Girding up for 2022

2022Gird up your loins‘ is one of those recognisable phrases, but one can’t quite remember where from. In my mind it’s close to ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place‘, although I know that’s Lady Macbeth exhorting her husband to be bold and resolute. Both mean to prepare for the task ahead. In fact it’s from the Bible, where it’s used on a number of occasions, mostly in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we find ‘Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to end for the grace that is to be brought unto you.‘ from 1, Peter, 1:13. So, it’s about getting ready, bracing oneself for the future.

Which is what so many of us are doing at the beginning of a new year and I’m no exception. It’ll be a busyThe Controlling Idea year ahead. Despite the COVID prompted cancellation of several events outside of London which I was to attend, I’ll still be busy on zoom, starting with a discussion on 17th January for Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Libraries. ‘The Controlling Idea’ is a series of discussions sponsored by my publishers, Claret Press, about books which have been made into films and the first is about Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This is where I come in, as an expert guest, talking about Whitehall and the structure surrounding the security services, it’s where Opera is set, after all.

Opera_CoverIn addition, I’ll soon be finalising Opera for the last time, for publication in September, going through the final proofs, the front and back matter and so on. There is a publicity schedule to be agreed with Claret Press too, including an online book tour and dispatching review copies, plus all the events around a book launch, including talks for libraries, book clubs and societies and, COVID permitting, an actual book tour of real bookshops. It’s exciting. Especially as Claret has a new distributor. We are already talking about flyers being handed out at Westminster and Vauxhall Cross Underground stations – an idea originally for the publication of Plague which got completely derailed by the initial outbreak of COVID. Of course, at the same time, I’ll be continuing to publicise Oracle and Plague.

Then there’s Clapham Book Festival 2022 to think about too – the first planningclapham book festivallogo2 committee meeting is later this month when we hope to be able to discuss the potential programme for the event. A date for your diary is 15th October, our flagship Festival day, though we’ll be planning events around it, probably including another literary walk in Clapham and some events online with our media partners Time & Leisure magazine before and after the Festival Day.

And of course, there’s the next novel, but that, as they say, is another story.

By the way, the derivation of the ‘Gird up your loins‘ phrase relates to managing the long, desert garments worn in the Middle East. Wearers would have to hoick these up and wrap them around their thighs, tucking the ends into their belts or girdles so as to leave their legs unencumbered, if they were about to do something strenuous, wet or difficult. It makes sense when you think about it.

The RBKC Libraries event is Free to attend and you can register HERE.

Clapham Book Festival 2021 – farewell

PosterA4CLAPHAM BOOK FESTIVAL 2021Back in February, when the whole of the UK was in full lockdown, the death rate was still high  and who knew what the future was going to bring, the CBF management team met via zoom to decide what, if any, kind of Festival would be possible in 2021. The 2020 Festival, planning for which had already begun last year, had had to be shelved and no one knew if the same fate would befall any attempt at a Festival for 2021. Nonetheless, with a vaccine roll-out already underway and the promise of better things to come we decided, tentatively, to go ahead. 

We hedged our bets – there would be only two live ‘in person’ events at Omnibus Theatre and those would be livestreamed too, there would be two literary walks taking place outside on Clapham Common and two events online via zoom, hosted by new media partners, Time & Leisure magazine. Everything was uncertain. Omnibus was planning to be open again in Summer, probably with social distancing, but couldn’t be sure they would be. Even if they were, would people be willing to sit in a room with lots of others for an hour or more? We also didn’t know if there would be an audienceCBF2021MacintyrePosterV2 for zoomed author interviews, people might have had enough of zooming during lockdown. And would people be interested in walking round Clapham Common?

On Tuesday last the final event of the Clapham Book Festival 2021 took place. A fair-sized zoom audience watched and took part in a fascinating discussion about spying and espionage between Ben Macintyre, whose new book Agent Sonya is a biography of an amazingly successful Soviet spy based in the twentieth century Cotswolds and Simon Berthon, second world war historian and modern thriller writer. Ben was erudite, knowledgeable and witty and was asked insightful questions by his interlocutor and by members of the audience. It was a tremendously enjoyable hour, appreciated by all who attended and it ended the Festival on a high. 

The showcase day on Saturday 16th October was also a success, even with necessarily reduced audience numbers. The literary walks were a sell-out and, after rain in the early morning, the weather was benign. I enjoyed doing mine and was only annoyed that I couldn’t also go on the one led by Annemarie Neary ( the times overlapped ). We have already received requests to repeat CBF2021NearyWalkPosterV2these and may do so at, say, Easter 2022 as a way of maintaining the Festival’s profile across the year.  Sir Michael Morpurgo was a delight for children and adults alike and Ed Stourton spoke authoritatively and amusingly about broadcasting and journalism from world war two to the present day. Feedback was uniformly positive at 100%, which is astonishing. In retrospect I think there was a real desire, not to say craving, for a return to good quality, local bookish events and the Book Festival met that need.  The livestream option wasn’t called upon.

The first zoom event, with Brixton author Rosanna Amaka, drew a relatively small but committed audience for an interesting discussion about her much praised debut novel The Book of Echoes and her approach to writing it. Both zoom events were successful in their own way, as was the ‘dry run’ in July with local, best-selling author Elizabeth Buchan. We will be doing more of these in 2022 and hope to continue with the £5 a ticket approach and to build up a regular audience.

For now, we’re doing sums and making payments and, it seems, we’ve covered our costs. Lots of books were sold ( I know I’ve acquired some new readers ) and enjoyment was had. Onwards to next year!

The Ben Macintyre discussion is now available and you can watch it here. Donate the ticket price if you can, via the Donate button on the Clapham Book Festival website

Zooming

RosannaAmakaimageSo to the last two events of the 2021 Clapham Book Festival.

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of speaking with Rosanna Amaka about her stunning debut novel ‘The Book of Echoes‘ (Doubleday, 2020). The session was hosted by Lucy Kane of Time & Leisure Magazine, media sponsors of the Festival. Rosanna is a long-time resident of Clapham and Brixton and much of ‘Echoes‘ is set in Brixton in the 1970s. It was fascinating to learn about how she began to write the book, beginning with the character of Michael, the young man growing up then, expanding to include Ngosi, the young Nigerian woman, finding her way from her village to the United States and, eventually, Britain. Only after having developed these two characters did she light upon her narrator, an ancestor of both of them who opens the book. Rosanna read from the very start of the book, written in the words of the narrator, a pregnant slave woman. It is a very powerful opening.

Rosanna began writing the book twenty years ago, in an attempt to capture the Brixton community which she knew and had grownBookofEchoes 9781784164836 PBB.indd up with. It was, she saw, gradually disappearing as the area became ‘gentrified’ and property was priced out of reach of the ordinary person. The older generation was leaving for the Caribbean, from whence they, or their parents, had arrived in the 1950s. Thus ‘Echoes’ was born. She tried submitting to agents and those publishers who accepted unrepresented submissions, but to no avail, so the book was put aside ( taken out and considered every so often ) while she got on with life.

Twenty years later she took it out dusted it off and submitted again, this time with success.  The book was short listed for the Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize 2020, the People’s Choice Award and the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown, prizes, she told us, she hadn’t even known it was entered for ( it was only when the RSL contacted her to ask her to confirm her age that she knew she was up for that one ). It has not, she assured us, turned her head. Her latest manuscript is currently with her agent, Rosanna didn’t want to say too much about it, but we can look forward to another book soon.

CBF2021MacintyrePosterV2Ben Macintyre is rather more prolific than Rosanna, but then he has been writing for many years and with much success as the author of a series of histories and biographies about the world of espionage. I much enjoyed reading his last but one book, ‘The Spy and the Traitor‘ a biography of Soviet spy and double agent Oleg Gordievski. It read like a thriller, with the tension rising as Gordievski was extricated from the U.S.S.R in an operation reminiscent of James Bond. John Le Carre called it ‘the best true spy story I have ever read.’ I haven’t yet read ‘Agent Sonya‘, his latest, a biography of Ursula Kuczynski Burton, the Soviet spy, but I’m looking forward to hearing him talk about that and his other, award-winning books on Tuesday 2nd November in the last event of the 2021 Clapham Book Festival.

Short listed for the Baillie Gifford Prize, the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award Macintyre regularly hits the No. 1 Bestseller spot and his ‘SAS Rogue Heroes‘ is the book behind the BBC series ‘SAS Rogue Warriors‘. He should be fascinating to listen to in conversation with Clapham author Simon Berthon.  At under £6 a ticket this is a snip at the price, one would normally pay a lot more to see and hear him, so get your ticket now from Eventbrite.

The Clapham Book Festival will then be over for 2021, but we plan to continue with the zoom events throughout the year, with the help of Time & Leisure Magazine. I’ll be posting about future events here and on the Clapham Writers site. Here’s a little video made by SW Londoner Magazine about this year’s Festival. https://www.swlondoner.co.uk/entertainment/28102021-video-clapham-book-festival-returned-this-month-with-sir-michael-morpurgo/

Not Quite Done Yet

Saturday’s Festival day is over. The vibe wasn’t quite as energy-filled and buzzing as usual (numbers were restricted because of COVID) but our audiences made up with enthusiasm what was lacking in terms of numbers.  The children who came for Sir Michael Morpurgo were a delight and it’s probably not overdoing it to say that their attitude towards books and reading may have been changed for life by that encounter. In the evening Ed Stourton was intelligent and entertaining, taking lots of, sometimes difficult, questions about broadcasting from the audience.

I had awoken despondent. It was pouring with rain. By one o’clock, however, the rain had gone, even if the sun hadn’t replaced it, at least it was dry.  My little group of intrepid walkers gathered outside Omnibus ( both the walk were completely sold out ) and we started off with a few quotes about Clapham from Daniel Defoe and William Makepeace Thackeray and our first Clapham writer, one Edward Winslow, who sailed on the Mayflower.  My fellow guide, Irish-born award-winning writer Annemarie Neary accompanied us, at least part of the way around the Common. Her walk and mine covered some of the same ground, though she diverged to do a deep dive into the writers who lived near the Northside of the Common, while I continued with a part circumference, taking in the Southside too.

We walked from the Great Fire through the Georgian era, Shelley’s ‘Age of Elegance’, to the nineteenth century and the ‘man on the Clapham Omnibus’, right up to the end of the twentieth century when Clapham achieved another golden age, playing host to Angela Carter, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, J.G. Ballard and Ian McEwan.  Then there is Roald Dahl and a certain Ms Rowing who acknowledges that the ‘first brick of Hogwarts’ was laid in Clapham.

Then back to Omnibus Theatre and the wonderful Sir Michael Morpurgo ( unfortunately I didn’t see his set, I was selling books ), everyone said how excellent he was. But I did see Edward Stourton later that evening and very good he was too, ranging from his book on the BBC during World War Two through his long career in broadcasting to modern journalistic ethics.

The feedback we received was uniformly excellent.  But we still have two events to come, both via zoom and costing only £5.  The first is tonight.  I am speaking with Brixton resident Rosanna Amaka about her amazing debut novel ‘The Book of Echoes’ set in East London, Nigeria, the USA and Brixton’ You can buy tickets at https://tinyurl.com/nkthz2zm

Then in two weeks time Sunday Times best seller Ben Macintyre is talking about his latest ‘Agent Sonya’ the biography of ‘the greatest spy of the twentieth century’.  Clapham Book Festival 2021 isn’t over yet!  Why not join us at seven o’clock tonight?

As an aside, this is the nub of a conversation witnessed outside the Cafe between a group of children and Sir Michael –

Small Boy, pointing to girl beside him: ‘It’s her birthday and she’s got a present.’

Sir Michael: ‘Really! Happy Birthday. How old are you, may I ask?’

Small Girl:  ‘Nine.’

Sir Michael: ‘And what is your present?’

Small Girl: ‘You. My present is to come and see you.’

Multi-awarding winning, former Children’s Laureate tries hard not to crack up, sits down and talks with children, regardless of waiting adults.

The countdown begins…

The research is done, the cards of notes are written and the hand-out prepared, now it’s all about the weather. My Literary Walk kicks off this year’s Festival at two o’clock on Saturday and, fingers crossed, it looks like it’s going to be dry and ( relatively ) sunny! My supplications to the weather gods are working so far. It’ll be so much better a festival if that is the case, encouraging people out onto the Common and to participate in things. Omnibus Theatre, our venue, has a pleasant terrace to its Bar/Cafe which overlooks the Common and that is a good place to sit in the sunshine. But the real impact will be on the walks, which would be so much more difficult in the rain.

Award-winning Irish-born novelist and short story writer ( and fellow Clapham resident ) Annemarie Neary leads the second walk starting at three thirty. Our walks aren’t the same, though we do cover some of the same ground; we both start from outside Omnibus Theatre on Clapham Common Northside. Annemarie is focusing on the north and west of the Common, whereas I am doing the full circuit, though I don’t deviate from it, whereas Annemarie does.

There is so much to talk about, in terms of writers who lived in Clapham and works set in Clapham, from the seventeenth century to the present day; including one Nobel Laureate (and some nominees), some of the most famous books and characters in English literature and some modern mega-best-sellers. I’ve unearthed some Clapham-based detective/crime fiction too (I’m not sharing them today, if you want to find out about them you’ll have to come on the walk or wait for the blog which will, inevitably, follow).

As I write this there are some tickets still available for all of the ‘in person’ events at this year’s Clapham Book Festival, mainly because we have been moved into the bigger of the two auditoria at Omnibus Theatre. Social distancing necessarily reduces audience numbers ( one of the reasons the ticket price is higher this year ) but we should now have a good sized audience. Experience suggests that the majority of tickets are sold within the last week, with many people choosing to attend only on the day itself. So we will be selling tickets at the front desk too.

It’s clear from the ticket sales that Sir Michael Morpurgo is a real draw, with people coming from across, and even outside, London to see him.   Ed Stourton is more of a local – he had used to live in Clapham – and I fully expect that Clapham will turn out to see him. We also have two zoom events which take place on the evenings of 19th October and 2nd November (postponed from 7th October because of illness ). I’m already preparing to interview the much praised debut novelist from Brixton, Rosanna Amaka, whose The Book of Echoes was short listed for a range of prizes, including the Royal Society of Literature’s Christopher Bland Award.

But that will take place next Tuesday and, between now and then there’s a Festival Day to take part in.

P.S. I’ve just learned that my walk is Sold Out!

A Different Kind of Book Fest

Clapham Book Festival 2021 is almost upon us! This year we have a variety of excellent sessions, all involving authors, sometimes ‘in person’ live, sometimes live on zoom and sometimes leading groups of walkers around Clapham Common. There are local authors involved, including myself, as well as some big names – Sir Michael Morpurgo being the biggest. We have everything from children’s books, to crime, history, biography and a ‘searing, rhapsodic‘ debut. Fingers crossed for good weather on the day. Autumn in Clapham is often beautiful and, as a leader of one of the walks, some blue sky would be nice. The Cafe/Bar at Omnibus Theatre is light and airy, with doors which open on to a gaily lit terrace and we will be selling, and the authors signing, books there throughout the afternoon of 16th October.

Clapham Book Festival is a small festival run entirely by volunteers and with only small local sponsors. It’s been running since 2016, gradually getting a reputation and a regular following in the immediate locale and some minor recognition in the industry (we were mentioned in The Times in 2019 and had the BBC filming a short piece). 2019 was also the year in which the Festival began to be financially self-sustaining. The future looked bright, but COVID derailed all that. There was no Festival in 2020. We took the decision that the Fest would go ahead in 2021 back in February, while England, the UK and much of the world, was in lockdown. Nobody really knew what circumstances would be like in the Autumn, so we had to be flexible and offer something rather different to normal.

So, this year, in a new and exciting partnership with media partners Time & Leisure Magazine we are presenting a series of zoom interviews and discussions with authors. We have Ben Macintyre, associated editor of The Times and best selling historian and biographer, speaking with Simon Berthon, local writer and BAFTA-winning broadcaster about his latest book Agent Sonya and all things espionage. Time & Leisure hosted the first, successful, online author interview back in July, when I spoke with best-selling local novelist, Elizabeth Buchan to an online audience. We’re staying local to end the Festival on Tuesday 19th October with Brixtonian Rosanna Amaka discussing her wonderful debut novel The Book of Echoes in an interview with me.

The live ‘in person’ events at Omnibus Theatre on the Showcase day will also be livestreamed. In collaboration with Clapham Books, our local independent book shop, the Fest is offering tickets to the livestream to include a copy of a book, plus postage.  Tickets this year are, it has been pointed out, more expensive. Yes, they are, but we are a charity and we can’t project running an event to make a loss. Given that audience numbers are restricted ( though not as much as we originally feared ) we had to reflect that in prices. It will, I have no doubt, put some people off, but the zooms are all at £5.

So why not join us, online or in person. If you live in south London come along to one of the literary walks and learn more about Clapham and its writers.

Conservation and conversation

London is a wonderful city in which to live, a trove of treasures to be discovered. I’ve lived here for over thirty years, yet I’m still finding interesting places new to me, sometimes close to home. Ten days ago I found myself in Stockwell.

Stockwell is a place I usually pass through, on the number 88 bus or on the Northern or Victoria lines going into town. I almost never stop there. Yet there I was, consulting my map and clutching my trusty notepad (plus a jar of homemade plum jam). I was there to interview the broadcaster and journalist Ed Stourton of Radio 4  for Time & Leisure Magazine. It was somewhat daunting, to be interviewing the man who had interviewed so many famous, and infamous, people and whose voice had formed part of the backdrop to my mornings for so many years. Stourton was a main presenter on Radio 4’s Today Programme for a decade – as well as The World at One and The World This Weekend, both of which he still does on occasion.

He had, very kindly, invited me to interview him in his home and, determined not to be late, I was ridiculously early. So I wandered towards the address I had been given and discovered, for the first time, Stockwell Park or the Stockwell Conservation Area.  It received that designation in 1973 and covers the old Stockwell Green (the 15th century manor house which formerly stood there has links with Thomas Cromwell) and the later 19th century developments of Stockwell Crescent and the roads running from it. Built primarily in the 1830s the surviving buildings are elegant early Victorian villas with gardens. They were built to different designs, which distinguishes them from the smaller, ‘pattern built’ south London Victoriana elsewhere (like some of my beloved Clapham).

I wandered, happy, around curving crescents and through quiet, tree-lined streets and found St Michael’s Church of England church (consecrated 1841) and a blue plaque marking the home of Lillian Bayliss, Director of the Old Vic and Sadlers Wells theatres and founder of the forerunners of the English National Opera, the National Theatre and the Royal Ballet. The whole enclave was a delight and so very near to the busy Stockwell Road which runs directly into the City. I never knew it existed.

When I arrived (on time) Ed and I had coffee in his beautiful garden and talked about his life in broadcasting – from the Cambridge ‘Milk Round’ and an ITN traineeship, to Channel 4 News at the very beginning (Stourton was a co-founder), Washington and Paris for C4 and the BBC respectively, his love of radio, admiration for George Orwell and enjoyment of la france profonde, specifically the foothills of the Pyrenees. His views on current standards of journalism were more optimistic than I thought they might be, taking the view that the ‘no truth’ culture would pass, reality being very hard to avoid. He cited the initial success of Nazi propaganda, something he’d researched for Auntie’s War; The BBC During World War Two (Doubleday 2017) which ultimately failed.

He was an amusing and engaging companion with a fund of stories, how he got into the besieged city of Sarajevo, for example, or being in Soweto when Nelson Mandela was released. I came away with a wealth of material and the interview will appear in Time & Leisure October edition ( plus a longer version in their on-line version ) I’ll share a link when it’s published. Why not come along to hear him speaking with Simon Berthon, fellow broadcaster, at the Clapham Book Festival on 16th October or, if you’re unable to get to Clapham, buy a ticket for the livestream of that event. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

Clapham Book Festival 2021

clapham book festivallogo2Clapham’s quirky and much-loved literary festival is back for 2021, taking place on 16 October. It will feature events in a variety of formats, including literary walks and livestreaming of events as well as the usual live author discussions. This year will also see a number of online literary events during the summer and autumn in the lead up to the event in October, which will be delivered in partnership with Time & Leisure Magazine.

Paula Johnson (Society of Authors, Associate Director Royal Society of Literature, Royal Literary Fund Trustee) has put the programme together, and will include literary walks, author talks, and will feature highly acclaimed authors including Sir Michael Morpurgo, and a host of new and established local authors.

Says Paula: “Bringing back the Festival after a year of lockdown, our programme kicks off at 2pm with guided walksAnnemarie Neary author pic around the literary sites of Clapham led by local authors, including the novelist and award-winning short story writer Annemarie Neary and crime fiction writer, Julie Anderson. Clapham has a long and illustrious literary history and this is a unique way of exploring it, but ticket numbers are limited so be sure to get yours early. Although we cannot be sure what level of restrictions will apply in October, if any, the walks will take place regardless of all but the strictest of lock-down circumstances.”

At 5:30pm, Sir Michael Morpurgo will be at Omnibus Theatre. The former children’s laureate, multiple award-winning author and creator of the world famous War Horse, will be discussing his new book When Fishes Flew and his life and work. This is a perfect event for all ages. At 7:30pm, Ben Macintyre, historian, biographer and columnist for The Times Ben Macintyre USE - credit Justine Stoddartnewspaper, will be discussing his most recent book Agent Sonya, a biography of Soviet agent, Ursula Kuszinsky and trading stories of legendary spies with local author and broadcaster Simon Berthon.

Come and meet the authors and have your books signed (authors’ works will be on sale at Omnibus thanks to the support of partner, local independent bookshop Clapham Books). There will also be live streaming of both performances, for those who cannot attend in person, with a copy of the author’s book included in the ticket price. Tickets for both types of event will be on sale at the start of September via Eventbrite, as well as for the literary walks.

The Book Festival will also be presenting a series of live author events and discussions online in partnership with TimeElizabeth Buchan author pic & Leisure Magazine. This is a new departure for the Festival. It will bring high quality author interviews, often with local authors or writers connected with Clapham and south London to a wider audience all year round. Panel discussions and conversations are planned. The first of these, with best-selling local author Elizabeth Buchan, whose new book Two Women of Rome was published in June, will be taking place on 28 July.  Elizabeth will be discussing her work, the settings for her books and the importance of history in her books. This is a free event to inaugurate the programme but please register at  Eventbrite here.

All good things…

OracelandPlagueThere are always interesting things happening in the world of books, book festivals and publishing, but right now many are happening as a result, direct or otherwise, of the enforced lockdown and the removal of the usual ways in which books and literature are promoted and supported.  I’ve experienced this myself, with publication of not one, but two books during COVID times. Gone were the signings, the book tours, the attending of literary festivals. My publisher’s idea of handing out the first two chapters of ‘Plague’ in a small, bound leaflet at Westminster Tube station ( the book is set in part in the Palace of Westminster ) was completely stymied by the pandemic. There were few folk emerging for work in Whitehall and even fewer tourists last year and, in any case, who was going to take a leaflet from a stranger which had PLAGUE written across the top?

chatInstead, book promotion has moved even further into the virtual world. I have ‘met’ lots of people online when promoting the books in this way, people who I now think of as friends, even if I’ve never actually met them. I have invitations to Edinburgh, Newcastle and Tamworth and supporters of myself and my books across the globe, not just the book shops of south east England.  I also have a network of friendly fellow authors, with whom I have appeared on panel discussions and other platforms or have coincided online with for other reasons.  And I ‘know’ a host of folk via Facebook, a medium I hadn’t really used at all until very recently, but which, in COVID-times, has provided a host of alternative ‘communities’ for bookish folk – writers and readers.

Plague book tour bannerYes, much of this could have happened anyway, events like blog tours have been going for some time now, though there is a limit on the amount of time available for book promotion and certainly a limit on my publisher’s budget, but the restrictions have been a catalyst, at least for me and, I suspect, many others.  As we become familiar with the technology and comfortable with the zoomed or skyped or livestreamed world new ideas spring up and take root. There are new things afoot in the world of book bloggers with live author chats, discussions between bloggers about books and with book club events – e.g. Mairéad Hearne at Swirl and Thread is hosting launches, Poppy Loves Book Club is hosting a series of online events and the lovely folk at the UK Crime Book Club host regular author chats and discussions and authors reading from their books – to name but three.  These are all offering free events ( as long as you have the internet, of course ).

camera-6209482_1920Some things will never be the same again I suspect. Livestreaming, a lifeline for dark theatres and closed halls, is here to stay for performance generally, reaching wider, more dispersed audiences. Many festivals of all kinds, including Clapham Book Festival, will offer livestreaming alternatives alongside live events. Our partners, Omnibus Theatre certainly plans to do so. All of which is a boon to those who would not be able to attend events like this in the normal course of things, the infirm or elderly, or those living in isolated, or culturally deprived, locations. They can now not just watch but contribute to and take part in events – which would have been unthinkable before. None of the libraries I’ve done sessions for, sometimes structured ‘talks’, sometimes conversations, plan to retreat from these online events, though they will return to providing ‘live’ ones too. Let’s hope that they’re staffed to do so.  Festivals too are going online. And the Clapham Book festival is no exception – more news on that in due course.

The Festival is Back

clapham book festivallogo2And it will probably will never be the same again!

The date for the diary is Saturday 16th October 2021, with a mixed Programme of events, including Literary Walks, lead by local authors, and live author events at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham, which will also be livestreamed for those who do not live close enough, or do not wish, to attend in person.

The two headliners for this year are Sir Michael Morpurgo, multiple award winner and former Children’s Laureate and Ben Macintyre historian, reviewer and columnist of The Times newspaper.

Sir Michael is the winner of the Whitbread Children’s Book Award, the Prix Sorcieres (three times), the Red House Children’s Book Award (four times), the Blue Peter Book of the Year and many others. He was knighted in the 2018 Honours List for services to literature and charity. He and his wife set up Farms forMichaelMorpurgo City Children in 1976 and the charity now owns three farms in Wales, Devon and Gloucestershire. His most famous work is probably War Horse, which was adapted for the stage and became the most successful National Theatre production ever, being seen by over ten million people worldwide. It was made into a cinema film, directed by Stephen Spielberg, in 2011. He recently presented the Radio 4 series ‘Folk Journeys’ in which he considered some of the greatest songs ever composed.  Sir Michael’s latest book is When Fishes Flew, illustrated by George Butler, to be published this Autumn.

AgentSonyaCoverBen Macintyre is an author, historian, reviewer and columnist for The Times newspaper. His most recent book, Agent Sonya, is a biography of Soviet agent Ursula Kuczinsky, has been acclaimed as a thriller as well as a piece of history.  Both events will be livestreamed and live stream ticket holders will receive a copy of the respective author’s book.  If we are in another lockdown or under other restrictions in force the event will go ahead as a livestream only, or, potentially as a zoom event.

Earlier in the day the Festival goes al fresco, out and about in Clapham. For centuries the home and haunt of writers of all kinds, Clapham has a long and illustrious ( and sometimes less than respectable ) literary history. Join local authors Elizabeth Buchan and, later, Annemarie Neary, on a Literary Walk round the manor.  Elizabeth’s latest novel Two Women of Rome  is published in June ( though her earlier book, The New Mrs Clifton was set in Clapham ) and Annemarie’s The Orphans, is set on Clapham Common itself. The walk takes approximately two hours (although that depends on how muchT&L Media logo Box NEW.eps discussion there is in each group). Ticket numbers will be limited so it’ll be important to book early. We hope the walks can take place in any circumstances but a strict lockdown.

More exciting news is that CBF is now partnered with Time & Leisure magazine and the Book Festival is planning, with the magazine, to offer a selection of bookish author events available online year round. Watch this space for developments. Tickets for all events, online, livestreamed and in person, either in the Theatre or out and about, will be available on Eventbrite.