Monsters and bores – Lynn Barber tells it as it is

Reviewer Sally Harrop ( enjoys a good gossip with journalist Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber’s reputation precedes her; there is a noticeable excitement in the room, the expectation of shocking tales and revelations.  We are gripped even before she comes in.

After nearly 50 years in the business of interviewing hundreds of celebrities, our minds can only boggle at what she has heard.  She is here in conversation, to discuss her life in journalism.

Her ambitions were to be either a film star or a duchess, she says, but a role on her school newspaper took her in a different direction.  She didn’t fancy struggling her way up the journalistic ranks in the usual unionised way, by starting as the tea-girl on the local newspaper, so she fled to London to follow her boyfriend.  She took work at Penthouse in lieu of training.  She surprises us by saying that Penthouse had ‘the most democratic of working environments’ then disappoints us by adding that the Independent on Sunday was the most sexist, followed by the Observer. [Read More...]

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LitFest book review – Hild by Nicola Griffith

Reviewer Elizabeth Hopkinson reviews the book ‘Hild’ by Nicola Griffith

I really enjoyed Nicola Griffith’s talk at Ilkley Literature Festival, so I couldn’t wait to start reading Hild, the first book in a projected series about the girl who would one day become St Hilda of Whitby.  The book itself is gorgeous to look at and 500+ pages, a real epic.

I got into it straight away.  As I said in my review of the talk, Griffith spent 30 years researching this, and the book transports you straight into 7th century Britain, with every detail of sight, sound, taste and smell.  In some ways it reminded me of Juliet Marillier, who also writes in the so-called Dark Ages. [Read More...]

David Almond: The Tightrope Walkers

Reviewer  JY Saville, on David Almond.

David Almond – former teacher, current children’s author – was here to talk about The Tightrope Walkers, a novel for adults, but there was a lot of discussion about formative experiences, childhood, and the importance of early encouragement.

We learnt that David had an uncle who was a writer (never published, though it sounded as though he was prolific), and he taught the young David to write for enjoyment rather than to get acclaim from the world. This uncle, together with the branch library at the end of the street which provided him with much early reading material, encouraged him down a literary path. He mentioned the importance of libraries and at the book-signing table afterwards (where he kindly signed my ticket, since I’d borrowed The Tightrope Walkers from the library) we talked about the potential lack of future working class writers if all the local libraries are taken away – we have to keep fighting for them, he said. [Read More...]

Uglow’s vivid insight into the Napoleonic Wars

Reviewer Audrey Edwards takes a look at Jenny Uglow: “In these Times”

The scene was set with a cartoon by Gilray projected onto the large screen. Contemplating the busy, detailed scenes we were able to slip into the atmosphere of England during time known as the Napoleonic wars. This was a period of almost continuous war which lasted from 1793 to 1815.

Jenny Uglow launched her talk by showing a set of portraits which represented a cross section of society These were not ‘types’ but real people and it felt as if she was introducing her friends. [Read More...]

Marketing under the microscope….

Reviewer Laura Jane Laycock on Brand Strategist’s Guide to Desire

Marketing. Analytics. Tracking code. Targeted e-mail. Brand awareness. Business buzzwords are traded back and forth by event attendees before our speaker, journalist and editor Anna Simpson, even takes to the stage.

The atmosphere in the Playhouse is reminiscent of a board meeting, lively, inquisitive and full of business jargon, underlined with a level of expectation. The hushed whispers fade out as soon as Simpson steps out from behind a theatre curtain.

“Desire,” she begins “is seeking out things that make a difference to us…more often though, we head to the shops, because that’s what brands make us do.”

The accompanying slideshow depicts global challenges facing brands as a growing number of consumers are questioning whether they deserve our trust. [Read More...]

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John Lahr on the life and works of Tennessee Williams

Listening to John Lahr talking about Tennessee Williams was like listening to a child describe his favourite toy, writes Reviewer Nikki Mason.  He could have spoken … [Read More...]