Here at BroadstairsLit, we are excited to announce our 2019 programme of events – featuring a dazzling array of personalities from comediennes to men of the cloth, radio stars and prize-winning chefs to one-time jailbirds.
We kick off on January 27th at Broadstairs Pavilion when I shall be “in conversation” with actress and celebrity Helen Lederer. I have interviewed Helen several times before and she never fails to be hilarious. I shall be quizzing her about her time on celebrity Big Brother, her role in Absolutely Fabulous, her recent one-woman show and, as they say, much, much more.
Come and meet Helen and get a signed copy of her entertaining novel Losing It (Pan). Group discounts available.
Two Tales of Imprisonment
Being in prison is the theme of not one, but two of our events this year. On the afternoon of Sunday May 19th, I shall be talking to Terry Waite, the former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury who spent 1,763 days in captivity – the first four years in solitary confinement.
Terry is a remarkable, humbling man – when I last interviewed him on stage at Chipping Norton you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. I do recommend this chance to listen first-hand to his enthralling story.
Captivity of a slightly different nature will be chief topic of conversation on November 3rd, when Jonathan Aitken comes to town. Mr Aitken was, of course, MP for South Thanet before his fall from grace and subsequent time doing porridge for his crime of perjury. But what an inspiration he has become, turning this episode into something so positive. Jonathan is now an ordained prison chaplain who works tirelessly to support those serving sentences and to encourage prison reform. Tickets – which once again include a cream tea and Prosecco – we do like our glasses of fizz here at BroadstairsLit – are already selling like hot cakes. Don’t leave it till winter to get yours!
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
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
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.
Literary gatherings have been popping up left, right and centre – I go to quite a few of them myself – and there are now more LitFests in Britain than you can shake a stick at. But none, I feel confident in saying, are quite like our own homegrown BroadstairsLit – a collection of writing-inspired and book-themed events that will last not just for the weekend, Ladies and Gentlemen, nor even a full fortnight but – all through the year!
Conceived over a series of mineral waters, coffees and the odd gin (that was me!) the model has taken a bit of tweaking but we now have a line up of stalwart volunteers (step forward Denise Martin-Harker of Dickens Festival Fame – if you went along to this year’s extravaganza you’ll know this lady can organise with bells on! – and Lee and Jacqui Wellbrook, the powers behind all sorts of good local events and her right-hand men for the above). I am to be the resident interviewer (nothing I like better than the sound of my own voice and the weight of a mic in my hand) and we kicked off with our first event back in June.
‘A cup of tea with The Archers’ was a sell-out.I am passionate about the long-running radio four soap but even I was surprised at the depth of devotion filling the Broadstairs Pavilion when scriptwriter Keri Davies joined the beautiful actress Annabelle Dowler who plays Kirsty Miller, and Trevor Harrison, the actor behind Eddie Grundy, to talk about life in Ambridge. One hundred and eighty happy beverage-drinkers listened enthralled as Annabelle spilled the beans on whether Kirsty really goes in for a proper snog or simply kisses the back of her hand during love scenes, Keri explained the reason why so many of the characters speak with their mouths full and Trevor Harrison – delighting the audience with a burst of his Eddie voice – shared his joy at the Grundys finally getting back to Grange Farm.
As fans queued afterwards for photo opportunities, the delight was palpable. One local, making a strange bobbing motion as she held out her pen for a Grundy autograph, seemed almost unsteady on her feet. She’d just stopped herself from dropping a curtsey!
The next event on our calendar is 24th September: a cream tea with Hallie Rubenhold – the power behind the ITV series Harlots – and Lucinda Hawksley, great great great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens himself. They will be talking about Harris’s List, the 18th/19th century underworld and those who influenced the great man. Hear Denise talking about them here.
Excitements for the future include Sir Tony Robinson of Baldrick fame on 10thMarch 2018, and top authors Katie Fforde and Peter James when we’ve all coordinated our diaries. Keep an eye on www.broadstairslit.co.uk and watch this space….