The beautiful setting of Northwood house and the extra facilities brought in this year created a buzz and yet relaxed environment where people could discuss and buy books at their leisure.
This was my third year as a volunteer at the festival. This time I was lucky enough to be involved as a speaker and attend several talks, so I basically experienced the best of everything.
I hope you enjoy finding out about it...
I booked to see Dr Sam Willis & Horatio Clare mainly to help me with my research into life at sea, both in the past and the present.
I never expected to be entertained by music! Dr Sam Willis is not only a respected historian and excellent speaker. He is also a gifted musician, which proves my point that "us" writers are a truly creative bunch.
To start off, we were treated to a sea shanty played with a banjo and accompanied by melodic lyrics (he is a very brave man). I had no idea that he would then enrich our minds with a wealth of incredible information about the glorious years of British naval history which were bound and preserved in a beautiful edition. Even though this book was presented to the nation and includes original dispatches from the seven major fleet battles, it was kept a secret until he stumbled upon it in 2010! The contents of the book are truly fantastic and they can tell us a lot about the period of time, the mentality of the men writing the letters, and the incredible heritage we should always remember. The talk had us all entranced and the fact he ended with a sea shanty he played with a guitar set off all with a smile.
On a personal note, I find it incredible that there was (and is) so much honour in massacres committed for the protection of the crown and trade routes, but war is something human beings are very good at! I think we have come a long way in understanding the value of mediation and empathy since then, but unfortunately the modern world is still fractured by many who are willing to commit horrific crimes in the name of duty...
You can find out more about this fascinating book HERE
The one thing I can say for Horatio Clare is that he is extremely funny and he made us all imagine vividly his tales of life on board the vessels of Maersk.
Overall, I really enjoyed the talk. For more information, I suggest you read this insightful GUARDIAN REVIEW.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the Royal Yacht Squadron for an author reception. I went along with my husband and we loved looking at the pictures on the walls and soaking in the atmosphere. I spoke to several lovely people and had a few canapes, before my husband and I decided to go for a nice meal on our own... quality time is important too! Ended up in a Chinese restaurant eating dim sum! YUM!
I was posted as a volunteer in the Author Meet & Greet area on Saturday morning. Met a very nice journalist who took my picture... you never know, he might actually use it! Easy job and I served Ann Widdecombe her lunch! My claim to fame...
I was off schedule during the afternoon so I bought last minute tickets to see Simon Callow. I am so glad I did since his talk was amazing! I could have easily listened for another couple of hours. He spoke about his fascination with Charles Dickens and brought to life some of his own experiences in acting out a range of roles. Absolutely FANTASTIC! GUARDIAN REVIEW
In the evening, I was posted at Trinity Theatre - a place which hold fond memories since I acted and sang on the stage a few times! My best role was as Mitzi in A Murder is Announced! Click on the link to read the review! :)
I enjoyed listening to Jay Rayner, but I did think it was a bit too serious for a Saturday night... I did not expect to listen to an intense discussion on the evil nature of supermarkets, the quest for sustainability, and the pending threat of China eating more meat! Oh well...
On a side note, I watched an amazing program the next evening on the BBC about the Yangtse River, which discussed similar issues in a much friendlier way.
In the morning, I ran a children's workshop which was FANTASTIC! I was also told that I was the most organised workshop yet! Love it...
A huge thank you to my friends - Donna, Tamsin, Maria (a fantastic local author who did all the face paints) & my wonderful daughter, Elsa!
I could not have done it without them! These are some pictures and the lovely creations... books, bookmarks & painted faces!
In the afternoon, I gave a talk about my Evolution as a Writer - I have blogged about this HERE!
The Evolution of a Writer...
"What exactly I said is a blur, but I think everyone enjoyed it.
Ultimately, I could have said so much more, but I focused on the lead up to my writing career and read excerpts from my trilogy that focus on topics such as relationships, war, my upbringing in Gibraltar, and personal conflict."
THE AUTHORS I WATCHED
Dr Sam Willis is one of the world’s leading authorities on maritime and naval history. His writing is infused with his own experience and knowledge of seafaring. Sam is the author of numerous books on maritime and naval history including the bestselling Hearts of Oak Trilogy and the Fighting Ships Series. Sam is a regular broadcaster on both TV and Radio. In 2013 Sam presented a three-part series on Shipwrecks for BBC4 and recreated the first ever voyage down the Grand Canyon for BBC2 in 'Operation Grand Canyon'.
Horatio Clare is the author of two memoirs, the best-selling Running for the Hills and Truant; the travel book A Single Swallow - which follows the birds' migration from South Africa to the UK - and a novella, The Prince's Pen. His new book is the bestselling travelogue Down to the Sea In Ships, based on voyages around the world on cargo vessels. Currently the Miriam Allott Fellow for Creative Writing at the University of Liverpool, he writes regularly in the press on nature and travel and contributes to Radio 4. He was awarded the Somerset Maugham prize by the Society of Authors, and is a Foreign Press Association Travel Writer of the Year.
Simon Callow is an actor, director and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral. His books include Being An Actor, Shooting The Actor, an acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy of Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have been published) and Love Is Where It Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent Peggy Ramsay.
My Life In Pieces - An Alternative Autobiography won the Sheridan Morley Prize in 2011. Simon's Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World Was published to coincide with the bicentenary of Dickens' birthday in 2012.
Jay Rayner is the Observer's restaurant critic and a novelist. His latest book is the Oyster House Siege.