three novellas, and five collections of non-fiction writing.


His 2002 novel, Dorian was longlisted for the Booker Prize, and his novel Umbrella was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.


His fiction is predominantly set within his home city of London, and his subject matter often includes mental illness, illegal drugs, and psychiatry.


Self is a well known face, having regularly appeared on Have I Got News for You and as a team captain on Shooting Stars. He is also a frequent guest on Newsnight and Question Time, and appears on BBC Radio 4.


He is a columnist in publications as varied as The Guardian, the New Statesman, and Playboy.


Festival chairman Jan Williamson said: “We are very excited that Will Self has agreed to be the Golding speaker for 2017. He’s been described as ‘the most daring and delightful novelist of his generation’.


“It’s a thrill that he’ll be here to open this year’s Marlborough LitFest.”


Meanwhile, festival fans are in for an early treat with the introduction of a summer event outside of the main festival weekend.


A Nature Writing Day will be held on Saturday, June 3 to celebrate the wealth of nature writing in the UK.


Hosted at The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough in association with Brewin Dolphin, speakers will include garden designer, Rosie Hardy, as well as the winner of the Richard Jefferies Society Writers’ Prize for outstanding nature writing.


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Marlborough LitFest 2016 sets a new standard - with sell-outs and colours to remember

Children's authors Sarah McIntyre & Philip Reeve (All photos copyright Ben Phillips Photgraphy) Children's authors Sarah McIntyre & Philip Reeve (All photos copyright Ben Phillips Photgraphy) "2016", LitFest's Chair Jan Williamson tells Marlborough.News, "has been our best LitFest so far.  We’ve had bigger audiences and several complete sell-outs.  For the first time, we’ve had events for every age group from Under 5s to over 90s!"

"We started on Thursday with Sally Nicholls and a packed audience for the Big School Read at St John’s, and ended at the College on Sunday evening with the wonderful poetry of Sarah Howe, winner of the TS Eliot Prize."

Ella Berthoud - BibliotherapyElla Berthoud - BibliotherapyHowever, this year brought some other and surprising superlatives: "It’s been our most colourful LitFest!  Marlborough was brightened by the fabulous clothes of children’s authors Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve, and by bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud."

Many people we have spoken to have commented on the greater variety of events.  Some had direct local relevance, like Simon Cooper's Life of a Chalkstream.  Others like food and travel writer Elizabeth Luard took the audience far away, though probably by the end left them quite hungry - if not for her Squirrel Pie.

Over its six years, Marlborough's LitFest has become much more than the sum of its parts: "Perhaps best of all has been the feeling of support from the town, the buzz around the LitFest cafe, book groups chatting together before the Big Town Read, discussing King Atlelstan's morals, crowds of children excitedly queuing to buy Abi Elphinstone’s books after her talk to local primary schools, people crowding round tables of books set up by the White Horse Bookshop and a general air of people engaged, interested, excited by books."

"The heart of LitFest is always fiction. This year we’ve had a feast of great writing especially from debut authors: Alex Christofi, Barney Norris, Claire Fuller and Harry Parker, all names to look out for in the future."  

Simon Russell Beale Simon Russell Beale LitFest Director Jan Williamson LitFest Director Jan Williamson We ask about the highlights - always a tricky question: "The highlights have been a feisty opening with Lionel Shriver talking about her new book The Mandibles with literary journalist Alex Clark - a super-charged session almost worthy of question time in the House of Commons when James Naughtie interviewed Tom Bower, author of Tony Blair’s biography - and a tantalising taster of Simon Russell Beale’s Prospero for the RSC’s new production of The Tempest."

And here's the pitch: "Many people were disappointed not to get tickets for Simon Russell Beale and for some other events, including Michael Morpurgo’s talk, Rare Books at the College and the Libanus Press." 

"Anyone interested can sign up on our website for our e-newsletter at which keeps you up-to-date with the programme and booking details."  And allows you get to those tickets in good time.

Next year’s dates are 29 September to 1 October

And, Jan Williamson reminds us, the LitFest would not survive without its supporters and sponsors - lead sponsor Brewin Dolphin, and other sponsors Hiscox, Duncan Morris, Carter Jonas, William Golding Ltd, The Welton Foundation, Fingal Rock.

Also the collaboration with local schools Marlborough College, St Francis and St John’s - and, of course, Marlborough's own independent bookshop - the White Horse Bookshop.

[Marlborough.News thanks Ben Phillips Photography for the comprehensive photographic coverage of LitFest.]

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