David Edgar (described by the RSC as one of our greatest living playwrights) in conversation with Jon Bloomfield whose oral history of Britain’s second city offers an antidote to the fear-mongering of the tabloid press in telling the stories of fifty migrants from thirteen different countries from Ireland to India, Pakistan to Poland, the Caribbean to Somalia.
‘analytical and compelling and at the same time persuasive and moving.’ Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary
‘exhilarating to read about the energy and creativity generated by diverse Britons living together in a shared space.’ Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
‘tight, energetic prose’ Observer
Jon Bloomfield had a grandparent who grew up near Warsaw, another in present day Ukraine, and one in Romania. They all remade their lives in the East End of London. Jon, an historian and an urban policy specialist, having previously worked for Coventry and Birmingham City Councils, has lived and worked in Birmingham for 40 years. For over a decade he has been an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and contributes to various newspapers including The Guardian.
David Edgar was born in Birmingham into a family with strong past links to Birmingham Rep. David’s plays include the antifascist classic Destiny (RSC 1976 and BBC1), three plays about the fall of East European communism (including The Shape of the Table, National Theatre, 1990) and a number of adaptations, including Nicholas Nickleby and A Christmas Carol for the RSC and Gittas Sereny’s Albert Speer for the National Theatre. His autobiographical solo show Trying it On (2018-9) was described as a ‘triumph of confessional courage’ by Michael Billington in The Guardian. David was a founder member of the Anti Nazi League and is on the board of the Institute of Race Relations. He founded the University of Birmingham’s MA in Playwriting Studies programme.
Naoko Abe presents her elegant account of the life of Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram, the Englishman who saved Japanese blossoms (sakura) and whose legacy we enjoy every spring. Her book references local connections including Ernest Wilson, Batsford Arboretum and Hidcote Manor Garden. It was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.
‘You may never look at cherry blossom in the same way again’ Economist
‘a portrait of great charm and sophistication, rich in its natural and historical range.’ Guardian
‘deeply moving book — beautifully written’ Spectator
‘fascinating, a treat for gardeners, cherry-growers and historians.’ Financial Times
‘An engaging biography’ Sunday Times
‘meticulously researched book’ Telegraph
Naoko Abe joined the Mainichi, one of Japan’s major newspapers, in 1981 and was the first woman political writer to cover the prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry, and the defence ministry. In 1990 she represented Japan at the International Women in Journalism conference in Washington. She now works as a freelance journalist/writer in London. She has written books about the British education system and family policies. Her essays include a 15-month series about the ‘history of flowers’ in Mainichi. One essay, Lucy and the Daffodils was chosen as one of Japan’s best essays of 2011 by the magazine Bungei Shunju and was re-published in the book Ningen Wa Sugoina (Amazing Human Beings).
This event is sponsored by Geoffrey and Kathryn White, Westcote House
With reference to their latest novels, Maggie Gee and Caroline Montague discuss with Caroline Sanderson the role of place in fiction. Whether it be a Margate Dental surgery, Dreamland, and a beach café or a Burgundy vineyard, Mont Blanc and a Paris brasserie – is place (as argued by the 1973 Pulitzer Prize winning author, Eudora Welty) the meeting point of ‘character, plot, [and] symbolic meaning’?
Maggie Gee OBE FRSL, was one of Granta’s original ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ and has been shortlisted for global prizes including the Orange (now Women’s) Prize, and the Dublin International IMPAC Prize. She writes novels, short stories, memoir, poetry and journalism, is a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, a Director of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and a Vice-President of the RSL. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages and in 2012 there was an international conference about her work at St Andrew’s University. Her fifteen books include The White Family and (featured at the 2015 Festival) Virginia Woolf in Manhattan.
What writers say about Blood:
‘A wise and beautiful book about what it feels like to be alive’ Zadie Smith
‘Fast-moving, energetic, constantly surprising’ Hilary Mantel
‘Gripping, original, highly entertaining – Gee is superb’ J G Ballard
Caroline Montague at ten won her first national poetry competition and from that moment dreamt of being a writer – reading law, marriage at nineteen, children, a career as an interior designer – something always got in the way. She moved to Burnt Norton twenty years ago and, inspired by the empty pools made famous by TS Eliot in the first of his Four Quartets, wrote an historical novel set at Burnt Norton. Her second novel An Italian Affair has been described as ‘Thoroughly engrossing’ by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey.
Caroline Sanderson is Associate and non-fiction Editor of The Bookseller, co-hosts BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s monthly book club, and is Artistic Director of Stroud Book Festival. She has chaired events at Cheltenham Literature Festival among many others, and her five non-fiction books include A Rambling Fancy: In the Footsteps of Jane Austen and Someone Like Adele.
Lennie Goodings author of A Bite of the Apple, a memoir set in the context of feminism, and segueing into thoughts on editing, post-feminism, reading, breaking boundaries, and the Virago Modern Classics is in conversation with with Helen Taylor whose Why Women Read Fiction describes how British women readers draw on fiction to tell the stories of their lives, and offers a cornucopia of witty and wise women’s voices including those of Hilary Mantel, Helen Dunmore, Katie Fforde, and Sarah Dunant.
What writers say about A Bite of the Apple:
‘such a great read.’ Susie Orbach
‘I enjoyed it hugely’ Caroline Criado Perez
‘Lively frank fascinating – and above all inspiring.’ Sarah Waters
Lennie Goodings who arrived in London from Ontario in 1977 soon began work as a publicist at Virago Press where she became the Publishing Director in 1992. After eight years of independence, the company was sold to Little, Brown. In 2017 Lennie became Virago Chair. Her awards include an Honorary Doctorate from Queen’s University in Canada (2004), the Bookseller’s Industry Award: Editor and Imprint of the Year (2010) and A Lifetime’s Achievement Women of the World (2018). She is a trustee of English PEN, board member of the charity Poet in the City and author of the children’s book When I Grow Up.
Helen Taylor, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Exeter, Honorary Fellow of the British Association of American Studies, and Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow 2016-18, has taught English and American literature at the universities of the West of England, Bristol, Warwick, and Exeter, where she was Head of the School of English. Her books include Scarlett’s Women, Circling Dixie and The Daphne du Maurier Companion. Curator, Chair, and participant in many literature festivals, she was the first Director of the Liverpool Literary Festival.
Britain was on the verge of defeat to Nazi Germany when William Stephenson arrived in the US with instructions from the head of MI6 to secure aid for Britain and ‘organise’ American public opinion: a May 1940 Gallup Survey: Do you think the United States should declare war on Germany and send our army and navy abroad to fight? Yes 7% Sunday Times and New York Times best selling author Henry Hemming, who entertained a Chipping Campden audience with his presentation of MI5’s Greatest Spymaster* in 2018, uses story telling, props, music and an audience game to demonstrate how, in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor, a first time M16 spymaster, a failed American politician, a love struck lyricist and the President of the United States used a fake Nazi map to help bring America into the war. Henry accessed private and hitherto classified documents including the diaries of his own grandparents, who worked for William Stephenson – “our man in New York”– in the writing of this. It has been optioned by the team behind the Oscar winning The Favourite.
‘Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler.’ William Boyd
‘Fast-paced … reads like the film script of a 1940s thriller’. Times
Henry Hemming has written for the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Times, Economist, FT Magazine, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. He has given interviews on Radio 4’s Today Programme and NBC’s Today Show. His other books include *M, Misadventure in the Middle East and Churchill’s Iceman.
In 2018 Peter Hart strode the width of Chipping Campden School Hall to relive the endgame on the western front in 1918*, and now he returns to help us understand what it was like to fight in WWII by seeing it through the eyes of the soldiers who fought. The South Notts Hussars fought at almost every major battle of the Second World War, from the Siege of Tobruk to the Battle of El Alamein and the D-Day Landings. Peter draws on detailed interviews conducted with members of the regiment, to provide both a comprehensive account of the conflict and reconstruct its most compelling moments in the words of the men who experienced it. This is military history at its best: outlining the path from despair to victory, and allowing us to share in soldiers’ hopes and fears; the deafening explosions of the shells, the scream of the diving Stukas and the wounded; the pleasures of good comrades and the devastating despair at lost friends.
Peter Hart is the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum. He is author of *The Last Battle (Military History Matters Book of the Year Gold Award 2019) Gallipoli, The Great War, and Voices From The Front.
This event is sponsored by Anthony and Mary Stone.