Archive by Author

Mark Lawson: allegedly

4 May
Mark Lawson

Mark Lawson ©Calyx Picture Agency

Mark Lawson: it could all be made up and still be true.

The words above are not mine but are taken from the entry in the literature festival brochure in respect of Mark Lawson’s talk last night at Swindon Arts Centre. When I saw them there on the page two words popped into my head: ‘fake news’. I wasn’t the only one to have that train of thought clearly because in the question session someone raised that very thing.

One has to wonder if, in the new order from across the pond of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’, the phrase ‘trumped-up charges’ doesn’t take on a whole new meaning?

So, The Allegations. A semi-autobiographical contemporary novel, set in a fictitious Midlands university, that explores the scenario of having ‘historic’* allegations made against you, and how you get through it and what it does to you.

And if the description ‘semi-autobiographical’ is too strong the novel is most certainly influenced by Lawson’s own experience. He recently stepped down from his long-running hosting role of BBC Radio 4’s culture show, Front Row, amid claims of bullying. Continue reading


So it IS all my mother’s fault!

4 May

I knew it! It IS all my mother’s fault! Or so the psychologist Oliver James would have us believe. Vindication is mine. *Evil Cackle*

In his poem This Be The Verse Philip Larkin famously said:

   ‘They f**k you up, your mum and dad.

    They may not mean to, but they do …. But they were f**ked up in their turn

    By fools in old-style hats and coats,…’
A sentiment not lost on psychologist Oliver James, Indeed not only is it not lost on him he’s channelled Larkin’s observation into his books They **** You Up and Not in Your Genes – the real reasons children are like their parents.

Continue reading

Is there life in the old dog yet?

10 May
D J Taylor

D J Taylor (left) with Matt Holland ©Calyx Picture Agency

10th May 2016

DJ Taylor – on the life of Literature in Britain – The Prose Factory

 The purpose of this chronicle is not to offer up a review of D J Taylor’s latest tome The Prose Factory – a 200,000-word examination of the life of literature in England. Bigger and better folk than I have already opined on its success, or otherwise, of achieving its objectives. But, as Taylor’s entertaining and humour-injected talk today was centred around it, we should look at it.

Looking at The Guardian’s review from earlier this year, I was drawn to their comment that “Taylor is firmly on the side of ‘ordinary readers, always on the look out for ‘snootiness’.” I like that because I consider myself to be an ‘ordinary reader’. Continue reading

A Simply Splendid Swindon Affair

8 May

A Swindon Affair

8th April 2016

A  Swindon Affair: a Family Affair and a Love Affair

When posting about this event on social media I accidentally referred to it as a ‘Family Affair’. But that was probably a Freudian slip – or something. Because a family affair is really rather what it felt like. The entire affair: afternoon and evening – was filled with people I know and have great affection for. And it was wonderful.

Loving Swindon: in words, pictures and music – a few words first about the afternoon event. The Platform on Faringdon Rd was overflowing with the astonishing literary output and outpouring there has been, and still is, about Swindon from Swindon people and others who love Swindon.

The whole thing was a collaboration between Swindon Civic Voice, Poetry Swindon and the Swindon Literature Festival. Three most marvellous groups right here in Swindon. Continue reading

The Greatest Story Ever Told

4 May
©Calyx Picture Agency Swindon Festival of Literature

©Calyx Swindon Festival of Literature A.N.Wilson

The Book of The People

A N Wilson, the author of the above named .. well … book is of the belief that The Bible remains a relevant work even in our modern and largely secular society. He posits that, no matter what one might or might not believe, The Bible stands up as a work of philosophy, of literature and as a cornerstone of our culture and general knowledge.

Continue reading

Preaching to the converted

3 May


Kaye Franklin

Kaye Franklin would approve


3rd May 2016, Swindon Festival of Literature

The Kaye Franklin Memorial Lecture

In taking the phrase ‘preaching to the converted’ as the title of this post I’m leaping to the end of today’s lecture delivered by Matt Holland, at Swindon Arts Centre.

Having made his last point, Matt sat down in readiness for the Q&A session, looked out at the audience and observed a feeling of ‘foolishness’ at having spent 30/40 minutes talking about the role of literature in life to a crowd of people who almost certainly believe that there is a role and a purpose to literature – because why else would they have been in that lecture? QED?

So did Matt need to feel foolish? Is there a role for literature in life? And if so – what is it? Continue reading

Bruce Fogle: Discovering a place in the natural world at the Swindon Festival of Literature

6 May
Bruce Fogle

Bruce Fogle

6 May 2015. Discovering a place in the natural world at the Swindon Festival of Literature or:  Don’t Judge a book by its cover.

“I dressed and went for a walk – determined not to return until I took in what Nature had to offer.”
 – Raymond Carver, This Morning.

Suffering for my art – yet stoic in the execution of my Festival Chronicle duties I arrived at Swindon Arts Centre in a sodden and sorry state after the third drenching of the day and it was still only midday.

I’d been dispatched there by Festival Chronicle HQ to cover the Swindon Literature Festival appearance of Bruce Fogle – and if the name sounds familiar you’re not wrong – but more of that later.

Bruce Fogle is a former zoo worker, practicing vet and best-selling writer. Not on the face of it the kind of ‘thing’ that would be high on my list of things with which to engage – I’m not exactly at one with the natural world at the best of times. And especially not after mice in the conservatory, rats infesting the loft and more than the occasional frog startling me in the garden. Or maybe that’s more a case of me startling the frogs. Anyway. This all goes to prove the old adage about not judging a book by its cover – literally in this case because, despite my trepidation, Mr Fogle’s talk turned out to be an enchanting prequel – his words – to his book Barefoot at the Lake: A boyhood summer in Cottage Country. Continue reading