Berwick Literary Festival Blog

The Final Day: Bread-making, beating the IRA, Geordies buying a slave’s freedom and revisiting the 60s!

By Mike Fraser / 19th October 2020

Timing is everything! There was a period early in lockdown when it seemed everybody was baking sourdough. Nobody knew that there was going to be a pandemic, however if some entrepreneurs were psychic they would have not only invested in PPE, but also in bread-making instruction books. Of course, lock-down is not merely a physical…

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Stephen Green: rethinking what we think we know

By Jackie Kaines / 18th October 2020

If you were concocting a fantasy dinner party guest list, you’d want a good mix of people to keep the conversation flowing. A government minister, maybe. The CEO of a global bank for a view of how the world works, and a clergyman for a rather different perspective. Throw in a linguist who’s lived in the US, Asia and Saudi Arabia, a civil servant, an author, a chap who visited 56 countries in three years boosting UK trade, and… oh hell, we’re out of cutlery.

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ADVENTURES IN LETTERS – THE EPISTOLARY POEM

By Mike Fraser / 18th October 2020

Tim Binder writes about Anne Ryland’s poetry workshop Twelve of us “gathered” on Zoom for Anne Ryland’s delightful workshop on writing an Epistolary poem – or writing a letter in poetry. In addition to bringing a letter that meant something to us, Anne had asked that we read just such a poem by Neil Curry…

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On the third day of our festival: China the restless superpower, a world-class Berwick novelist, digging for victory, saving the planet and why Boris Johnson is unique.

By Mike Fraser / 17th October 2020

Can this really only be the third day of our festival? We seem to have managed to pack such an extraordinarily diverse range of stimulating and entertaining material into such a short time. We are a festival of words and the first new word of the day arrived early in the first hour and was…

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Saturday: Festival quotes

By Jackie Kaines / 17th October 2020

If you heard Jessie Greengrass speak at today’s Festival, I’m guessing that you, like me, will be rushing to order her new book The High House. This deep-thinking, candid-speaking interview ranged over so many issues that worry away at us in today’s world: climate change, uncertainty, political turbulence, the pandemic, religion, the environment, parenthood and…

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Friday: Festival quotes

By Jackie Kaines / 16th October 2020

Shaun Bythell joined us from his bookshop – The Bookshop – in Wigtown. Following his first two books about shop life (The diary of a bookseller and Confessions of a bookseller), he might be classed as the grouchiest secondhand bookseller ever. In fact, considering he also seems to think of himself as the epitome of…

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A not so grumpy bookseller, a Wild Swimmer, a Royal Crisis, incredible Poetry and revolution in Russia – the second day of our virtual festival.

By Mike Fraser / 16th October 2020

In his entertaining best-selling books Shaun Bythell portrays himself as the grumpiest bookseller in Britain, providing service with a scowl, but he seemed perfectly amiable at 10 AM this morning in his lovely bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s book town. In his 20 years in his shop he thinks he must “have handled a million books”. Be…

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Writing about the Past! A Creative Workshop with Bea Davenport

By Mike Fraser / 16th October 2020

Anna Edgar writes about Bea’s workshop. On Thursday afternoon Barbara Henderson – using her author’s name, Bea Davenport – presented an online creative writing workshop, “Writing about the Past”.  In her introduction she touched on the range of interests and topics such a title could cover and gave a number of examples.  She mentioned both…

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The First Day – Biography, History, Poetry and Maths

By Mike Fraser / 16th October 2020

Ann Thwaite is one of Britain’s greatest biographers, so it was a privilege to hear her discuss her extraordinary literary life at our festival. She is however not only the author of highly regarded biographies, she has also been a prolific author of work for children. She gave much of the credit for her success…

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Thursday: quotes of the day

By Jackie Kaines / 15th October 2020

Hearing and seeing writers talk about or perform their work is always a great privilege. They have such interesting things to say. Biographer Ann Thwaite told some brilliant anecdotes today. From her childhood in New Zealand; to her travels to Japan (she’s been 11 times); and about her life in Norfolk. In Norfolk, she ran…

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