Sir Tony comes to town for BroadstairsLit
There were turnips on display when Baldrick fans packed The Pavilion on 10th March to welcome Sir Tony Robinson to Broadstairs.
The actor, presenter, author and comic genius who, we decided, must by now have national treasure status, delighted the audience with hilarious tales of stage and screen from his childhood start as the Artful Dodger in the west end production of Oliver to that going-over-the-top iconic Blackadder finale.
The queue for signed copies of his memoir No Cunning Plan (Pan Macmillan) – stretched a while…
And on the subject of paperbacks – six years ago, Carol Clarke invited me to visit the bookshop she’d opened in Cliftonville with her husband, Dave. It sounded delightful – I love a second-hand bookstore – and I promised to pop along. Last Sunday I finally made it!
Tiverton Books is tucked away beneath the Smiths Court Hotel and offers good quality, used books across a range of subjects and genres, quirkily laid out without category headings under a system that Carol knows like the back of her hand, but which is suitably cryptic to ensure the potential buyer gets to have a good browse.
With everything from Blyton to Dickens to Jilly Cooper to a tome on quilting, there is something for everyone (I left Carol a couple of my own works – pristine and unread – if you want a bargain) without breaking the bank. I came away with four thrillers for under a fiver. Wish I’d got there sooner!
Tiverton Books can be found “Down the Steps” at Smiths Court Hotel, Eastern Esplanade, Margate CT9 2HL
Open every Sunday from 10 am to 2pm. www.tivertonbooks.co.uk
Kent Festival of Writing
For anyone with writing dreams of their own, the Kent Festival of Writing started life 3 years ago and welcomes “all writers from absolute beginners and those writing just for fun, to would-be and established authors at all stages of their careers.” The day aims to provide “inspiration, support and the opportunity to develop skills with hands-on workshops designed to encourage and inform.”
Director Sue Basset is a writer herself and has recently acquired an agent for her Gothic thriller which is currently being submitted to publishers. “I know how important it is to meet other writers,” she says. “Their support and encouragement, along with the advice I have received from published authors and tutors, have been invaluable on my journey. I wanted to provide something similar for aspiring writers which was accessible and local.”
Events include workshops on blogging, finding your writing voice, interviews with published writers and a mystery book swap. (I’d be there myself but I shall be teaching elsewhere – at the fabulous Chez Castillon – if you have dreams of writing with sunshine and wine, check this out too www.chez-castillon.com)
Kent Festival of Writing will be held on Saturday 14th April 2018
Whitstable Community College, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1PZ
For details and tickets see https://www.kentfestivalofwriting.co.uk
Back here in Thanet, the writing scene is flourishing too with the well-established Isle Writers group being regular and entertaining contributors to the monthly Broadly Speaking sessions hosted by BroadstairsLit. The group meet regularly for discussion and critique sessions and have produced an anthology Small Things. Find them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/IsleWriters/
If you have a story to share, or would simply like to listen, Broadly Speaking is held on the last Sunday of each month at the Yarrow Hotel, Broadstairs from 7.30pm. Visit https://broadstairslit.co.uk/broadly-speaking-3/ for the full lowdown.
Don’t miss Hunter Davies!
And if you really like a good yarn, then the BroadstairsLit guest for April has more tales than you can shake a stick at. In his memoir A Life in the Day (Simon & Schuster) witty raconteur Hunter Davies reflects on life in London in the Swinging Sixties, his time as editor of Britain’s first colour weekend supplement The Sunday Times Magazine; his friendship with the Beatles (he wrote the only authorised biography of the group) and his partying with and ghost-writing for some of the biggest names in television, film and theatre of the day. We’re talking Sir Michael Caine, George Best, Melvyn Bragg, Dame Joan Bakewell, Sir Sean Connery, Cilla Black, Paul Gascoigne, and Wayne Rooney among others. It is also a moving account of his deep love for and marriage to the acclaimed novelist Margaret Forster who he sadly lost to cancer in 2016. Hunter will be joined by their author daughter Caitlin Davies, whose latest book Bad Girls (John Murray) is a fascinating look at the history of Holloway prison. Both will be in conversation with me, spilling the beans about all of this and more. Come along – it’s going to be riveting!
Hunter Davies and Caitlin Davies will be at The Yarrow Hotel, Broadstairs from 7pm 6th April. Tickets at £15 include a welcome drink and canapés. Please see https://broadstairslit.co.uk/events/ to book
Still to come…
- Friday 11th May – Extra Time with James Brown. The TalkSport host talks about male friendship and his love of football
- Thursday 21st June Being David Archer. Tim Bentinck (David Archer) and Sunny Ormonde (Lillian Bellamy) take us behind the scenes at Britain’s favourite radio soap.
Details of all events and how to book https://broadstairslit.co.uk/events. Original article at https://theisleofthanetnews.com/jane-wenham-jones-write-around-the-isle-turnips-thrillers-and-special-guests.
Another to add to my list of fab festivals I have worked for. Had a great time at the Buckingham Literary Festival last weekend, interviewing three top bestsellers. First up on Friday night a packed audience were enthralled by the mega-successful crime king Peter James with whom I always have a laugh; and then the next morning I “did” the wonderful Clare Mackintosh and Louise Doughty – who both went down a storm. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sir Anthony Seldon – what an inspirational chap he is. I loved Buckingham – never been before and it is the most gorgeous place. One for the calendar next year…
So fab to host the Archers event last Friday at the Pavilion in Broadstairs with ace scriptwriter Keri Davies, the gorgeous Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller), and the ever-entertaining Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy). Next up for Broadstairs Literary Events @BroadlySpeaking –
Hope you can come along… xx
I interview the Tory hopefuls by adopting police tactics. Sir Roger Gale has been in politics for half a century and the MP for Thanet North for 32 years. He is unlikely to be fazed by anything I can throw at him, and I don’t want newbie Craig Mackinlay – candidate for Thanet South – cribbing the answers. So I separate to interrogate and roll up early to Gale Towers – a charming farmhouse-style affair with open fireplaces and assorted dogs – where I am made tea by the smiley, hospitable Suzy. Roger Gale is a BOGOF candidate (Buy one get one free) – vote for him and his energetic wife is thrown in. He encourages Suzy to join us for the interview. She interjects to correct him on the exact number of votes that held a marginal seat in 1982 and, amusingly, flicks through a magazine during a particularly long anecdote. But she works alongside Roger on the day-to-day. “Suzy and I spend huge amounts of time just dealing with constituency stuff that you never hear about or read about,” Roger tells me. “It’s all private and that’s how it should be. It’s like being a doctor.” It also sounds like a lot of hard work. “Did she secretly wish he’d retired instead of standing again? “Absolutely not,” Suzy retorts. “If anything, I was the one shovelling him along. . .” I follow on with the obvious. But is it time, as other candidates have suggested, after all these decades, for a change in North Thanet? Sir Rog is characteristically unruffled. “It is the obvious chant for anyone who isn’t a member of parliament to say we need a change. . . ” And when I quote his words at a recent hustings, he is unapologetic. “I’m not going to say I’m suddenly going to be someone different, someone new and exciting. Of course they are going to get ‘more of the same’ because I’ve done the job – and am going to do the job – in the way that I believe that it needs to be done.” So what does need to happen to Thanet in the next five years? “Obviously Manston is a key issue. People say ‘he’s only interested in Manston because of the election’. No, I’ve been promoting Manston for more than 20 years.” As a Manston supporter myself, I know this to be true and we fall into a long discussion about the various options, upon which Roger is more realistic than I am. I just want to have a plane to jump on. “Passengers!” I cry. Roger attempts to manage my expectations. “In order to get the bedrock right, you’ve got to have the cornerstones. The cornerstone would be freight. Once you’ve got the business up and running on a sound financial footing then yes, RiverOak wants passengers, I want passengers. “What about night flights?” I ask wearily, as I feel I must. “We don’t need night flights.” Manston is “the most important thing bar none” but Roger is also enthusiastic about other projects. He speaks warmly about the regeneration that is going on in Margate, believes now in the new Dreamland project although would like to see more of it undercover: “Boys need boys’ toys to play with so you want the dodgems undercover so that when they’ve done their conferencing, they can thrash into each other”, and has ideas for a new hotel, a lifeboat centre and an ambitious overhaul of the Winter Gardens complete with “indoor beach”. Craig has pitched up by now, with party supporter Chris Brannigan, and as we prepare to swap seats, I finish on the possible threat from Ukip. Nationally, Roger says, he fears them splitting the Tory vote and letting “the Milliband government in through the back door”, but locally feels Nigel Farage may be in for “an unpleasant shock”. One thing is clear: “I don’t want to be re-elected with the support of anyone who thinks Ukip because I see 1930s Europe,” he says. “I hear the march of boots and I don’t like it.” He and Suzy disappear, and with those words still hanging in the air, I turn a beady eye on Craig, who was a founding Ukip member. “Nice to see you,” he says. “I am the uncharismatic Craig Mackinlay.” He is referring to a previous Gazette piece in which I summed up the various contenders for South Thanet. “The word I used was ‘unappealing’, I tell him. He laughs loudly and warily and I quiz him on his political past. “It was a very different Ukip in those days,” he counters. “Tell me,” I say. Adding, when he protests that he doesn’t want to “spend the whole interview talking about Ukip”, that otherwise people will see him and Farage as one and the same. This galvanises Mr Mackinlay into a full and detailed explanation, which, in fairness to himself, he should probably repeat more often. Ukip was founded in 1991 in a pub in Covent Garden and Craig was one of six members, his motivation being soaring interest rates – he is a chartered accountant by trade – the effects of the exchange rate mechanism and the cost of the EU. “It had an academic base to it.” Immigration “wasn’t even on the agenda.” He became leader in the late 90s but by 2005 was “getting towards the end of my tether”. Ukip was starting to attract “some odd characters” and two of the MEPs were arrested for fraud. Meanwhile, the Conservatives were talking about the EU again. “It was time to come home. I never changed. I stayed in exactly the same spot in my view.” So what is the Mackinlay take on immigration? He welcomes the new rules on benefits but has no objection to anyone coming here to work. His wife is Hungarian and her doctor brother is with the NHS. I thus unpin him from the floor and we take respite in the flapjacks Suzy has left us (excellent) before moving on. If elected, what will Craig do for Thanet? His years as both a councillor and a magistrate, as well as on the Kent Police Authority (he was up against Ann Barnes as for the position of Police Commissioner), he says, “gives you an insight into the real world, the gritty end. . . “Forget the politics, I know what this world is all about.” That’s as maybe, but I suggest that it must be daunting to follow Laura Sandys, of whom everyone speaks so highly. He does too. “She has been a wonder worker that crosses the political divide and I see myself exactly the same.” Even though he is more right-wing? “I think that people who do the right thing should be supported. The Conservatives are the right party to create a great economy and without a great economy you can’t pay for all the things that we want. I see a good economy as the main driver of everybody’s lifestyle. So is that right wing or left wing?” We have a spirited exchange over what constitutes poverty and get back to Thanet. Craig is pro-Manston too – he once tried to set up a “Malaga Airlines” flying out of it – and thinks Ramsgate Marina and Harbour “one of the biggest assets we’re not using properly,” predicting it could create 500 jobs. He likes the new businesses in Military Road and sees high speed rail as having the “potential to transform”. He is driven, he says, by the idea of “making Britain better”. The Ukip MEPs have cost £84 million in their 16 years, he tells me. “And what have they done? Beyond living a fantastic lifestyle?” After meetings in Brussels, the stories go, “Ukip are first up to a bar for the champagne, thank you very much, but have they done any of these things that they now say they want to achieve? Not one. They haven’t achieved anything. . . ” “I’ve got a history of public service,” says Craig Mackinlay. “I’m the real candidate with real experiences, who is a real person. . .” Verdict: Something old, something new, something blue… Also standing: Name: Ruth Bailey Party: Manston Airport Independent Party Age 57 No of years in politics: Four months or so!! What’s the most important thing you would do for Thanet? Revitalise Thanet through the re-opening of Manston airport. Impose a compulsory purchase order on the current owner, securely underwritten by a company that will offer high end jobs, training and apprenticeships and put Thanet on the map. The big dream:
- A thriving Manston airport and fully operating port/marina in Ramsgate.
- Flourishing tourism, protection of our green spaces, affordable new homes and regenerated High Streets, with derelict properties compulsory purchased or legally enforced to improve.
- One hour’s free parking in our town, reasonable business rates and more community centres.
Next week: Mike Pearce on the Election Flipside…
You can read the original article at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane-meets-Tories-Manston-Airport/story-26308450-detail/story.html
Here at last….
Am all very thrilled – and not a little nervously twitchy 🙂 – to announce the launch of the first half of the pilot episode of Wannabe a Writer? The TV Show, a joint project between me and my mate Stephen Arkell of Retina Productions , in which we bring an exciting new concept in Writer-centred TV to your screens…
Well what a lov-er-ley time I had at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival – a treat indeed. You would never believe the festival is only in its second year from its big-name line up and terrific organisation but it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be there for both of them. This time I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of being “in conversation with” the super-best-selling Peter James on Saturday, who talked about his forthcoming Dead Man’s Time (I got to read a review copy – bloody brilliant!) fascinated us all with his police tales and amused greatly with his unique revenge tactics on Martin Amis (ha ha!). Peter is a dream to interview!
As is the gorgeous and delightful Fern Britton. I met her for about a minute before we started our event around her latest entertaining novel The Holiday Home but she was as warm and relaxed as if we were old friends. What a totally lovely, natural and generous lady. The audience adored her and so did I. She had some hilarious stories too… (Was Chipping Norton ready for the word c*ck? Certainly seemed to be…. :-)) We all laughed lots.
Thanks Jan Harvey for taking this one
So put next year’s dates in your diary now. Chipping Norton Lit Fest 2014 runs from 24th – 27th April and I’m excited already….
Have been having a grand catch-up on my emails (just the 117 now left in my To-Answer folder) and discovered this British Blog Post offering, received on 23rd February, duly flagged up for my IMMEDIATE attention and then lost in the mire, from one Seumas Gallacher who is a v. good chum of mine.
Seumas first emailed me out of the blue back in… oh, 2008 I think it was, and said he’d enjoyed Wannabe a Writer? and he’d love to take me out to lunch. (Apparently I was his third choice after Billy Connelly and Alex Ferguson but they didn’t want to come.)
Usually I resist it very well actually (not for nothing do I have a chapter in Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? entitled Nutters & Weirdos) but there was something about old Seumas’s email that made me say – hey, why not?
I even met him on Friday 13th.
When I queried the wisdom of this, he promised to bring along a black cat and he did! It lives on the back seat of my car – I won’t tell you what I call it 🙂 – and, I like to think, keeps me safe on long journeys…
Since that first lunch, when he was asking me questions about the whole publishing process, describing what an old dinosaur he was when it came to all things web-based, he has written two thrillers which have downloaded in their thousands and also become a blogging fanatic. Now he can teach me a thing or two!
So since he says I should do a Very British Blog Post I thought I would. Tho’ I’m not putting on the flowery frock for anyone. Here goes…
Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?
A. I was born in North Cray – which counts as a London borough these days, but was then Kent. Now I live in Broadstairs by the sea…
Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at present?
A. Always been here. Tho’ now base myself in the Dordogne for at least a couple of weeks a year at the fab www.chez-castillon.com. Teaching there this April (one last place left on my course) and September. Click here for details (where you can try to win your stay for free!).
Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?
A. Oh gosh I hate having to pick favourites. When I spend too much time here, I miss the buzz of London, when I’m a few days in the city I look forward to seeing the sea. If I go hill-walking in Wales I feel I should do it more often, if I visit the west country I long to live there… Britain has too many lovely corners and contrasts to make that sort of choice.
Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?
Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish – about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?
A. Maybe in old films… Though I do think we are good in a crisis. Brits don’t run about screaming when the place is on fire or the roof has fallen in. They get on with what has to be done and then have a nice cup of tea.
Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?
Q. Tell us about one of your recent books
A. Prime Time – a cheering tale of dysfunction and daytime TV – was shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy category of the RoNas – the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. And One Glass Is Never Enough was based on my two years of co-owning a wine bar. Oh dear that’s two books. Silly me.
Q. What are you currently working on?
Q. How do you spend your leisure time?
A. Walking, reading, eating and drinking, playing poor tennis, wondering how the hell I managed to get so behind on my emails…
Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
A. I write for anyone who is good enough to read me and I’m hugely grateful to every one of ’em. Thank you xx
Q. Can you provide links to your work?
A. Of course – tho’ I think they are pretty much plastered all over this blog already. See “books”
Hope that meets with approval, my old mate. Now I believe I have to suggest others to do this too?
Morgen – http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com
Lynne Hackles – http://www.lynnehackles.blogspot.co.uk
Annie Ireson – http://annieye.blogspot.co.uk
But if anyone else reading this, fancies a go, why not? Leave a comment here so we can all come and read it.
Quick one to say that they have technical problems over at Radio Litopia so I won’t be on this evening after all…
Will post new date as soon as I know it. In the meantime, hope you are all having a lovely time on this wet, windy bloody-freezing Sunday – or is that just the fair Isle of Thanet?
Despite the horrible weather, I have been much cheered this weekend by a great review by the lovely Kath over at womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk.
Coming up next in a blog post that Morgen made earlier….
Thank you Nikki Goodman for inviting me over to hers earlier.
Always happy to talk about wine…..
Those who are sharp-eyed and read my last author post with Peter Jones may have noticed that I failed to publish a post last Wednesday. Oops, sorry about that… other stuff prevented me from getting to my blog, but in my defense I did appear on the Romaniacs blog again (with some lovely authors); here’s the link if you’re interested http://theromaniacgroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/tuesday-chit-chats-the-romaniac-cut/
So, to get back on track… Jane. I have both her books on writing, ‘Wannabe a Writer? and ‘Wannabe be a Writer We’ve Heard Of?’ and would recommend them as they’re accessible, funny and packed full of great advice for aspiring authors. I also heard Jane speak at last year’s RNA Conference and it was a sunny interval in a day darkened by a horrid hangover!
Jane’s novel ‘Prime Time’ has just been shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy category of the RoNA’s (Romantic Novelists Association awards). For more info about…
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I do like it when people say nice things about me. Would you believe they don’t always…. 🙂
Monday brought Judy Finnigan at lunchtime – she was great and Richard came too – talking about her intriguing and atmospheric debut novel Eloise. We did forty minutes of chat and then took questions. Mindful of those unable to journey to Guildford, I had invited contributions via Twitter. @missdaisyfrost obliged with a deeply meaningful, profound and erudite enquiry. “How hairy is Richard’s back?” I can confirm to all of you worried about such matters that the answer, straight from Judy’s mouth, is not at all. That’s a relief.
And now I’ll break the rules and talk about someone else other than me and tell you that following us were Kathy Lette and Sandy Toksvig discussing Kathy’s new book The Boy Who Fell to Earth (sweet, sharp, funny, sad, endlessly touching). They were both hysterically funny too. Tho’ as David Nobbs pointed out, the whole evening seemed revolve around menopause and female bodily functions. (Luckily, as he also added, he is not at all squeamish)
The end of the second day of Guildford Book Festival and tonight was Peter James and Ann Cleeves. Fab interviewees both – and both with great news to share. Ann has been inducted into the Crime Writers Association Hall of Fame (I’m not entirely sure what this involves but I am deeply impressed) and Peter has knocked Fifty Shades off the top of the Bestsellers List. Respect! Peter is, of course, extremely shy and retiring (ho de ho) but I managed to coax a few anecdotes out of him. I’d never met Ann before but thought she was really lovely – how could she not be having created DI Vera Stanhope (a new series being filmed right now folks! If you love Brenda Blethyn – I do – don’t miss it). And that’s all I can muster right now cos it’s been a long day and tomorrow I’m off to HMP Send (not permanently).
But lots more to come at Guildford – On Monday I interview Judy Finnigan, Kay Burley and Jenny Eclair. Tuesday brings David Nobbs – hilarious creator of Reggie Perrin. Do roll up if you possibly can.
xx till then
PS yes I did learn where I’ve been going wrong on the Victoria Sponge front with lovely Rachel Allen and Jim N was most entertaining…
PPS Photo courtesy of Morgen (thanks Love!!! :-))
The nice people at Writer’s Choice have put me in their ‘spotlight’. Thank you PDR! 🙂
If there’s nothing much on TV, you can read it here: Interview with Jane Wenham-Jones.
Hot tips for writers everywhere….
(NB wasn’t my idea to add salt – was dead serious. Esp about number 10 :-))