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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Tears shed for Private Peaceful at Ilkley Litfest

Bestselling children’s author Michael Morpurgo didn’t just give a reading of his novel, Private Peaceful, last week but a musical production. Jane Cameron reviews.

I’d describe it as a one-man show, but Morpurgo’s performance at the Ilkley Literature Festival was accompanied by the beautiful harmonies of a capella trio, Coope, Boyes & Simpson, who formed an integral part of a dramatic evening.

The four certainly made an entrance to hush the chatters of the excited audience, which included many teens and pre-teens. We heard the group before we saw them, as one of the singers bagpiped them in from the back of the King’s Hall.

As he came up the centre aisle, Morpurgo wore a grim expression. He was already in character, as he would be throughout the night, except for the last five minutes. He was already performing an abridged version of his 2003 work on WW1, Private Peaceful.

The 71-year-old opened with Private “Tommo” Peaceful’s humorous account of his Devon childhood, which delighted us all, especially my nine-year-old.

It seems that the creator of international success, War Horse, acts as well as he writes, and he took on his various personalities with gusto. He made us chuckle as he moved deftly between the booming threats of the dreaded teacher, Mr Munnings, and the twinkling reprimands of the Scottish Miss McAllister: “Crying won’t do your laces up, you know… Can’t is not a word we use in my class, Thomas Peaceful.” [Read More...]

Decoding the Mystery of the Super Rich

 Reviewer Audrey Edwards gets super angry alongside John Kampfner at Ilkley Literature Festival

“Rarely has a book made me more angry,” said Ruth, the interviewer.

“Job done” said John Kampfner.

This lively interchange opened a fascinating conversation at Ilkley Literature Festival. Skilled questioning from Pitt enabled John Kampfner to throw out tantalising snippets from his book and to outline his view of the way in which the world works.

Kampfner’s initial interest in the Super Rich was sparked by an encounter with some of the ‘Overnight Rich’ of Russia. This set him on a quest to understand the phenomenon of this glittering minority and found that the current Russian Oligarchs are only the latest version of an elite which has emerged again and again throughout the history of civilisation.

Did we have any illusions about the fairness of the human race when we came in? If so they did not last beyond the first few minutes when we were informed that the default setting for world organisation is oppression of the poor majority by a tiny elite who own the majority of everything.

Kampfner set off on a quest to track down the secrets of the Super Rich by studying examples beginning with Croesus in the ancient world and ending with oligarchs from the newly emerging economies of Russia and the Far East. [Read More...]

Marlon James – The Brief History of Seven Killings

Reviewer Claire Garner on Marlon James at Ilkley Literature Festival

As the Festival came to a close on Sunday at Ilkley Playhouse, I watched Rommi Smith talk to Marlon James about his latest novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Not for the faint hearted, the story circles the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976, when James was just six years old.

Born in Jamaica to middle class parents who both worked for the Police, his mother a Detective, James remembers overhearing his parents discussing the violence and political troubles when at home.  This became part of his extensive four-year research whilst writing the book.

James is an engaging talker and made the audience laugh many times.  Now a College Teacher in America James joked about giving his students extra credit for helping with the research.

Much has been written about Bob Marley and when asked why he chose to write a novel James said that a novel was necessary because of the holes in the records of the time.   There were no witness accounts but Jamaica is rife with rumours, James has found that “Grandma’s whispers” appear to hold more reality than the actual truth. [Read More...]

A Village at war that touched our hearts

Reviewer Louise Swingler bounces back to share her last review of the festival – Barbed Wire and Kisses

It must be some kind of magic. Four fellas, a violin and a guitar. That’s all. And they were only on the stage of the Ilkley Playhouse for one hour.

But the event was as immersive and as deeply engaging as a feature-length film or a full-length novel.

It is a sort of magic that enabled Hugh Lupton and Nick Hennessey to create a whole village full of real people for us, and to allow us to walk shoulder to shoulder with them through the terrible years of World War One. That magic is called storytelling – a skill that they are clearly masters of, and one that was enhanced further by evocative music and song from John Dipper and James Patterson. [Read More...]

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Walking side by side with Clare Balding

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John Lahr on the life and works of Tennessee Williams

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Clowning around with Austin Mitchell at Ilkley LitFest

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How Aristotle invented science…..

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