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The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2019

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The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

4 – 13 October 2019

It is that time of year again when the full line-up for The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival line-up is announced and with 2019 being its 70th anniversary year the full line-up is just breath-taking.

With thanks from Phoebe Swinburn and the Midas PR team who have kindly let me have a copy of the full scheduled line-up. There are so many highlights for this year’s programme that you would need to book the two weeks off and move to Cheltenham. I was lucky enough to attend two years ago to interview and American writer while at the festival.

I am not sure where to start as there is so much for everyone whether you are attending on your own or as a family. There is a pop-up bookshop and plenty of places to eat and drink and just relax and enjoy the festival.

This is just a small selection of the highlights of the 70th anniversary festival.

COLM TÓIBÍN | CELESTE NG | DAVID CAMERON | TAN FRANCE | NADIYA HUSSAIN | IAN MCEWAN

BERNARDINE EVARISTO | CANDICE CARTY-WILLIAMS | DAVID LAMMY | TOM KERRIDGE | ESTHER FREUD

HELENA BONHAM CARTER | ALI SMITH | ROB BRYDON | CHIMENE SULEYMAN | ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER DAVID BADDIEL | BELLA MACKIE | JORDAN STEPHENS | SCARLETT CURTIS | SEBASTIAN FAULKS

SAM WARBUTON | TAI SHANI | RICHARD DAWKINS | TOM HOLLAND | DOM JOLY | STEVE BACKSHALL

CRESSIDA COWELL | MALORIE BLACKMAN | KONNIE HUQ | PAUL WHITEHOUSE | BOB MORTIMER

ANDREW RIDGELEY | LOUIS THEROUX | DAVID SUCHET | ALASTAIR COOK | ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH

KATY BRAND | PAUL MERTON | KERRY HUDSON | TRACY CHEVALIER | ROBERT HARRIS | MARY BEARD

HERMAN KOCH | HOWARD JACOBSON | JACKIE KAY | ROB AUTON | PAUL MULDOON | THERESA LOLA

EMILY MAITLIS | GINA MARTIN | JOHN HUMPHRYS | SIMON SCHAMA | RORY STEWART | JESS PHILLIPS

SOPHIA JANSSON | CARRIE GRACIE | CAROLINE CRIADO PEREZ | VALENTINE WARNER | YASMIN KHAN LEVISON WOOD | HANNAH WITTON | CANDY GOURLAY | DOUGIE POYNTER | DANNY WALLACE

KES GRAY & JIM FIELD | JUNO DAWSON | HOLLY BOURNE | MICHAEL ROSEN | DERMOT O’LEARY

With Guest Curators: MAX PORTER, YOMI ADEGOKE & ELIZABETH UVIEBINENÉ | DOMINIC SANDBROOK

TESSA HADLEY | ANTHONY ANAXAGOROU | LESLIE VINJAMURI | ROBIN STEVENS

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The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is delighted to announce the unmissable line up for 2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the world’s oldest literature festival, which is leading the way in engendering a love of reading in young people.

The Festival will bring more than 900 of the best writers, thinkers and performers of our time to the vibrant Regency town, setting the scene for once-in-a-lifetime conversations to take place over ten extraordinary days of unique experiences, critical debate and literary revelry.

From 4 – 13 October, the Festival Village will host an unparalleled literary line-up including this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, Colm Tóibín, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the highly anticipated Booker shortlist, as well as the most exciting emerging talent on the scene. Dynamic debut novelists include Candice Carty-Williams, Ronan Hession, Elizabeth Macneal, Jessica Andrews and Season Butler as well as the Festival’s showcases of the best new writing in Fiction at 7, Debuts and Cocktails and Proof Parties.

As part of the ‘Seven at Seventy’ anniversary celebrations the Festival welcomes Chris Tse, Kanako Nishi and a raft of international authors to the Cheltenham stage, as well as showcasing unearthed archive audio content, introducing a literary audio trail of Cheltenham, and street art courtesy of Cheltenham Paint Festival on the theme ‘Hurrah for Books’.

There will be up-to-the-minute political analysis fresh from the party conference season courtesy of David Cameron and David Lammy, with The Times debate – joined by Jess Phillips and Rory Stewart – questioning the future of our political parties, and The Sunday Times considering White House contenders with Adam Boulton and Sarah Baxter.

From current affairs to food, history to fashion, sport to art, science to travel, the Festival guarantees something for everyone with the fun extending long after dark with the eclectic Off The Page series of curated events, including a Game of Thrones quiz night, US story-telling sensation The Moth, jazz and poetry fusion group Tongue Fu, an evening celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell and a vibrant spoken word strand. And for one night only the irreverent Lit Crawl returns to take over the streets, pubs and bars of Cheltenham.

The perfect family day out, this year’s Festival includes a packed programme of world class authors and illustrators to inspire toddlers to teens, with The Woodland Trust Wild Wood filled with beloved characters, storytellers and activities, plus a Secret Seven Mystery Trail celebrating 70 years of the world’s favourite detective club. The Festival’s year-round education programmes, inspiring a love of reading and creative writing, also culminates in October with 9,000 school children on site taking part in Literature for Schools.

New partner Sky Arts will broadcast across the final week with live coverage, interviews and events from a bespoke Sky Arts Studio on site. The venue will be a free pop-in space where festival attendees can be part of the filming and take part in other creative activities. Elsewhere on site there will be free events for all ages around the Festival village, The Huddle, hosting an array of talks and brains teasers, including Daily Crossword, Cheltenham Writes and Very Short Introductions, and The Chatterbox, where guests can become secret agents by decoding mysterious messages around the Festival.

Booking for the Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals Members at 10am on Wednesday 28 August and general booking opens at 10am on Wednesday 4 September.

On a personal basis if you are thinking of attending then one book talk to attend is Joanna Cannon Breaking and Mending (Profile Books) who will be giving a talk on Monday 7th October on stage with Molly Case and Leah Hazard as part of Life on the NHS Frontline. They will share some hilarious stories but also some of the heartbreaking stories from the NHS.

Many of us remember the late 1970’s and Debbie Harry and Blondie, I was a huge fan then years later I got to interview Debbie Harry and imagine how nervous I was. Debbie Harry will be coming to the festival this year to talk about her memoir Face It (Harper Collins) on Sunday 13th October.

On Friday 4th October there is a discussion: The Holocaust: Tales of Survival. The Costa Book of the Year winner Bart van Es author of The Cut Out Girl (Penguin) along with Jeremy Dronfield author of The Boy Who Followed his Father into Auschwitz (Michael Joseph) who will be joined as part of the panel by surviving sibling Kurt Kleinmann.

Then for fans of Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer and the hit BBC series Gone Fishing now in its second series will be on stage talking life, health and all things fishing, this event will be a must attend and they will be on stage on Sunday 6th October at 6.45pm.

Fans of poetry and current affairs as well as lifestyle and cooking will be dlighted with the line-up this year and then there is the fiction line-up. Just a few names that I am looking forward to are: Elif Shafak, Louise Candlish, Louise Doughty, Patricia Cornwell, Tracy Chevalier, Elizabeth Macneal, Damian Barr just to name a few.

For further information visit the official website:

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Twitter: @CheltLitFest

Festival Brochure:

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS

70th ANNNIVERSARY
This year marks 70 years since Cheltenham Town Hall hosted the world’s first literature festival and started a global, cultural phenomenon. As part of ‘Seven at Seventy’ celebrations, the Festival welcomes Guest Curators Max Porter, Yomi Adegoke & Elizabeth Uviebinené, Dominic Sandbrook, Tessa Hadley, Anthony Anaxagorou, Leslie Vinjamuri; and Robin Stevens. Lending their unique voices and wealth of expertise to the programme, events include Sandbrook’s selection of the seven most influential British novels of the last 70 years, Anaxagorou’s rising stars in poetry and spoken word, a series of mystery events by Stevens, and a curated acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today from Max Porter.

Seven high profile authors will be reflecting on their breakout book in a special series of Cheltenham trademark ‘Celebrate With…’ events: Howard Jacobson on The Finkler Question; Robert Harris on Fatherland; Jessie Burton on The Miniaturist; Herman Koch on The Dinner; Tracy Chevalier on The Girl With a Pearl Earring; Alexander McCall Smith on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; and Jung Chang on Wild Swans. There will also be seven showcases celebrating new writing talent, including Jessica Andrews and Ronan Hession, as well as looking ahead to the breakout names for 2020 such as Deepa Anappara and Evie Wyld.

Literature festivals around the world have joined the celebration bringing their leading authors to Cheltenham including Chris Tse, Wana Udobang, Kanako Nishi, Esme Wang, Nicole Flattery, Sarah Henstra and Hernán Ronsino. The celebration of international literature continues with 70 global book festivals recommending one title they would like Cheltenham audiences to add to their bookshelves to form a ‘Reading the World’ reading list.

Building on last year’s inaugural ‘Podcast in Residence’ role, Literary Friction take on the 2019 residency and there will be seven unique podcasts featuring archive audio content from the past seventy years, as well as partnerships with seven further bookish podcasts.

FICTION
Fiction fans will be spoilt for choice with a stellar line-up of literary superstars including Colm Tóibín, Ian McEwan, David Nicholls, Jung Chang, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, Jojo Moyes, and Bernardine Evaristo. The Cheltenham audience will enjoy a celebration of the biggest books of the year such as Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), Bridget Collins (The Binding) and Damian Barr (You Will Be Safe Here) as well as new reads from Howard Jacobson, Victoria Hislop, Kevin Barry, Jessie Burton. George Alagiah, Tom Bradby and Peter Hanington will draw upon their frontline experience to share fiction as thrilling as their day jobs, Richard Roper and Beth O’Leary celebrate feel-good fiction, Deborah Moggach and Jenny Éclair examine the baggage of inheritance and family ties, Chris Power and Sarah Hall will reveal the art of the short story, plus last year’s Guest Curator Sebastian Faulks becomes our latest literary castaway as he returns with ‘Desert Island Reads’. There will also be the opportunity to hear from The Times and The Sunday Times Literary Editors, Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate.

The Festival welcomes a host of killer women at the top of the crime and thriller genre including Patricia Cornwell, Louise Doughty, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Denise Mina and Erin Kelly, with Jessica Fellowes and Kate Weinberg discussing the secrets to plot a thrilling mystery. For further suspense, Alex North and CJ Tudor explore the dark side of human nature; Herman Koch and Louise Candlish discuss the appeal of writing toxic characters; the husband and wife writing duos behind pseudonyms Nicci French and Ambrose Parry will be revealed, and masters of the genre Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Stewart Neville and Luca Veste discuss the future of the crime writing.

There is also plenty for historical fiction fans, including Philippa Gregory on her period page-turner Tidelands, Tracy Chevalier on her beautifully orchestrated new book, A Single Thread, set between the two Great Wars; as well as Robert Harris (The Second Sleep), Stacey Halls (The Familiars) and Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale).

CLASSIC LITERATURE
From George Eliot to Orwell, Chaucer to the Moomins, we are celebrating some of our most-loved classics as well as revealing the answers to burning questions such as: who are literature’s worst parents, which dystopian thrillers are most relevant now, and can words still pack a punch in the age of Twitter with Simon Schama. BBC Radio 2’s Book Club with Mariella Frostrup and guests will be exploring how novels have always been a revolutionary agent of social change ahead of the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Tessa Hadley, Colm Tóibín and Bernardine Evaristo are explaining the pleasures and motivations of re-reading.

Acclaimed actors Christopher Eccleston and Sheila Hancock will be joining Allie Esiri to celebrate Shakespeare’s dazzling body of work, actress Maureen Lipman remembers the inimitable Joyce Grenfell and her Hurrah for Books performance at the first ever Cheltenham Literature Festival in 1949, Kathy O’Shaughnessy, Juliette Atkinson and Rebecca Mead mark George Eliot’s bicentenary by delving into her fascinating life and work, plus Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia Jansson will share readings from the intimate letters of the beloved Moomins creator. Lara Prescott is joined by Boris Pasternak’s great niece Anna Pasternak to discuss the startling true story behind one of literature’s most memorable love stories Doctor Zhivago, and the Festival celebrates the life and writing of the much-loved literary figure Patrick O’Brian with his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.

STAGE & SCREEN
The Festival is thrilled to welcome a multitude of music superstars including the masterful Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blondie legend Debbie Harry, Status Quo front-man and founder Francis Rossi and WHAM’s Andrew Ridgeley who will reflect on his life-long friendship with George Michael. Mark Radcliffe shares how music can transform our lives, Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis reveals the untold stories from the festival and there will be an evening of musical magic to celebrate Joni Mitchell.

Screen icon Helena Bonham Carter will discuss her exceptional and singular career, and there will be secrets from behind the scenes with Richard Curtis discussing his love of The Beatles, Oscar-winning Dustin Lance Black on his deeply personal story of coming out to his Mormon mother, plus screenwriter Julian Fellowes and producer Gareth Neame on the much-loved Downton Abbey. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of beloved comedies Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet will look back on their long careers, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper will discuss the BAFTA winning success of This Country, David Suchet will reflect on a career spent behind the camera, and beloved documentary maker Louis Theroux will share his strangest times in television. Comic Relief co-founder Lenny Henry will be leading the laughs, with more to come from the likes of David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade, Katy Brand and Paul Merton.

POETRY, SPOKEN WORK & OFF THE PAGE
In an exclusive Festival commission, Guest Curator Max Porter brings together Kerry Hudson, Niven Govinden, Momtaza Mehri and Rachael Allen with musicians Alula Down to create an acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today. Guest Curator, poet and Out-Spoken founder Anthony Anaxagorou presents his Dream Team of Mona Arshi, Jack Underwood, Caroline Bird, Wayne Holloway-Smith and Kei Miller. The Cheltenham audience will hear from further vibrant voices in the poetry and spoken work scene including Rob Auton, Matt Abbott, Ben Norris, Rachel Nwokoro, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, alongside Chris Tse, Paul Muldoon, Brian Bilston, Pam Ayres, Julia Copus, Joe Dunthorne, new Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay will be selecting her top ten of the most exciting BAME writers working in the UK today. The literary revelry continues after dark with a Game of Thrones Quiz Night, music from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, some wonderfully and wildly misinformed insight from character comedian Christopher Bliss, and more from the much-lauded Bang Said The Gun, Tongue Fu and The Moth.

CURRENT AFFAIRS
David Cameron will appear in the first event for his memoir For the Record, discussing his life, career and perspectives on the EU referendum and the future of Britain’s place in the light of Brexit. Joining Cameron on the exceptional Current Affairs line-up is David Lammy, Jess Phillips, Caroline Criado-Perez, James O’Brien, Gina Martin, Laura Bates, Nimko Ali, The Times editor John Witherow, The Times and The Sunday Times journalists Daniel Finkelstein, Rachel Sylvester, Matt Chorley, Sarah Baxter and Phillip Collins, with a glimpse behind the broadcast scenes from Emily Maitlis, John Humphrys, Nick Robinson and Ed Stourton.

The Festival looks outwards to Erdogan’s Turkey with Hannah Lucinda Smith and novelist Elif Shafak, to Trump’s America and his approach to global affairs with Chatham House’s Leslie Vinjamuri, to China and opportunities for women with Carrie Grace, the challenges India faces with Robin Niblett and Champa Patel; and to Putin’s Russia with Mark Galeotti, Peter Pomeranstev, and BBC Newsnight International Editor Gabriel Gatehouse.

Mostly Lit podcast host Derek Owusu and Jeffrey Boakye consider the experience of black men in Britain today, and Guest Curators Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené explore how it feels to be a black woman in a predominantly white space. Anthony Anaxagorou is joined by Mariam Khan and Chimene Suleyman to discuss how art and activism can be best combined to create positive social change, Jérôme Tubiana, David Constantine and Hashi Mohamed explore astounding accounts of human endurance and faith against overwhelming odds and terrible injustice, and Aeham Ahmad will be playing the piano on stage as he shares memories of performing in the streets of war-torn Syria.

HISTORY & ANCIENT WORLD
Moving individual stories of the Windrush generation will be shared from Colin Grant and Amelia Gentleman, literary critic Bart Van Es and biographer and historian Jeremy Dronfield will chronicle how the trauma of the holocaust gave rise to astonishing stories of courage and survival, plus there will be further historical insight from Guest Curator Dominic Sandbrook, William Dalrymple, Giles Milton with Anthony Seldon and polling expert Deborah Mattinson asking who was the most disastrous prime minister in British history. Virginia Nicholson considers the experience of women in the 60s, The Favourite author Ophelia Field and Anne Somerset explore Queen Anne’s life, and the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II is given a fresh take by author, historian and television presenter Kate Williams, plus novelist Katie Hickman will reveal the extraordinary lives of the British women who made their way to India and changed history. For ancient history aficionados, Mary Beard and Llewellyn Morgan will join author and classicist Peter Stothard to celebrate the power of Roman poetry on lifestyle and philosophy, whilst Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Daisy Johnson and Natalie Haynes will explore how we relate to myths in the modern life.

FOOD & DRINK
Cheltenham’s famous Art Deco restaurant The Daffodil will be transformed into a mecca of global foodie delights. Audiences will be transported around the world with mouth-watering Middle Eastern recipes from Yasmin Khan, sumptuous Moorish cooking courtesy of Ben Tish, Dishoom chef Naved Nasir and co-founder Shamil Thakrar cooking up a feast of Indian delight, and native Russian flavours from Alissa Timoshkina. Festival favourite Tom Kerridge will be sharing his foodie tips for a happier lifestyle and Valentine Warner records his journey through grief told in recipes of love and memories. There will be flavour mash-ups from Bake Off’s Liam Charles, Rukmini Iyer (The Quick Roasting Tin) will demonstrate the art of hassle-free cooking, Pam Corbin shares her pioneering jams, pickles and preserves and there will vegan delights from Rachel Ama (Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats) plus Henry Firth and Ian Theasby Johnson (BOSH). Plus, Jancis Robinson (The World Atlas of Wine) will be revealing the art of pairing a delicious three-course meal with matched wines.

LIFESTYLE
Queer Eye will meet Bake Off with Tan France and Nadiya Hussain discussing their upbringings and new memoirs and Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer will talk life, friendship and the joys of fishing. Comedian Jen Brister (The Other Mother), Christine Armstrong (The Mother of All Jobs) and Matt Coyne (Man Vs Toddler) will share hilarious anecdotes and chart the ups and downs of sharing life with tiny humans.

Emily Dean and confirmed cat lover David Baddiel will be discussing tales of grief and recovery, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen will share tales from the farm, and Jordan Stephens, Clementine Inti Chavez Perez and Capser Walsh will discuss what it means to be a man in society today Tom Bradby, Marina Benjamin and sleep scientist Nicola Barclay will anatomise the cause, consequence and potential cures for insomnia, plus Guest Curators and authors Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (Slay in Your Lane), vegan chef Rachel Ama, pilates and wellness coach Isa-Welly and Amy Thomson will help the audience strike the perfect balance in our busy lives, ranging from our approaches to digital health, to what we eat.

There will be gardening tips galore from Anne Chambers, Vanessa Berridge, Clare Foster, Rowan Blossom and Caroline Donald, and the doyenne of English interior design, Nina Campbell, will impart her wisdom. Lovers of classic fashion will be taken on a beautifully illustrated tour through the V+A’s blockbuster DIOR exhibition by curator Oriole Cullen and Condé Nast chairman Nicholas Coleridge will reflect upon his thirty-year career. There will be an exploration of feminist art and fashion from V&A curator Jenny Lister and drag queen Crystal Rasmussen and drag king Daisy Hale will explain how the art of pushing gender boundaries has taken hold of pop culture. The Times Fashion Editor Anna Murphy advises on how not to wear black and three of the country’s top names in beauty – facialist Alexandra Soveral, make-up artist Hannah Martin and hair stylist Kiki Koh – will be on hand.

SPORT
A host of sporting legends will grace the stages of Cheltenham this year kicking off with Welsh rugby titan Sam Warburton, and for cricket fans there will be England’s greatest batsman Alastair Cook, plus Prashant Kidambi and Philip Collins. The Festival will celebrate inspirational women who have pushed themselves to the limits of their endurance, including record-breaking ultra-running phenomenon Mimi Anderson, the first woman to complete the infamous Transcontinental Race, Emily Chappell and Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win The Mongol Derby.

ART & DESIGN
This year’s Art & Design series explores everything from the architecture to illustration, including a very special discussion about Lucian Freud with his daughter Esther Freud, revered British illustrator Charlie Mackesy on his favourite pieces, Turner Prize-nominated artist Tai Shani celebrates rebel female muses, and ‘Cold War Steve’ Chris Spencer explains why we need satirical art now more than ever. Grant Wilson and Naomi Wood will examine the Bauhaus movement’s cast of characters in its centenary year, Andrew Hill and Emilie Taylor take a look at Ruskin’s contemporary legacy, and Jason Webster and Claudia Hopkins show how Spanish art is inescapably intertwined with the country’s turbulent history. Kate Bryan shares the dazzling and explosive stories behind some of art’s most influential romantic relationships, Ossian Ward illuminates the Old Masters as well as the dramatic vibrancy of contemporary art, Marit Paasche and Clare Hunter recognise the political and protest power of sewing, Jackie Bennett studies the intimate relationship between artist and garden, plus Angela Summerfield and Christiana Payne look at the role of trees in inspiring some of our greatest artworks.

FAITH & PHILOSOPHY
The Cheltenham audience will find enlightenment and fascination in all schools of philosophical thought, with Richard Dawkins expanding further on atheism in Outgrowing God, Peter Stanford exploring the reasons behind why so many of us still believe in angels, and historian Tom Holland describes Christianity’s transformative legacy on Western thought. Author Karen Armstrong will argue the importance of rediscovering global scriptures, and A.C Grayling will take the audience through the epic journey’s and traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy – from Buddha, Confucius and Socrates to Mill, Nietzsche and Sartre.

SCIENCE
In this year’s Science line-up, Martin Rees offers a provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity, and Arthur I. Miller contemplates on what it means to have original thought, creativity and consciousness in the age of machines. Rick Edwards and Michael Brooks will explore the science of death and mass destruction through some of our best-loved Hollywood blockbusters, and Angela Gallop, one of the world’s most eminent forensic scientists, will discuss her ability to reconstruct violent events and how she solved so many intractable cases. David Nott shares his extraordinary experience as a trauma surgeon in the world’s most dangerous war zones, Christie Watson reflects on twenty years in nursing, and Nicci Gerrard alongside Wendy Mitchell ask important questions about how we love, care for and value those who suffering from dementia.

NATURE, TRAVEL & ADVENTURE
An inspirational list of speakers will share their unique journeys including Sue Perkins on the Mekong, Adam Weymouth on his solo canoe odyssey along the Yukon River, Raynor Winn will revisit her 630-mile walk on the South West Coastal path, comedian Dom Joly will trace his hike across Lebanon, and Monisha Rajesh will recount her 45,000-mile adventure on the world’s most remarkable railways. Great historical adventures will be retraced by travel writer Alastair Humphreys who reflects on Laurie Lee’s iconic journey from the Cotswolds through Spain, and author and filmmaker Jacki Hill-Murphy recounts the achievements of early female explorers including Victorian nurse Kate Marsden’s epic trip across Siberia.

BAFTA winning naturalist, writer and television presenter Steve Backshall will share his exploration of undiscovered worlds and former British Army Officer and explorer Levison Wood will whisk the audience through the heart of Middle East. Writer Luke Turner and journalist Emma Mitchell will demonstrate the healing power of nature, editor Clare Gogerty and explorer Erling Kagge will show us how to travel in a way that enhances your connection to the world, adventurers Mark Boyle and Ben Fogle will explore the joys without modern technology, plus writers Philip Marsden and Dan Richards will discuss fulfilling life-long travel ambitions and why we remain drawn to the wild, and The Sunday Times travel team, including Susan D’Arcy, will be sharing their expert knowledge.

PSYCHOLOGY
Activist, journalist and curator Scarlett Curtis will be joined by an exciting line-up of inspirational contributors from her new anthology It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) to discuss what their mental health means to them; Chief Survival Instructor to the British Military, John Hudson, gives lessons for everyday life taken from the first-hand accounts of near disaster experiences; Matthew Syed shares his radical blueprint for creative problem-solving; Ella Risbridger and Bella Mackie share how alternative therapies of cooking and jogging helped them in their mental health recoveries; and YouTubers Hannah Witton, Khalaf and Instagram star Megan Jayne Crabbe encourage discussions about body image, imperfections and being confident in your own skin.

FAMILY
The packed Family programme has more selection on offer than ever including the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, with a world of mythical creatures and a special event with festival friends revealing what lies inside their notebook pages. The incredible programme also welcomes the legendary Malorie Blackman and her highly anticipated new Noughts & Crosses novel, presenter Dermot O’Leary and illustrator Nick East with the latest escapades of Toto the Ninja Cat, and some horrendously horrid fun with Francesca Simon. There will be crime capers with Guest Curator Robin Stevens, adventures galore with Helen Skelton, Abi Elphinstone and Candy Gourlay, plus much more from the likes of Danny Wallace, Dougie Poynter and Konnie Huq.

For littles ones there will be family fun with multi-award winning Oi Puppies! duo Kes Gray and Jim Field, and the Festival will be marking the birthdays of some famous characters including Kipper, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elmer, as well as the 30th anniversary of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with the great Michael Rosen There will be family shows I Believe in Unicorns, The Rainbow Fish, The Greatest Comic-Making Show On Earth and Maisy Mouse, for spoken word and music lovers the Tongue Fu for Kids band will be performing, while Mark Llewelyn Evans introduces the thrilling story of opera.

Budding young creatives can take top tips from the best in the business with workshops on everything from fairy-tale animation to writing adventures and detective move making. Plus the Festival is hosting its first ever ‘Big Family Book Quiz’ to challenge book knowledge, creativity and nonsense know-how! And if that’s not enough for YA fans Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne, Matt Abbott, Jenny Downham and Dean Atta will be taking to the Cheltenham stage.

EDUCATION & YEAR-ROUND OUTREACH
This year’s extraordinary ‘Literature for Schools’ programme includes Cressida Cowell, Francesca Simon, Chris Riddell, Hilary McKay, Kit De Waal, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Anthony Anaxagorou amongst many others, including Guest Curator Robin Stevens leading a series of mystery events. Spoken word artist Sophia Thakur will be performing with students from the Festivals’ year-round outreach programmes – Beyond Words, Write Now and Amnesty’s Words that Burn – in the Young Writers’ Showcase, and authors taking part in Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils – the Festival’s flagship education project supporting teachers with a national network of free reading groups – will be igniting creativity with workshops from Vashti Hardy, Joe Todd-Stanton and Emma Carroll. Plus the first of the new books selected for the 2019/20 programme will be revealed during the Festival!

FESTIVAL PARTNERS
Title Partners: The Times and The Sunday Times
Principal Partners: Baillie Gifford; Cunard; Sky Arts; Thirty Percy, University of Gloucestershire; Waterstones. Woodland Trust.

 

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From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lovers Guide to Britain – Andrew Baker

from-bean-to-bar-cover.jpg

From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lovers Guide to Britain – Andrew Baker

Summary:

Chocolate… dark, white or milk; smooth, plain and creamy or bursting with flavours and textures, it’s guaranteed to get the pulses racing. And with chocolate-making now one of the most exciting areas of Britain’s artisan food scene, this book takes you on a tantalising tasting tour of the country’s sweet spots that helps you explore chunks of Britain while enjoying the country’s best and most authentic chocolate. Whether they’re based in the Highlands of Scotland or the mountains of Wales; a shed in Cleethorpes or in the shadow of Winchester Cathedral, we seek out the rising stars of the chocolate industry, try their mouthwatering products and explore towns and cities where the bean-to-bar magic takes place. Among the people and places included are Duffy Sheardown, a former Formula One racing engineer who makes bars of chocolate in a shed in Cleethorpes that are prized by chocolate connoisseurs all over the world; Willie Harcourt-Cooze, a glamorous globetrotter who grows cocoa in Venezuala and makes chocolate in Uff culme, Devon (sold in Waitrose); and the passionate young women of Dormouse, who from tiny premises in Manchester are winning international accolades.

AUTHOR

I love chocolate of that I can happily admit to. I have to have my daily fix and suddenly everything I the world is fine. I love chocolate so much that some years ago while in the Caribbean I visited a cocoa plantation and toured the factory as the pods were then turned into almost anything including bathing in chocolate. Yes, I did. It really hits our sensual points.

Cocoa pod on a dark wooden table.

I was delighted to have received a copy of From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain (AA Publishing) by Andrew Baker. Published on 22nd August. This really is a chocolate lover’s tour of Britain, looking at the various chocolate-making places across the country.

Many of us have visited Cadbury World in Birmingham but I for one was not that impressed just a large consumer driven operation designed to get people to spend money on products that actually are not chocolate, well chocolate as we know it anyway. What Andrew does best is that he takes us on a tour far and wide that will tickle your taste buds. It is a chocoholics dream book. This is a travelogue packed full of aromas that if you could scratch and sniff the pages I doubt you would leave your home. It is intoxicating. I love cooking and experimenting with food and From Bean to Bar has really wetted my appetite to experiment more with chocolate. Just a stone’s throw away from where I live is one of the chocolate makers in the book that is Willie Harcourt-Cooze factory near Wellington in Somerset. Willie was the star of a TV Series as it followed him and his family as he tried to get his chocolate factory set up and accepted. It is so good to see him doing so well.

There is plenty of history in the books as well as Andrew takes a step back to look at chocolate in Britain in the days gone by and there is plenty of history there. Andrew Baker is a journalist and also an international chocolate judge so he is well placed to take us from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall on a chocolate adventure like no other and we see the process from Bean to Bar talking to the artisan chocolate makers that are now creating a real name for themselves and finding out their secrets (though not all I am guessing).

If like me, you love that dark sensual taste that is real chocolate then From Bean to Bar by Andrew Baker is a book that really will make you salivate. Best read with your favourite bar of good chocolate.

272 Pages.

Thank you to Vanessa Boagye (Midas PR) for the review copy of From Bean to Bar by Andrew Baker

From Bean to Bar by Andrew Baker was published by AA Publishing and will be published on 22nd August 2019 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another by Kate Humble

COVER

Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another by Kate Humble

 

Summary:

Thinking on My Feet tells the story of Kate’s walking year – shining a light on the benefits of this simple activity. Kate’s inspiring narrative not only records her walks (and runs) throughout a single year, but also charts her feelings and impressions throughout – capturing the perspectives that only a journey on foot allows – and shares the outcomes: a problem solved, a mood lifted, an idea or opportunity borne. As she explores the reasons why we walk, whether for creative energy, challenge and pleasure, or therapeutic benefits, Kate’s reflections and insights will encourage, motivate and spur readers into action.

Also featured are Kate’s walks with others who have discovered the magical, soothing effect of putting one foot in front of the other – the artist who walks to find inspiration for his next painting; the man who takes people battling with addiction to climb mountains; the woman who walked every footpath in Wales (3,700 miles) when she discovered she had cancer.

This book will inspire you to change your perspective by applying walking to your daily endeavours.

 

Shortlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.

My Review:

I love walking, most of my thinking is done while out walking along the canal close to home, on the fells in the Lake District or the Scottish Highlands. Walking and thinking and then I open Thinking on My Feet (Aster) by Kate Humble and there it is very early in the book. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: ‘All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking’.

A year of walking and this is the record of that one year by TV personality Kate Humble. She walks and runs her way through the year. Not just here in the UK but also while she is overseas recording for TV. These are her own thoughts as she talks to the reader and you do feel that you are out walking with Kate.

One of the first things that Kate does every morning is a walk before breakfast and the day starts. Nothing better than starting your day with a walk with your pet dog. Written as a form of a diary Kate talks us through her year at home and across the world and also the people she meets through the course of the year and some of the people are just so inspirational and puts everything into perspective.

But there is also the discussions Kate has with the reader about life closer to home and about the routines of everyday life but being out and about at home and abroad means you get to see the world at a much slower pace than in a car or train. Being in nature and around family and friends.

Walking I have found to be incredible therapeutic and this is a book that is just that. Reading Thinking on My Feet will make you want to get your boots on and get out of the house and have a walk and get close to nature.

Thinking on My Feet by Kate Humble has been shortlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize with the winner being announced on 15th August at the Countryfile Live event at Castle Howard, Yorkshire.

 

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304 Pages.

Thinking on my Feet by Kate Humble was published in Paperback by and was published on 30th May 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

A Hitch In Time – Andy Smart

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A Hitch In Time – Andy Smart

Summary:

From Liverpool to Pamplona on a rollicking 72,000-mile road trip; Andy Smart’s early adventures are a series of jaw-dropping feats and bizarre situations from which, amazingly, he emerged unscathed. Living on his wits, sleeping rough and accepting lifts that get him into bizarre and often dangerous situations, Andy’s six years spent on the road stand as a unique record of life as it was in the late 1970s and early 80s. In this hilarious memoir, they are juxtaposed with a host of earlier memories, resulting in a unique collection of dazzling funny stories that have been told and retold in countless bars and comedy clubs but never before written down.

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My Review:

Andy Smart is a comedy legend a big star from the 1980’s The Comedy Store and has appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 40 times if you include the forthcoming 2019 festival. Andy is also best known for his guest appearances on TalkSport Radio where he gives his will commentate and also give his own insight to football.

Now Andy has just released an autobiographical chronicle of his early life from his days growing up in Liverpool to the hair raising six years travelling all over Europe in a 72,000-mile road trip in A Hitch In Time (AA Publishing).

There is great humour as you would expect from Andy as he recounts his early days from a young boy and recounting his extraordinary road trip. I have something in common with Andy as I also come from Liverpool and a big Liverpool supporter. What Andy does not know is that I was at the Liverpool v Spurs game in 1978 when we beat Spurs 7-0. It was a close game. Also we left Liverpool at the same time.

What you will get is an incredible road trip through the book interspersed with hilarious comic moments as Andy left his home town to seek fame and fortune as a comedian and his hitch-hiking across the UK and Europe. Then of course it was Andy who wanted to go to the World Cup in Spain in 1982. England’s first game was against Michel Platini’s France in Bilbao. Not all of Andy’s hitch-hiking went ok, some put him in some dangerous situations. Just think about that for a moment, 72,000 miles all over Europe hitch-hiking. Be prepared for a hilarious road trip that begins its journey in Liverpool. I laughed at many of Andy’s antics and winced at others. Andy Smart you are a legend.

320 Pages.

To buy a copy via Amazon: Here

Thank you to Vanessa Aboagye (Midas PR) for the review copy of A Hitch In Time by Andy Smart

A Hitch In Time by Andy Smart was published by AA Publishing and was published on 25th July 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Closer I Get by Paul Burston

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The Closer I Get by Paul Burston

Summary:

Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.

When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…

AUTHOR

My Review:

My goodness how I loved reading The Closer I Get (Orenda Books) by Paul Burston. The idea of writing about the dangers of Social Media and stalking really had my thinking about how we all interact with other. Many will know and follow me via Twitter and there were times when I switched off Twitter while I was reading Paul Burston’s brilliant taught thriller.

Novels are not just about the storyline they are nothing without characters and Paul has created and crafted some wonderful characters with Tom and Evie. Let’s start with Evie. She is totally off her head in fact dangerously and worryingly psychotic. The story opens with what seems like a letter from Evie to Tom and from this moment the reader is inside Evie’s head. Then the story from Tom’s point of view moves back eight months.

Tom is a writer and his first novel was a huge success and became a big screen film starring a major Hollywood actor. But Tom is struggling to find the form of his successful debut as his second failed and now so does his next. He needs to up his game or his agent will not need an excuse to offload him. Tom is side-tracked by Evie who it seems is stalking him on Social Media.

The story is told by both Evie and Tom but who is telling the truth about what really is going on here? Evie clearly has a real interest in Tom and will not leave him alone. It is very clear Evie has some serious issues. As I became part of the storyline to try and understand both Evie and Tom I just became a little uneasy about what Tom was really up to. Was there something he was doing to get Evie to play along. This was beginning to freak me out a little. Were they both as bad as each other. This was brilliant writing from Burston and a very clever storyline. Together with other characters that make up The Closer I get this was a truly chilling and an unsettling read. I needed a cool shower after finishing reading, you will see why when you read it and you will want to. Reading this riveting thriller made me question what really does go via Social Media.

@PaulBurston  #TheCloserIGet

@OrendaBooks

276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of The Closer I Get by Paul Burston.

The Closer I Get by Paul Burston was published by Orenda Books and was published on 11th July 2019 and is available now through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake

9781529017434 high res jacket The Thunder Girls

The Thunder Girls – Melanie Blake

Summary:

THE

Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita, an eighties pop sensation outselling and out-classing their competition. Until it all comes to an abrupt end and three of their careers are over, and so is their friendship.

THUNDER

Thirty years later, their old record label wants the band back together for a huge money-making concert. But the wounds are deep and some need this gig more than others.

In those decades apart life was far from the dream they were living as members of The Thunder Girls. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, addiction and divorce have been a constant part of their lives. They’ve been to hell and back, and some are still there.

GIRLS

Can the past be laid to rest for a price, or is there more to this reunion than any of them could possibly know? Whilst they all hunger for a taste of success a second time around, someone is plotting their downfall in the deadliest way possible . . .

 

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My Review:

Being completely honest I was not sure what I was going to think of The Thunder Girls (Pan Macmillan) by Melanie Blake but I need not have worried. This was a real page turner. If like me, you loved the music of the 1980’s you will love this.

When I think of the 1980’s I think of the music and I was close to the music business back then and I could tell you a few hair-raising stories. It was THE decade, colourful and exciting. The same could be said of the very successful The Thunder Girls. Four women who had the pop in the palm of their hands. Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita had it all. They were living the dream and loving it all. And then it came to a crashing end along with the friendships that went with the success.

We have heard it all before about pop bands being successful and then it all ends very suddenly. Now fast forward three decades and would you believe it their old label is trying to get the girls back together again but are the wounds still deep or can they be healed by heading back into the studio to record more songs and rekindle the good old days.

Superb fast paced drama being played out and Melanie Blake takes you on a breath-taking rollercoaster of a ride through the lives of the four women, it has it all, success and break-up, to jealousy and much more. There is a list of characters that reads like a Hollywood blockbuster. Don’t get me wrong this is not just a glitzy look at showbiz but also some rather serious themes run through this book, and if you think of showbiz and success and fame just think of the temptations that can be there and then you will see how deep this novel will go.

There is humour as you would expect in this story and you will judge some of the characters as well as you will like some of the girls but not others. People change over thirty years but sometimes the wounds do not heal as you would expect.

Over 400 pages but you will not want to put this one down in a hurry. The Thunder Girls packs a punch.

416 Pages.

Thank you to Megan Denholm (ed Public Relations) for the review copy of The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake

The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake was published by Pan Macmillan and was published on 11th July 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Carer by Deborah Moggach

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The Carer by Deborah Moggach

Summary:

James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips, and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss. Is this really their father, the distant figure who never once turned up for a sports day, now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and television soaps?

Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and Phoebe and Robert discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. It just moves onto a very different plane – changing all the stories they thought they knew so well.

My Review:

This was one book I knew in advance of the London Book Fair earlier this year and was so delighted when a copy of the proof arrived but missed out on an interview with Deborah Moggach at the London Book Fair due to work commitments. This would have been one of the highlights of the year. Just a few days after publication The Carer by Deborah Moggach is selling fast.

The story follows a number of characters in James who is now elderly and is having to look after himself after his wife passed away and also son and daughter Robert and Phoebe both independent people and living lives as their parents hoped they would but they both know their father needs some help as they cannot be their all the time.

Along comes Mandy who is employed to look after their dad on a full-time basis. Mandy at first is really liked by both Robert and Phoebe and even their father but them something does not seem right and they see their father becoming a little more different than the father they thought they knew. Mandy seems to have worked some magic. Now the man who always seemed a little far off and not one for jokes seems to have found a new lease of life. He is laughing and with Mandy they go off exploring. What has changed and how and why? I am not giving away any spoilers here. This I want you to experience for yourself.

Now it is both Robert and Phoebe who are looking at themselves and asking many questions not only about their father and each other but now they are asking who really is Mandy? What has she done to the distant father they always knew. There is some doubt between them both to Mandy. The tended to go in a way I was not really expecting. Which I really liked. At the very beginning of the book is a ‘Meet the Characters’ which I actually thought was a great idea so you go to know the leading players before you start the novel.

I love this tender and funny novel and the wit that only Deborah Moggach can bring to her novels. If you are a fan, then you are going to fall in love with The Carer. Sensitive and well-structured and one book I am delighted to Highly Recommend.

272 Pages.

Thank you to Georgina Moore for the review copy of The Carer by Deborah Moggach

The Carer by Deborah Moggach was published by Tinder Press and was published on 9th July 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

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A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

Translated by Rosie Hedger

Summary:

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

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My Review:

This is really a story many of us can easily identify with. A Modern Family (Orenda Books) by Helga Flatland and beautifully translated by Rosie Hedger. Many will not know Helga Flatland but she is already an award winning author in Norway after her debut novel Stay if You Can, Leave if You Must. This is now her fifth novel and follows three siblings. Liv, Ellen and Hakon and all their respective family members travel to Italy for their father’s birthday celebrations in what should be a grand affair. But what if all does not go as planned?

Their parents are the glue to which the family are bonded. But the glue has come unstuck as the extended family arrive in Rome for the celebrations their parents have an announcement to make. They are getting a divorce! BOMBSHELL! No-one was expecting this. It has come out of no-where and no warning of this announcement.

The initial shockwave is like watch what happens when a pebble is thrown onto a pond. The ripples extend outwards through each the families and how they come to terms with the news their parents have dropped on them. For Liv who is also the elder of the children, this has hit her hard and we follow her world as it has come to a standstill. For Ellen she is more or less the quieter of the siblings and then the young member Hakon who is the brother.

Each of the family member’s lives is now the centre of the story and each one has something of interest to the reader and many like me will find themselves nodding in agreement with certain parts of the storyline. ‘Yes I recognise this from my own family’ I won’t divulge too much about each of the three but they all have their hang-ups in life, just like we all do.

Helga Flatland has hit the nail on the head with A Modern Family as she has written a story that is not a thriller, or a crime novel, nor a romance novel but a novel based on a normal family. This could be my family or yours. This is about a family and each member and how they have come to terms with a piece of news that none were expecting to hear and how they now look at each other and their own relationships.

I want to just congratulate Helga Flatland on such a beautifully written and poignant novel. She describes a normal family with such vibrancy and the characters could be any of us. This is a novel that just reached out to me and one I did not really want to come to an end. Helga Flatland you have nailed it. One book I would recommend for your holiday read this Summer. Highly Recommended.

 276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland was published by Orenda Books and was published on 13th June 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The 2019 WAINWRIGHT GOLDEN BEER BOOK PRIZE SHORTLIST

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THE 2019 WAINWRIGHT GOLDEN BEER BOOK PRIZE SHORTLIST

At 9am on the 2nd July the shortlist for this year’s Wainwright Golden Beer Shortlist was announced. Now in its Sixth year, The Wainwright Book Prize is my favourite book prize of the year. This is a book prize which celebrates the best writing about nature, the outdoors and UK travel.

Never before has writing about nature and the great outdoors been so significant and important. Our landscape and the natural world is under increasing pressure from many areas. So how wonderful it is to see the Wainwright Book Prize grow year on year.

This year there are seven titles that make up the shortlist.

Underland by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)
Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador)
Time Song by Julia Blackburn (Jonathan Cape)
Our Place by Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)
Thinking On My Feet by Kate Humble (Aster)
Out Of The Woods by Luke Turner (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Easternmost House by Juliet Blaxland (Sandstone Press)

So lets take a closer look at the titles that make up this years outstanding shortlist:

UNDRLAND

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

(Hamish Hamilton)

Discover the hidden worlds beneath our feet…

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. From the ice-blue depths of Greenland’s glaciers, to the underground networks by which trees communicate, from Bronze Age burial chambers to the rock art of remote Arctic sea-caves, this is a deep-time voyage into the planet’s past and future. Global in its geography, gripping in its voice and haunting in its implications, Underland is a work of huge range and power, and a remarkable new chapter in Macfarlane’s long-term exploration of landscape and the human heart.

I reviewed Underland in issue 34 of Word Gets Around.

Just imagine for one moment the world beneath your feet. In Underland best-selling writer Robert Macfarlane author of many books on our natural world including The Wild Places and Landmarks and also The Lost Words now takes us on an adventure deep underground. This is a book were past and its future are all here. From the Bronze Age burial chambers of the Mendips in Somerset to the glaziers of Greenland, the catacombs of Paris, Arctic sea caves to a point deep sunk hiding place where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years.

The much-anticipated sequel to The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane now takes the reader on an unforgettable voyage exploring our relationship with darkness and what lies beneath. There is wonder, loss, fear and hope deep within the pages of Underland.

‘Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save…’

It is hard to imagine a world that exits deep beneath us but that is exactly what there is. A truly remarkable book of discovery the reader will explore many themes including myth and literature as we travel the globe and discover a whole new world. Robert Macfarlane’s writing is both lyrical and breath-taking. A book that has opened even my eyes and will have a profound effect on how we see our precious world. The powerful cover was designed by the acclaimed artist and writer Stanley Donwood.

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Wilding by Isabella Tree

(Picador)

In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.

Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies, are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of other species are rocketing. The Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again, heaving with life – all by itself.

Personal and inspirational, Wilding is an astonishing account of the beauty and strength of nature, when it is given as much freedom as possible.

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Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn

(Jonathan Cape)

Julia Blackburn has always collected things that hold stories about the past, especially the very distant past: mammoth bones, little shells that happen to be two million years old, a flint shaped as a weapon long ago. Time Song brings many such stories together as it tells of the creation, the existence and the loss of a country now called Doggerland, a huge and fertile area that once connected the entire east coast of England with mainland Europe, until it was finally submerged by rising sea levels around 5000 BC.

Blackburn mixes fragments from her own life with a series of eighteen ‘songs’ and all sorts of stories about the places and the people she meets in her quest to get closer to an understanding of Doggerland. She sees the footprints of early humans fossilised in the soft mud of an estuary alongside the scattered pockmarks made by rain falling eight thousand years ago. She visits a cave where the remnants of a Neanderthal meal have turned to stone. In Denmark she sits beside Tollund Man who seems to be about to wake from a dream, even though he has lain in a peat bog since the start of the Iron Age.

Time Song reveals yet again, that Julia Blackburn is one of the most original writers in Britain, with each of its pages bringing a surprise, an epiphany, a phrase of such beauty and simple profundity you can only gasp.

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Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker

(Jonathan Cape)

Environmental thought and politics have become parts of mainstream cultural life in Britain. The wish to protect wildlife is now a central goal for our society, but where did these ‘green’ ideas come from? And who created the cherished institutions, such as the National Trust or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, that are now so embedded in public life with millions of members?

From the flatlands of Norfolk to the tundra-like expanse of the Flow Country in northern Scotland, acclaimed writer on nature Mark Cocker sets out on a personal quest through the British countryside to find the answers to these questions.

He explores in intimate detail six special places that embody the history of conservation or whose fortunes allow us to understand why our landscape looks as it does today. We meet key characters who shaped the story of the British countryside – Victorian visionaries like Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust, as well as brilliant naturalists such as Max Nicholson or Derek Ratcliffe, who helped build the very framework for all environmental effort.

This is a book that looks to the future as well as exploring the past. It asks searching questions like who owns the land and why? And who benefits from green policies? Above all it attempts to solve a puzzle: why do the British seem to love their countryside more than almost any other nation, yet they have come to live amid one of the most denatured landscapes on Earth? Radical, provocative and original, Our Place tackles some of the central issues of our time. Yet most important of all, it tries to map out how this overcrowded island of ours could be a place fit not just for human occupants but also for its billions of wild citizens.

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Thinking on My Feet: The small joy of putting one foot in front of another by Kate Humble

(Aster)

Thinking on My Feet tells the story of Kate’s walking year – shining a light on the benefits of this simple activity. Kate’s inspiring narrative not only records her walks (and runs) throughout a single year, but also charts her feelings and impressions throughout – capturing the perspectives that only a journey on foot allows – and shares the outcomes: a problem solved, a mood lifted, an idea or opportunity borne. As she explores the reasons why we walk, whether for creative energy, challenge and pleasure, or therapeutic benefits, Kate’s reflections and insights will encourage, motivate and spur readers into action.

Also featured are Kate’s walks with others who have discovered the magical, soothing effect of putting one foot in front of the other – the artist who walks to find inspiration for his next painting; the man who takes people battling with addiction to climb mountains; the woman who walked every footpath in Wales (3,700 miles) when she discovered she had cancer.

This book will inspire you to change your perspective by applying walking to your daily endeavours.

This is a book I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying. I can see why so many people really took this book to their hearts.

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Out of the Woods by Luke Turner

(Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

After the disintegration of the most significant relationship of his life, the demons Luke Turner has been battling since childhood are quick to return – depression and guilt surrounding his identity as a bisexual man, experiences of sexual abuse, and the religious upbringing that was the cause of so much confusion. It is among the trees of London’s Epping Forest where he seeks refuge. But once a place of comfort, it now seems full of unexpected, elusive threats that trigger twisted reactions.

No stranger to compulsion, Luke finds himself drawn again and again to the woods, eager to uncover the strange secrets that may be buried there as he investigates an old family rumour of illicit behaviour. Away from a society that still struggles to cope with the complexities of masculinity and sexuality, Luke begins to accept the duality that has provoked so much unrest in his life – and reconcile the expectations of others with his own way of being.

OUT OF THE WOODS is a dazzling, devastating and highly original memoir about the irresistible yet double-edged potency of the forest, and the possibility of learning to find peace in the grey areas of life.

the-easternmost-house

The eEasternmost House by Juliet Blaxland

(Sandstone Press)

Within the next three years, Juliet Blaxland’s home will be demolished, and the land where it now stands will crumble into the North Sea. In her numbered days living in the Easternmost House, Juliet fights to maintain the rural ways she grew up with, re-connecting with the beauty, usefulness and erratic terror of the natural world.

The Easternmost House is a stunning memoir, describing a year on the Easternmost edge of England, and exploring how we can preserve delicate ecosystems and livelihoods in the face of rapid coastal erosion and environmental change.

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I really envy the judges trying to find a winner from this years incredible shortlist. Seven books that are all worthy winners.

This years winner will be announced on August 15th at the BBC Countryfile Live at Castle Howard, Yorkshire.

Last years winner was won by Adam Nicolson for The Seabirds Cry (William Collins).

Past Winners:

2014 – The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thomson
2015 – Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel
2016 – The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
2017 – Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War by John Lewis-Stempel
2018- The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicholson

The 2019 Judges:

Chair: Julia Bradbury

Waterstones Non-fiction buyer: Clement Knox

National Trust Publisher: Katie Bond

Publisher at Unbound and Blacklisted Podcast Host: John Mitchinson

The Urban Birder: David Lindo

Creative Partner for And Rising

Follow news about The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize on Twitter: @wainwrightprize

wainwrightprize

Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm by Isabella Tree

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Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree

Summary:

In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.

Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies, are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of other species are rocketing. The Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again, heaving with life – all by itself.

Personal and inspirational, Wilding is an astonishing account of the beauty and strength of nature, when it is given as much freedom as possible.

Author.jpeg

My review:

I could give Wilding by Isabella Tree so many plaudits. But inspirational and outstanding are just two. This is a story of how a 3,500-acre farm in Knepp in West Sussex owned by Isabella’s husband Charlie Burrell was returned to nature. I am so delighted to see this book now longlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.

The project on the farm started back in 2000 and the difference now is nothing short of incredible. From the intensive modern farming methods to the point where the farm was no longer a viable going concern and something had to be done to turn this around.

This was a risk but it was a risk well worth taking despite some complaints and objections they tore down the fences and slowly returned the farm to its past. They brought in a select breed of pigs as well as cattle and Exmoor ponies and let them roam free. The ‘rewilding’ of the farm was underway.

The UK has a whole has seen its wildlife plummet with some of our species flora and fauna close to extinction. What has been created on their farm is nothing short of incredible. To see what the farm has become today and the species that have now returned to the farm. Nightingales have returned to the farm where nationally they have crashed and Turtle Doves have started to return to the farm and Purple Emperor Butterflies have also been seen and are now breeding on the estate long with Orchids and other rare plants have been found. This is no coincidence.

This is a part memoir and also I believe a book of hope for the future of farming. A move away from the intensive agricultural policies of the past and what I liked was that Isabella talks about rewilding of farms and also that you can at the same time feed the populations of the world.

Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm is nothing short of astonishing and proves we can bring back nature to our countryside and also farm at the same time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Shortlist for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Prize will be announced at midday on the 2nd July.

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384 Pages.

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree was published by Picador and was published in Paperback on 21st March 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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