Berwick Literary Festival 2017 – Fun, History, Fiction, Poetry and Football!

Berwick Literary Festival 2017 – Fun, History, Fiction, Poetry and Football!

Ian McMillan and Tony Husband top the bill at this year’s festival (19th to 22nd October) with a fun, improvised history of Berwick, while the latter will also deliver a sad but also amusing account of his Dad’s dementia. There will be other participants of national renown – Dave Randall, the Rock Guitarist, will discuss the power of music to change the world, while Peter Townsend and Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones will also address controversial topics i.e. respectively the dark side of technological developments and the evolution of surveillance methods. Katrina Porteous and Alice Burn provided a highlight of last year’s festival and will return with a new programme of poetry and music. The interview of Polly Clark about her debut literary novel Larchfield, praised by many including Margaret Atwood, should also attract a large audience.

Tony Husband and Ian McMillan – photo credit David Tilley

This festival however prides itself on promoting local and regional writers. Tom Maxwell is a Berwicker and he will bring to life the historic defeat of the Big Gers by the Wee Gers in the year of its fiftieth anniversary in a discussion with Russell Craig, who played for the winning team that day. Torben Betts, who lives in Spittal, will talk about his award-winning career as a screen-writer and playwright, while Iain Lowson, who lives in Tweedmouth, will discuss his long participation in the Star Wars franchise and his experience developing scripts for computer games.

One only has to go to Norham to encounter the members of Castle Productions who will show their beautiful film of the Tweed at the Guildhall during this year’s festival. David Banks, a former Editor of the Daily Mirror and tabloids in the United States and Australia, lives in Crookham and he will discuss his career and give his verdict on the current state of the British press. Stephen Baxter, fresh from working with Terry Pratchett and one of the most important Science Fiction writers in the world, also lives in North Northumberland. He will discuss his recently published official sequel to The War of the Worlds. Caroline Roberts from Chatton and Stephanie Butland from Amble will illuminate the joys and frustrations of novel -writing, while Mary Manley, one of the owners, will discuss the development of the second biggest second-hand bookshop in the country i.e. Barter Books in Alnwick.

One of David Banks’s most famous headlines

Northumberland based Bloodaxe Books is one of the most important Poetry publishers in the world and Neil Astley, the owner, will read from his new anthology of North-East poetry. Piers Torday, a Northumbrian, is the son of Paul Torday, he of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen fame, and Piers will discuss his latest novel, There May Be a Castle, and how he was inspired to write by his father. Colin Young, from the Land of the Prince Bishops, will talk about his authorised biography of Northumbrian resident and World Cup winner Jack Charlton. Also from that part of the world, Historian Max Adams will take his audience on a journey of the imagination in search of the Dark Ages and the North’s unique sense of identity

As always, a significant portion of the festival is given over to stimulating sessions for children. This year the keynote activity for the younger children is a presentation by Stuart Reid, a Borders children’s author, who has written a series of books for primary to middle school age about a character called Gorgeous George.

The Committee will again be collaborating with the Wilson’s Tales project to help bring the world-famous tales which emanated from Berwick back to life. Northumberland Theatre Company will be presenting “The disasters of Johnny Armstrong” at the Watchtower Gallery. Poppy Holden will also perform at the gallery and renowned Scottish author Andrew Greig will be in attendance, The project will also launch Volume 4 of their revival editions at the festival, which will include the winners from the 2106 schools short story completion as well as six original tales retold for a modern reader with supporting background research on their authenticity.

Truly there will be something for everybody!

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Mike Fraser