Another Literary Festival Goes Virtual
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by Norman Warwick
Henley Literary Festival, supported by the Daily Mail, usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Henley-on-Thames, a scenic Oxfordshire town. However, large audiences under one roof are still no nearer making a comeback, so the Festival organisers have decided, instead, to bring names like John Grisham, the American novelist, attorney, politician, and activist, best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide. Also invited are author Joanna Trollope, Graham Norton, Jodi Picoult and Giovanna Fletcher to screens around the country and further afield over the next two months.
Early speakers invited for September include Great British Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain, Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante in conversation with former rower and chair of UK Sport Dame Katherine Grainger, nature presenter Kate Humble, and former British Ambassador to the United States Kim Darroch, interviewed by Jon Sopel of the BBC
Then the festival will be offering a full programme of Question & Answer sessions and talks for adults and children from September 26 to October 4. International bestsellers David Mitchell and John Boyne — respectively best known for Cloud Atlas and The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas — will appear together. So, too, will Joanna Trollope and The Other Half Of Happiness author Ayisha Malik.
There is music is on the menu, of course, with Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black, OBE,. His works have included numerous musicals, movie, television themes and hit songs. He has provided lyrics for John Barry, Charles Strouse, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Quincy Jones, Hoyt Curtin, Lulu, Jule Styne, Henry Mancini, Meat Loaf, Michael Jackson, Elmer Bernstein, Michel Legrand, Hayley Westenra, A. R. Rahman, Marvin Hamlisch and many others,.
He will no doubt talk about his new autobiography, The Sanest Man The Room. Don Black has written for some of the best known singers pf the last half century. His memorable words to From Russia With Love, Diamonds Are Forever and To Sir With Love tie Don Black tightly to the names of Matt Monroe, Same Shirley Bassey and Lulu. He has also worked with the likes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. The title of his book is borrowed from a music writer´s description of him.
The contents of the book are of gentle reminiscence and wry self-deprecation, even when describing successes like winning an Oscar for Born Free. Nevertheless, when reading his story you might feel he sounds a bit sour about the state of the music industry today and you might feel that the American Songbook he eulogises so often deserves the adjectival of Great before its name, but that it has nevertheless been mined to exhaustion over these past decades by some quite ordinary vocalists. Still, you will almost certainly find that book leaves you with a greater understanding of, and perhaps a higher respect, for the craft of song-writing.
There will be humour and social comment provided by humourist Craig Brown and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson talking all things Beatles.
Meanwhile Brown’s fellow Daily Mail writer, Simon Walters, will discuss the present Prime Minister with Peter Oborne.
Several of 2020’s most talked-about author´s and their books will be appearing, including Christina Lamb author of Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women, I Am Not Your Baby Mother author Candice Brathwaite, Rainbow Milk novelist Paul Mendez, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’s Florence Given, and Raynor Winn, with The Wild Silence, her much-anticipated follow-up to The Salt Path.
Events for younger readers include Michael Morpurgo talking about War Horse, one of his most famous works. Sir Michael is an English book author, poet, playwright, and librettist who is known best for children’s novels. His work is noted for its “magical storytelling”, for recurring themes such as the triumph of an outsider or survival, for characters’ relationships with nature, and for vivid settings such as the Cornish coast or World War I. Morpurgo served as the third Children’s Laureate, from 2003 to 2005.
David Baddiel, Draw With Rob illustrator Rob Biddulph, and Judith Kerr story-tellings with Louise Roe, Russell Brand and wife Laura Gallacher, plus CBBC presenters Leah Gooding and Ricky Boleto will also be addressing young readers.
Millions of years of history will be covered by Peter Snow, Kavita Puri, Greg Jenner and Andrew Marr, while former England rugby star James Haskell and Formula One icons Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert will talk about their sports.
Making a return to the festival is National Poetry Day ambassador Nikita Gill. With three bestselling books and a huge Instagram following, Fierce Fairytales & Great Goddesses writer Nikita returns to the Festival days before the publication of The Girl & The Goddess, an intimate coming-of-age tale complete with her beautiful illustrations. Navigating different cultures, religions and identities, it’s a mesmerising story of where we come from, how we grow and become who we are, from the National Poetry Day Ambassador.
Ticket price includes the book The Girl And The Goddess (RRP £12.99 – collection from the Bell Bookshop or postage fees apply.
Also in the online performance list are Jeremy Vine, World Economic Forum global shaper Gemma Milne, Countdown star Susie Dent, fashion expert Erica Davies and novelists Gill Hornby, Libby Page, Fern Britton, Beth Morrey and Justin Myers.´
Henley Literary Festival director Harriet Reed has commented: ´As we are unable to bring tens of thousands of Festival attendees to our wonderful town this year, we will instead be bringing over sixty brilliant speakers from across the country, as well as from abroad, right into the audience’s homes. We’ve teamed up with world-leading live online events platform Crowdcast so that we can continue to offer the best possible experience for authors and audiences alike. This wouldn’t be possible without our headline sponsor Baillie Gifford´.
The full line-up and booking details can be found at henleyliteraryfestival. co.uk or by calling 01491 575948.