Literary Festival 2017: Travel writing: A Sense of Place

Friday 17 - Sunday 19 November

This year's festival is inspired by a very special and rare object in the Museum's collections. The relief of the Celtic horse goddess Epona is one of only two representations of Epona discovered in the UK. Epona was the protector of horses and anyone who relied on these noble and beautiful creatures.

Keynote speaker for Saturday 18 November at 7pm will be Marie-Elsa Bragg.

Speakers include George Szirtes, Kathleen Jones, Bob Orrell and Christopher Somerville


Epona website.JPG


Festival Programme

Friday 17th November

10am - 1pm: Poetry workshop with George Szirtes


Born in Hungary in 1948, George Szirtes published his first book of poems, The Slant Door, in 1979. It won the Faber Prize. He has published many since then, Reel (2004) winning the T S Eliot Prize, for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest book in Mapping the Delta (Bloodaxe 2016). 

The workshop is suitable for all abilities, just bring along a favourite notebook and pen. 

2pm - 5pm: Transporting the reader, a travel writing workshop with Grevel Lindop


Grevel Lindop's Travels on the Dance Floor was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and shortlisted (one of six) as Authors' Club Dolman Best Travel Book. His other books include biographies of Thomas De Quincey and Charles Williams; A Literary Guide to the Lake District; and seven collections of poems from Carcanet, most recently Luna Park.

The workshop is suitable for all abilities, just bring along a favourite notebook and pen. 

Saturday 18th November

10.15am: George Szirtes

Evoking a sense of place: from Hungary to China


Born in Hungary in 1948, George Szirtes published his first book of poems, The Slant Door, in 1979. It won the Faber Prize. He has published many since then, Reel (2004) winning the T S Eliot Prize, for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest book in Mapping the Delta (Bloodaxe 2016). 

11.30am: Bob Orrell

'Travels of horseback' and other stories


Sailor, journalist and saddle tramp Bob Orrell will be in conversation with Angela Locke. Bob has written several engaging and entertaining books about his experiences of trekking through Britain's wild places with his Fell Ponies, and sailing the Western Isles of Scotland.

12.30pm: Lunch break and open-mic

Lunch can be prebooked (£5.00) or you can bring your own picnic and listen to a shared, informal poetry reading.

2pm: Tom Pickard

Evoking a sense of place: Winter Migrants


Back by popular demand, Tom Pickard will be reading from his latest collection, recently published by Carcanet. His collected poems HOYOOT was published in 2014. A previous collection published in Chicago, including Ballad of Jamie Allan, was finalist in the USA National Book Critics Circle Awards. Born in Tyneside, he now lives in Maryport.

3.15pm: Kathleen Jones

The Rainmaker's Wife: The voices of indigenous peoples


Kathleen Jones has spent years travelling to, or living in, other countries and it has had a profound effect on her writing life. Recent travels to the remote Pacific islands of Haida Gwaii produced a journal Travelling to the Edge of the World and a collection of poems, The Rainmaker's Wife. Time spent in Italy inspired a series of short stories called Mussolini's Hat and a journey to Croatia produced a novel - The Centauress.

4.30pm: Helen Farish

The Dog of Memory: poems from Cumbria, Italy and Greece


The Dog of Memory reflects on the nature of travel and the significance of place in our lives; prepare to be taken on a journey from Cumbria to Athens, Sicily, Morocco and Vienna.

Cumbria-born poet, Helen Farish's debut collection Intimates won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Two further collections have followed - Nocturnes at Nohant and The Dog of Memory. Her work has also received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and been short-listed for the T S Eliot Prize. After gaining a PhD in  American Literature she lectured at Lancaster University before returning to live in Cumbria where she was born.

7.30pm: Marie-Elsa Bragg

Towards Mellbreak: a love of place


Marie-Elsa Bragg's novel, Towards Mellbreak, is about four generations of a quiet hill farming family on the North Western fells of Cumbria. Marie-Elsa Roche Bragg is half French, half Cumbrian and was brought up in London. She studied Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University and trained for the Priesthood at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford University. Later, she did an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia. She is a Priest in the diocese of London and a Duty Chaplain of Westminster Abbey. 

Marie-Elsa writes for the Church Times and other papers and is a member of WATCH Parliament, a small group who work alongside parliament on women's issues within the Church. she is a member of The Fawcett Society, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, PEN working for freedom for international writers, Exiled Writers Ink and she supports the Women's Refugee Commission.

Towards Mellbreak:

"After many generations, it is now, in 1971, Harold who runs Ard Farm. Out on the fells he feels his father's presence, and there is hope that he, his grandmother and his Uncle Joe will be able to take the farm forward and prosper. but their way of life is under threat. Farming is undergoing huge change and increasingly harmful intervention. As the years pass, and Harold has a son of his own, he strives to keep control of his land, to make a go of it, even while forces he cannot understand are gradually destroying him."

Towards Mellbreak is a hymn both to the landscape of Cumbria and to a disappearing world. Poetic, beautiful and tragic, it gives an account of the struggle to preserve traditions and beliefs in the face of change. It is a quietly bold indictment of the treatment of generations of British men, and an assertion of the power to be found in the rituals we pass down through our families.

 On Saturday evening Marie-Elsa will be giving the keynote speech of the LitFest about this, her first novel. Her great grandfather worked in the mines around Maryport.

Sunday 19th November

10.15am: Susan Allen

The travel writing of Dorothy Wordsworth


Susan Allen is the Community Outreach Officer for the Wordsworth Trust. Through her work she inspires communities to share literature, stories an histories of the places where they live and the Wordsworths lived. In this session she will be talking about Dorothy Wordsworth's writings inspired by her, and her brother William's, travels around Britain.

Sue has significant experience working with a number of arts and community projects in the voluntary sector, first with older people's projects, developing opportunities for volunteers of all ages and then with a social action research programme at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, exploring neighbourhood approaches to loneliness. Susan's outreach and engagement work with the Wordsworth Trust allows her to adapt community development and participatory approaches to the sharing of literature, stories and histories. Susan moved back to Cumbria five years ago and lives in a small village on the Solway.

11.30am: Kathleen Jones

Blogging for the bemused


Kathleen returns on Sunday morning with this interactive and practical session. Writing a blog can be an effective way of publishing travel writing but many are unsure how to go about it. Kathleen will be sharing her experience and knowledge of the art of blogging. This session will send the audience away inspired to have a go. 

12.30pm: Lunch break and open-mic

Lunch can be prebooked (£5.00) or you can bring your own picnic and listen to a shared, informal poetry reading.

2pm: Christopher Somerville

The January Man


"In January 2006, a month or two after my father died, I thought I saw him again - a momentary impression of an old man, a little stooped, setting off for a walk in his characteristic fawn corduroys and shabby quilted jacket. After teenage rifts it was walking that brought us closer as father and son; and this 'ghost' of Dad has been walking at my elbow since his death, as I have ruminated on his great love of walking, his prodigious need to do it - and how and why I walk myself."

The January Man is the story of a year of walks that was inspired by a song, Dave Goulder's 'The January Man'. Month by month, season by season and region by region, Christopher Somerville walks the British Isles, following routes that continually bring his father to mind. As he travels the country - from the winter floodlands of the River Severn to the lambing pastures of Nidderdale, the towering seabird cliffs on the Shetland Isle of Foula in June and the ancient oaks of Sherwood Forest in autumn - he describes the history, wildlife, landscapes and people he encounters, down back lanes and old paths, in rain and fair weather.

This exquisitely written account of the British countryside not only inspires us to don our boots and explore the 140,000 miles of footpaths across the British Isles, but also illustrates how, on long-distance walks, we can come to an understanding of ourselves and our fellow walkers. Over the hills and along the byways, Christopher Somerville examines what moulded the men of his father's generation - so reticent about their wartime experiences, so self-effacing, upright and dutiful - as he searches for 'the man inside the man' that his father really is.

Christopher Somerville is the walking correspondent for The Times.

3.15pm: The Bard of Windmill Hill

How the West was Lost


The Bard of Windmill Hill has been unhelpfully described as an exception to every rule. An ex-bricklayer, his life journey has taken him from cement to semantics via teaching and training; all the while insisting that 'there would be less indecision if words were used with more precision'.

He has produced four collections of poetry to date, the latest being the upliftingly titled Where there's tea, there's hope. He has performed at festivals and theatres throughout the UK, as well as church services and rowdy pubs. Although known primarily as a comedic and satirical writer, there is a strong historical and philosophical aspect to his work.

He has won two storytelling prizes. In 2014 he was crowned Bristol Storyteller of the Year, and is the only poet to have won this performance competition. He was also student of the year in history and politics at the University of the West of England in 1989. He enjoys encapsulating histories into lyrical form for popular consumption for those who don't have time to read long books. This is most recently evident in his summary of 'How the West was lost' based on Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

the Bard of Windmill Hill is poet in residence and co-director of Bristol's longest running variety show Lansdown Cabaret.

4.30pm: The Lakeland Dialect Society


Back by popular demand the LDS will finish this year's LitFest with their usual spirited performance grounded in travels through Lakeland's very special landscape.

Day tickets are available for Saturday (£25) and Sunday (£20) - both including lunch

A sandwich lunch can be pre-ordered for Saturday and Sunday: £5.00/day - available at 12.30pm on both days.

Tickets can be bought and paid for by telephoning 01900 816168 - we take payment by credit/debit card.