Welcome to the Stroud Book Festival 2018. As Festival Director, I am thrilled to hand the introductory baton to the inimitable Sue Limb, one of Stroud’s finest authors. Read on, enjoy, and see you at the Festival. Paul McLaughlin
Darkness, mud, elections in the USA: sometimes November’s so awful, men have grown moustaches in self defence. In Stroud we’ve got a better plan. Escape into a book!
We’ve got the best line up of celebs since Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Neptune himself is paying a visit: at least I suspect that’s what Will McCallum’s friends call him: he’s Head of Oceans at Greenpeace and, with Claudi Williams, our local anti-plastics warrior, he’s going to tell us how to give up the wretched stuff.
Mary Portas (Mary Queen of Shops) is coming too. I know Wordsworth said, ‘Getting and spending we lay waste our powers,’ but for many of us Mary’s transforming insights into retail have lit up many a dreary winter’s evening. And this time her subject is Work like a Woman: a Manifesto for Change. Wordsworth, of course, left women’s work to his sister Dorothy. I don’t think he was one of Nature’s shoppers either. (Unlike Byron: imagine him in Harrod’s.)
One of the wonderful things about Stroud is its welcoming diversity. Refugees not only enrich a nation, they all have mesmerising stories. The Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group have collected some of their powerful experiences in Refugee Tales which will be read by Bernardine Evaristo and Patrick Gale – both writers of distinction. Bernardine is also Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University. If only I was a fresh faced undergraduate starting out on her course! I wouldn’t waste all my time smoking Black Russian cigarettes and trying to impress boys this time.
As for her co-presenter Patrick Gale, he’s the author of sixteen books, and Stephen Fry called his latest, Take Nothing with You ‘Just a wonderful wonderful read,’ comparing Patrick to E.M.Forster. Prue Leith’s coming too and will be dropping crumbs of culinary advice, and we’ll be able to raise a glass to the wine writer Oz Clarke. Alan Johnson, former postman, MP and smiley star of Andrew Neil’s TV Show This Week, is putting in an appearance, hurrah!
Competitions and children are at the heart of Stroud Book Festival, and one of the great treats for kids will be the visit of Ade Adepitan, the wheelchair basketball champ, TV presenter and children’s author, radiating infectious energy.
Oh the joy of all these scintillating talents coming to our eccentric little town! So come on down and be the most scintillating audience ever. It can’t happen without you!
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