With some events almost sold out, now is the time to book your seats for Marlborough’s second literary festival, which kicks off today (Friday) with award-winning author Sir Michael Holroyd as the star turn at the town hall.
Sir Michael, who has written acclaimed biographies of George Bernard Shaw, Augustus John, Lytton Strachey and PG Wodehouse, intriguingly calls his latest work A Book of Secrets – Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers.
And his appearance sets the tone for a festival deliberately created by the novelist Mavis Cheek (pictured) as an event where the quality of the writing, not the notoriety of the celebrity author comes first.
“Marlborough is the town that hosts the festival, literature from everywhere is its guest,” Mavis insists. “It’s such a delight to be able to invite wonderful writers to the town. We may be provincial in setting, but we are never provincial in outlook.
Sir Michael Holroyd
”The importance of this event is that — thanks to both its national and local sponsors — it is not bound by any commercial considerations. The best literature never is — and this is wonderfully reflected in the programme. “As G K Chesterton put it – ‘While thought exists, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living’. Our tag, when we began, was that this would be a Festival ‘Where Literature Comes Alive’ and it has honourably lived up to that maxim.”
And Mavis adds the surprise announcement: “Apart from opening the second year’s Literature Festival this weekend, which is set to build on last year’s success in offering a wide range of excellent authors and very varied events, there will also be an announcement of one new and very special addition to the programme in 2012.
“It will become an annual event, and which will perfectly fulfil our brief to bring fine literature to the town of Marlborough with its many literary connections.”
Festival-goers should definitely reserve their places now, especially if they want to see some of the bigger names such as Judy Golding, daughter of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sir William, who grew up in Marlborough, and the locally-raised talent of children’s author Lauren Child, who has created fun for thousands of children.
Deborah Moggach, author of 16 novels, is acclaimed too for for dramatised versions of her own books as well as those of others, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate among them, is another main attraction.
Judi Dench and Maggie Smith starring in a movie version of her novel These Foolish Things, which is due for release next year.
Anne Sebba, the first woman to delve into the life of That Woman – namely the Duchess of Windsor who captured the heart of a King – is another who offers exciting tales from surprising places, along with historian Helen Castor.
Playright David Edgar will be talking on the state of the British theatre while there will be fun to be had in the Poetry Café and the special Poetry Slam organised by experts Marcus Moore and Sara-Jane Arbury.
“The creative writing courses with Chris Wakling are also selling well, though there may still be some tickets if people book them now,” says spokesman Ben Budd.
“Also, bear in mind that some of the venues are quite small and can’t accommodate many people, so if people want to see, for example, Peter Davison on Orwell, Kerry Young introduced by Bidisha of The Guardian or Edward Hogan/Evie Wyld, they should snap up tickets now as these events are all held in The Merchant’s House.
“For some of the other events you may be able to turn up on the day and get a ticket. With such a variety of writers, styles and subjects, including novels, poetry, biography, children’s writing, drama, history, religion and gothic horror, there’s bound to be something of interest.
“There will also be books for sale and signing and the LitFest Cafe to relax or have a drink and snack.”
Ticket prices range from £3 to £10. Box office is at 01249 701628 or White Horse Bookshop or marlboroughlitfest.org.