Registration for the online and free Berwick Literary Festival opens today – September 14. Make sure you visit the website and book your sessions as soon as you can.

Programme co-ordinator Mike Fraser says: ‘We have a superb and diverse line up with several sessions already attracting a lot of attention. We’ve picked up on a number of themes which are very much on people’s minds right now’.

Frederick Douglass the black slave whose freedom was bought by to Quaker women from Newcastle.
Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection) Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 200-FL-22 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 113

Such timely themes include: Black Lives Matter with Professor Brian Ward’s talk on Frederick Douglass the black slave whose freedom was bought by two Quaker women from Newcastle; the transformative power of bread-making with Pauline Beaumont whose book ‘Bread Therapy’ chimes with lockdown’s sourdough explosion; the healing qualities of the natural world with Tamsin Calidas whose book ‘I am an Island’ details how she eschewed London in favour of a derelict Hebridean croft; and the immediacy of the spoken word with world slam poetry champion Harry Baker whose work is intrinsically of-the-moment.

Pauline Beaumont will be speaking about her book: Bread Therapy: The Mindful Art of Baking Bread at Berwick Literary Festival 2020
Pauline Beaumont: Bread Therapy: The Mindful Art of Baking Bread

In keeping with its status as a disputed town with roots in both England and Scotland (Berwick changed hands 14 times until finally being settled in England in 1482), the Festival enjoys contributions from both sides of the border. As well as Tamsin Calidas’ redemptive island memoir, writer/historians John Sadler and Rosie Serdiville explore the gruesome fate of 5,000 Scottish soldiers marched from Dunbar to Durham after Oliver Cromwell’s decisive victory in 1650, Scottish broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove (and former NME editor) delves into 60s soul music in the US and its impact on boxer Cassius Clay, social historian and gardener Ursula Buchan asks: ‘Did we really dig for victory?’, and Wigtown bookseller Sean Bythell talks about his books that are ‘guaranteed to offend anyone who has ever crossed the threshold of a bookshop’.

Other contributors include: master biographer Ann Thwaite whose subjects include AA Milne (she was consultant on the successful 2017 film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’) and Frances Hodgson Burnett; Bloodaxe Books’ editor Neil Astley who is joined by poets including David Constantine for his session for readings from the acclaimed ‘Staying Human – New Poems for Staying Alive’; and political broadcaster and columnist Steve Richards whose book ‘The Prime Ministers’ is the basis for his session on the incumbents of Number 10: from Wilson to Johnson.

Master biographer Ann Thwaite's new edition of The Secret Garden: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Ann will speak about her own life's work at Berwick Literary Festival 2020

Our online Festival will be as interactive as ever. Festival chair, Michael Gallico says: ‘We always aim to be dynamic in our engagement with words – written, spoken and performed – and this year will be no different. Our workshops are always popular – we have poetry and creative writing sessions. And there will be an opportunity to question speakers after each event’.

At Berwick Literary Festival 2020, Neil Astley and guests poets David Constantine and Imtiaz Dharker will read from Bloodaxe's new collection in the hugely popular and successful 'Staying Human' series.
Neil Astley and guests poets David Constantine and Imtiaz Dharker will read from Bloodaxe’s new collection in the hugely popular and successful ‘Staying Human’ series.

Our wonderful online festival is free, but please remember to register for the sessions you want to attend. There’s also an opportunity to donate to support this year’s event and the festivals still to come which, hopefully, will be face-to-face. Full details of how to register, the complete programme and all contributors are on the website.

Jackie Kaines

I have excellent fun moving words of all shapes and sizes around to create blogs, articles and all sorts of interesting other wordy things.