North Cornwall Book Festival 2014: catch-up with all our coverage

We published lots of blogposts over the weekend: catch up with them all here

Interviews

Reports on talks, sessions and workshops

Personal responses and creative writing

My favourite book: festival-goers and authors share their favourite volume

Our brilliant festival team was: Jay Armstrong, Sarah Purnell, Annie Harrison, Anna Cathenka, Aysha Bryant, Shannan Sterne, Sarah Cave, Emma Gibbs, Paige Davis and David Brady. Thanks also to Sorrel Watson for her interview.

What is fiction for? A personal response

By Paige Davis

Ella Berthoud discusses what is fiction for?
Ella Berthoud discusses: “What is fiction for?” Picture: Paige Davis

I have always found the essence of fiction to be something in which you can lose yourself, and take on the life of a character as though it were your own. A way in which you can escape the hardships of your own life, and experience the wonders of someone else’s. Everyone can enjoy fiction in some form, whether it be a fictionalised account of true events, or a story entirely imagined.

Upon walking into the marquee, I knew this would be an inviting debate as humourist writer, John Crace and bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud, gave their opinion on what fiction is for. Although both write in different forms and use fiction as different tools – one for therapy, one as the basis for satire – they both seemed to overall agree with each other, and with me.

When Crace pointed out that “books open themselves to different interpretations and a good book will always welcome and allow this to happen,” I couldn’t help but agree. It made me think that fiction is there to allow different people to create various interpretations and meanings for themselves.

Berthoud certainly provided a new insight into what fiction can be used for. Initially, I’d never heard of a bibliotherapist. I’d never thought of using fiction as a way of calming your mind when in such times of need. There are even books prescribed particularly for for depression. I imagine reading during depression to be an extreme task – it definitely was for me! – but Berthoud believes that: “a book read at the right time, can have healing properties and can be enjoyed.”

Crace, however, suggested fiction was something to be remembered. He recalls reading a ‘Top 100 Books to Read’ list and only recognised a couple of names and authors. I realised that all the authors I’ve heard of, read or studied, are only a small percentage of the authors who have all existed and offered their words to the minds of the public.

The debate was filled with good humour as both authors read excerpts from published works (Crace; Brideshead Abbreviated and Berthoud; The Novel Cure) and provided a personal insight into what the purpose of fiction in doing so. There was a great sense of community within the debate, as members of the audience nodded in agreement with the authors.

It is difficult to define what fiction is for. Surely the fact that novels are there to be read and interpreted in different ways therefore means it’s impossible to define what they’re for? I can however give my say: that fiction is definitely for everyone to enjoy.

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.

Continue reading

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

Rev Richard Coles and Nina Stibbe

Mark Nina Horatio crop
Nina Stibbe, Rev Richard Coles and Horatio Clare. Picture: Jay Armstrong

By Jay Armstrong

It was a full house (or marquee even) and the crowds were not disappointed. We were treated to an hour of lively and insightful discussion between Rev Richard Coles and Nina Stibbe. Both have recently published books – one a memoir, the other a novel – with surprising similarities of theme.

Coles’ memoir, Fathomless Riches, is a book that “takes you to places other clergy memoir doesn’t stray” while Nina’s novel Man At The Helm was written out of fury at “10 years of my mother’s loneliness” following the divorce from Nina’s father. They both tell a story of being born into money and privilege before their lives changed as British manufacturing floundered in the 60s. They were left “humiliated and embarrassed” because with this reduction in wealth, came a reduction in their father’s status which reflected on whole family.

The discussion ranged from Richard’s grandfather’s hidden adulteries to Nina’s father’s elderly coming out, around which the main concern was: “But he’s part of the Montgomery scrabble club!”. The conversation was candid, and Richard said that in being honest in his memoir, he had been accused on Twitter of just “TMI Vicar”. Coles’ mother, however, appeared less scandalised: her take was “Oh darling, [it’s] charming, except where garish.”  Continue reading

Horatio Clare: capturing the beauty and wilderness of the sea

By Anna Cathenka

Before going to Horatio Clare’s talk about his new book Down To The Sea In Ships I catch a quick bite to eat with my fellow student-journalists in the festival’s mess tent. As I sip my silky coffee, I spy a tanned, bearded man in a blue, Nordic jumper eating his lunch. I come over all fan-girl: “That’s Horatio Clare!” I whisper.

I discovered Horatio Clare when I was given his first book Running For The Hills about his childhood which, much like mine, was set amongst the smell of bracken and sheep’s wool in the deep, dark valleys of Wales. His writing is lyrical, delicate, moving.

Clare is a picture of coolness as he takes to the stage, changed out of his jumper into a t-shirt and dinner jacket, stealing our attention away from Jill Murphy’s beautiful deerhound, Flora, who kindly introduces the talk (with the help of Patrick Gale.) Down to the Sea in Ships was written after a stint working as writer in residence for the Maersk shipping company. I was initially jealous of his experience, but after sinking into the salty depths of the book, the jealousy turned to admiration.  Continue reading

Interview: Horatio Clare on Down to the Sea in Ships

Cargo ship
The cargo ship Rio de la Plata. Picture: Glen/Flickr/Creative Commons

By Sorrel Watson

Horatio Clare will not be defined by a particular literary genre. His work spans moving and insightful memoirs of youth, tales of drug addiction and mental health, adventure stories of the highest calibre, and most recently a children’s book.

Raised on a sheep farm in the Welsh Black Mountains, Clare was immersed in the wilderness from a very young age. With no telly in the house, he and his brother relied on their imaginations, games and books for entertainment – sparking his appetite for adventure.

His latest book, Down to the Sea in Ships – an exploration of the lives of the crew on a 115,000 tonne cargo ship – is the product of such an adventure. Clare spent months onboard, learning about the beauty and power of the sea, loneliness, definitions of masculinity and the dangers and injustices faced by the people involved in this un-regulated and extremely treacherous industry. Continue reading

North Cornwall Book Festival: a preview

By Sarah Purnell

This weekend promises to be a good ‘un. With a whole range of different workshops and speakers at North Cornwall Book Festival, it’s difficult to choose which to be most enthusiastic about. The team from the School of Writing and Journalism at Falmouth University are going to be dotted about, trying to soak up as much of it as we can.

For poetry lovers there’s stuff aplenty: on Saturday, the fire poet, Philip Wells teams up with Victoria Field and they will be doing a reading of their work, with a musical accompaniment. Then later, over in the barn, there’s a poetry workshop, exploring the therapeutic potential that writing and reading poetry can have. Pen and paper at the ready!

I’ll be embarking on my own kind of therapy in Bibliotherapy with Elle Berthoud who, after our appointment, will write me a prescription for reading happiness. I have no idea what to expect, but it’s going to be an enlightening experience either way!

Also on Saturday, Aysha Bryant from our team will be setting off on the Betjeman walk, guided around Trebetherick and visiting places of interest to John Betjeman buffs.

I’m looking forward to hearing John Crace talk about his new post as the Guardian’s sketch writer. If anyone has read his Digested Reads, you’ll know this will be a fun hour!

Sunday kicks off with a short story workshop with Tiffany Murray. Let’s hope we didn’t have too much fun with The Bookshop Band the night before, because it’s pencils to the paper again; creative caps on, chaps.

We will also be over at the Betjeman marquee, listening to Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul. Titled Textales: If Cloth Could Talk, this should be an interesting discussion about the cultural significance of textiles, and Balfour-Paul’s search for indigo. There will be the chance to actually touch the materials too.

So from papermaking, to asking “What is fiction for?” there’s a great deal going on – and it all comes to a head on Sunday evening when festival founder Patrick Gale will be interviewing fellow author, Louisa Young.

We’ll also be pouncing on festival-goers as they emerge from the workshops and talks to ask them about their experiences. And look out for our interview with Jill Murphy; the author of the popular Worst Witch stories will be taking up residence in the Trefelix dining room to talk about how she wrote, and made, her first books.

So, if you see one of us – we’ll be easier to spot: lanyards, notebooks, furiously scribbling, asking for selfies – come and say hello.

Welcome

A book in the grass
A book lies in the grass. Picture: Andrada Radu/Flickr/Creative Commons

This weekend a group of students from the School of Writing and Journalism at Falmouth University will be heading to North Cornwall Book Festival to report, react, and respond to the author talks, debates and workshops on offer. We’ll be posting all of that – and more – on the blog throughout the weekend, as well as publishing interviews with authors such as Patrick Gale, Jill Murphy, Philip Wells and Horatio Clare in the next few days. Check back for our coverage – and in the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter @swjfalmouth

Picture: Andrada Radu/Flickr/Creative Commons