John Crace on sketch writers – the pirates of the papers

By Sarah Purnell

I’m early. I sit near the back of the boat at first, but then a wave of courage and I find myself second row from the front. We’re at sea, I think. The canvas slaps in the wind, someone manoeuvres around the central mast for a better view, they remove their jacket because it’s warm. Tropical, even. The rest of the crew slowly assembles and the Guardian’s political sketch writer John Crace stands up to the helm. He is a jolly roger.

“I’m here to talk about people that are dishonest for a living,” he says, referring to the politicians he reports on daily. This feels like this is the crux of what sketch writing as good as Crace’s achieves. Politicians don’t lie. But they don’t tell the truth. And that can leave people in shark-infested water when it comes to trying to interpret it.

Sketch writers are the pirates of the papers: “the rogue element that can’t be controlled”. Crace explains that sometimes it’s difficult to write the daily sketch, and then sometimes government figures almost write the sketches for him.

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My favourite book: Victoria Field and John Crace choose Doctor Zhivago and Rebecca

John Crace and his dog Herbert
John Crace and his dog Herbert

This weekend we’ve been asking festival-goers and authors about some of their favourite books. Poet Victoria Field says: “It’s really hard to choose just one book, but I think if I was going to go for a novel, the one that pops into my mind is, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – because it’s a novel about great historic events like the Russian revolution and so on, but it’s also a novel about poetry and the power of writing. I love the fact that ‘Zhivago’ refers to the Russian word for life – so it’s kind of “Dr Life”. It’s very much about living a life but it’s also just an amazing adventure story, full of tragedy and love and passion”

John Crace, pictured here with his dog, Herbert, shares his choice.  “My favourite book is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.” This “subversive” book is “hugely underrated,” he says.

Dr Jenny Balfour – Textales: If Cloth Could Talk

By Shannan Sterne

When we switch on the television, we often see countries such as Palestine, Yemen and Egypt associated with violence. The pictures broadcast on the news often focus on men with guns, women screaming, babies crying. Lots of dust. Lots of blood.

But today’s Textales: If Cloth Could Talk event with Dr Jenny Balfour challenged you to consider other images too. Dr Balfour talked about how beautiful she found these countries now “shredded with war” when she encountered them 20-30 years ago.

“ISIS all started as babies,” said Dr Balfour. “It really tortures me how people become able to chop people’s heads off.” She reminded us that these countries have a rich and intricate culture in the form of textiles.  Continue reading

In pictures: John Betjeman walk around Trebetherick

Yesterday, Aysha Bryant went for a walk around Trebetherick celebrating the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman’s love for the village and this area of North Cornwall. You can read her blogpost about the experience here. Below you’ll find some pictures she took on her travels.

Aysha Bryant at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick
Aysha Bryant at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
ohn Betjeman's grave at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick
John Betjeman’s grave at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick. Picture: Aysha Bryant

Poem: On Finding the Library in a Stranger’s House

The team from the Falmouth’s School of Writing and Journalism have been camped out in Trefelix, the beautiful Arts & Crafts house at the centre of the festival. We’ve been working in the house’s library, which is a lovely family room with ceiling-to-floor shelves filled with family reading. After spending Saturday working amongst the books, Anna wrote a poem reflecting on that experience.

By Anna Cathenka

Unfamiliar shelves in unfamiliar rooms
draw my attention in the quiet hours.
I pick up, browse backs
passing pint to left hand, a book
fits where a cigarette is lacked.
These wrinkled, well-loved worlds
who are untold to me. And then,
winking from across the room
an old friend, A Modern Herbal,
echo of my childhood. So sudden
the well-known spines appear
amongst the strangers; Wyndham,
Chatwin, sixties Pan Books
of Neville Shute, C.S. Lewis,
The Silmarillion, nineties
Bill Bryson (this one signed)
Wild Swans, Stieg Larsson,
Hemingway,
Harry Potter, Terry Pratchett,
faded Frank Herberts. My pint,
back in my right –
now more a quarter-pint –
sinks wistfully as I wonder:
“a house with books is never
without friends.”

 

Victoria Field Workshop: The Poetry Cure

By Annie Harrison

I’m sitting in the cosy Stone Barn at St Endellion on Saturday afternoon, out of the October winds, awaiting the start of Victoria Field’s poetry therapy workshop. St Endellion is a little way from the main site for North Cornwall Book Festival at Trebetherick, and surrounded by open fields, which seems quite fitting considering the subject of this session with Victoria Field. Like most of my fellow workshoppers, I have never formally considered poetry therapy before. Now, we’re here to experience it for ourselves.

Victoria Field qualified as a Poetry Therapist in 2005 with the International Federation of Biblio-Poetry Therapy, a group educating people about biblio and poetry therapy, as well as training prospective therapists all over the world. Poetry therapy offers people a way, through writing, to: “heal the past, live the present, and create the future.”

There are about nine of us in the Stone Barn, sitting around two wooden tables pushed together, and for almost three hours we write. We write until our pens ran dry and the pages are full. Field gives us prompts and time restraints: write an acrostic poem, write about “here, now”, write starting with the word “look” and so on. We write about life, the weather, cooking, anything that pops into our heads soon hits the page.

As well as giving us prompts, Field also provides us with props in the form of plants picked and found. We are asked to write addressing our pieces of plants as “you”. Granted this may sound a bit out there, but it leads you to places you can’t predict. Here is some of what I wrote addressing my plant:

You remind me of the stories my Dad used to read to me when I was younger. Stories from Enid Blyton’s Tales of Green Hedges, all about pixies and garden creatures. How the fairies used dandelion seeds, like the ones stuck in your stems, to float away in the breeze.  

For me it certainly acted as a release, and allowed me to gain a new perspective on the subjects I’d written about during the session. As Field told us, writing in this way externalises what’s in your head, clearing out the space for new thoughts and new feelings.

You can find out more about Victoria Field and poetry therapy at http://poetrytherapynews.com

Sunday at North Cornwall Book Festival – welcome to our coverage

Team Sunday

Team Sunday: Sarah C, Shannan, Emma, David and Paige

Hey there! It is day two of the #NorthCornwallBookFest and the team have just arrived to start reporting on today’s book fanatic events. We have Vicky, Jay, Paige, Brady, Emma, Sarah C, Sarah and Shannan ready to write after an early morning of Travelling to Wadebridge. We have our pens, notebooks, laptops, USB’s and chargers at the ready for today’s agenda.

We are all excited to experience today’s events and keep you as updated as possible. For those of you attending the festival, we look forward to seeing you there. We would love you to get as involved – if there is anything you would like to share about the festival, tweet to our hashtag #NorthCornwallBookFest, follow us  @SWJFalmouth and comment on our posts here!

Words by Shannan Sterne