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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 www.marlboroughlitfest.org/digital-diaries

 

 

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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 www.marlboroughlitfest.org

 

 

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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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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 www.poundarts.org.uk

Further information is available on the LitFest website at www.marlboroughlitfest.org

 

 

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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 www.marlboroughlitfest.org

 

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LitFest’s Golding Speaker: Louis de Bernières introduces a full house to his poetry - and his sense of humour

 

(Courtesy Ben Phillips Photography)(Courtesy Ben Phillips Photography)With the Marlborough Literature Festival now in its fifth year and with a series of inspiring speakers and events under its belt, this year witnessed a rapid increase in its popularity - as Friday night’s Golding Speaker Louis de Bernières clearly showed.

Marlborough’s Town Hall was packed with audience members eager to hear the Commonwealth Writers’ prizewinner give a talk on his latest endeavour - a collection of poetry entitled ‘Imagining Alexandria’.

With a voice as clear as a bell, and a generous helping of blithe humour, de Bernières gave an enthralling hour-long talk, provoking equal measures of laughter, gasps of wonder, and sighs of appreciation from all corners of the crowded hall.

Although de Bernières is best known for his novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the evening’s talk took a slightly different turn with the writer treating the audience to a selection of his poetry, both published and unpublished, and a short story.

(Courtesy Ben Phillips Photography)(Courtesy Ben Phillips Photography)De Bernières explained that he’d been writing poetry since his early teens, that his father was a poet, and that his ambition had always been to become a poet, causing himself some surprise when he later found himself first and foremost a novelist. Yet it became clear within minutes of the event that he fits the cap of a poet perfectly, reading poetry he described as inspired by - and poetry that would have been liked by - the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.

Indeed, Greece - in particular philosophy, the Mediterranean and eroticism - permeated the readings, and one could almost sense the Alexandrian poet at his side throughout.

His love of Greece began, he explained, the second time he visited Corfu after a less than ideal first experience with an ex-girlfriend. He described falling in love with music by contemporary Greek composers who had set poems to music, calling these artists ‘heroes of music and literature’.

One poem, Parvulus, sketches the story of a Greek slave-boy as if raised from the grave (‘They changed my name to Parvulus,/ I don’t recall my given name’). When musing upon the life of a slave, de Bernières gave some insight into the inspiration behind the poem, remarking, ‘nothing makes up for losing your family’.

As well as Greece, de Bernières read poems with subjects as diverse as his six year old daughter, the poet Nossis of Locris, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland, each striking and vividly imagined.

Questions from the audience provided an opening for humour, with de Bernières answering a question about how deliberate the difficulty of the first 100 pages of Captain Corelli was by saying “It’s deliberate. I don’t want readers who can’t concentrate.” And adding: “it’s a bit like a marriage: you’ve got to work at it.”   

More laughter followed  after a questioner asked for advice on writing a first novel. The writer quipped, “Louis de Bernières does not want any competition… Next!”

Overall, the talk was a lively and upbeat affair, revealing Louis de Bernières to be both an excellent speaker, with the audience in the palm of his hand, as well as a sympathetic and colourful poet with a refreshingly modest outlook.

For more about the Golding family's connection with Marlborough and the LitFest see Judy Golding’s article for Marlborough News Online.

 

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Milo gets the 17th Century Experience at Marlborough Literature Festival

 

Milo with Jacob at the Merchant's HouseMilo with Jacob at the Merchant's HouseWe sent our eight-year-old roving reporter to the Merchant's House in Marlborough, to find out more about life in the 1600s.

Yesterday I went to the Merchant’s House. We climbed up the dusty stairs and got to the third floor where we saw Jacob (top servant).

First while we were waiting for other people to come he asked us what’s so different about this room and our living room at home? I looked around and saw big paintings and secret doors. He went past us one by one, until he reached me and I said “the huge paintings”.

A few minutes later the house maid came in introduced herself to us and they both told us what their jobs were in Mr Bailey’s house then we went to Mr Bailey’s study and there were sea animals from all over the world.

After that we went up the stairs to the housemaid’s bedroom there was a big duvet cover with sheets under it and then there were tightened up ropes underneath: that’s why it’s night night sleep tight.

Next we went into Jacob’s room. He had the fire but the housemaid didn't have a fire.

Next we went to Mr Bailey’s and Mrs Bailey’s bedroom. They had curtains on the bed. It was called a four poster bed.

After that we went down to the kitchen and looked around it. There was a huge table and it had lots of nice food on it.

And we saw something called a dough cupboard with a dough knife. A dough knife looks like a cake knife.

Then we went out in the garden and tested out a pistol, a really long gun and a sword. He said they were used in the great fight of Marlborough.

After that we wrote poems or drew pictures. Next we went back home and that was my fabulous day at the Merchant’s House.

 

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The upside of corruption: Renaissance writer Sarah Dunant at Marlborough Literature Festival

 

Sarah Dunant at Marlborough Literature FestivalSarah Dunant at Marlborough Literature FestivalAll the events I've been to at Marlborough Literature Festival this year have sparkled, and yesterday Sarah Dunant, Renaissance fiction writer, was no exception.

With enthusiastic continental-style gesticulating, Sarah imbued her talk with as many interesting metaphors as in her books.

And to give AC Grayling from Saturday a run for his money, she did it all without a seeming reference to any notes.

Sarah's foray into Renaissance fiction came after a midlife crisis in Florence. "If you are going to have a psychological breakdown," she said, "do it in a good city."

Academic study of history and the importance of accuracy warned her off writing about her favourite subject and instead she forged a career in crime thrillers. Her moment of crisis came in the Italian city when she realised: "I grew tired of writing novels with an answer at the end...The faster I wrote novels, the faster people read them."

She decided to show her two young daughters the cultural wonders of Florence but knew she had a 'hard sell on my hands.' All the Renaissance heroes seemed to be men. Were there no women architects, painters, philosophers at that time?

She decided there was a story to tell of Renaissance women, several as it turned out - courtesans, nuns, a merchant's daughter. Luckily for her, feminism has led to much academic research into women of this era: "Scholars had mined the deep veins to find the nuggets of gold for me to use," she said. "My books couldn't have been written thirty years ago."

Historical accuracy remains important to Sarah, "I like to put my feet down in fact." She faced a dilemma when composing conversations between characters, but, steeling herself, found it was a place where her imagination could fly.

Sarah's latest books are about the infamous family Borgia. She doesn't believe them to be any better or worse than the other Papal families at that time, just better at the political game - and Spanish. And there wouldn't have been a Renaissance without the corruption - the developments in architecture, art, etc, the beautiful buildings, were funded by the money brought in by a corrupt church.

Sarah left us with two thoughts. A member of the audience asked if she was startled by anything in her research. They probably weren't expecting her to say syphilis. The sexually transmitted decease came out of nowhere and had ravaged Europe in three years. It was a real indication of the difference between how people said they behaved and how they actually did; even the Pope contracted it. And then - historical parallels - the same thing happened across the world in the 1980s with AIDS.

And more parallels? Given current issues with the Middle East, she believes: "We are living in an age where religion is again governing world politics."

 

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