Day 3 – and would you Adam’n’Eve it

Sunday afternoon and the last day of our small, but perfectly formed Literary Festival and would you Adam’n’Eve it……….. we were due to start at 3.00pm and after a generally fine day so far, boy, did it throw it down with our audience arriving with 20 minutes to go !

... Madhatters ready for another busy afternoon ...

… Madhatters ready for another busy afternoon …

But they are a hardy lot, our LitFesters, and shaking themselves dry they poured in to see the  lovely Caroline Sandon…… IMG_5143crop

Caroline was delightful and is a firm believer in serendipity. She has to be. By accident, through marriage and friendships, she has found herself in the midst of some of the most intriguing true life stories that are just aching to be written. I’m sure she struggles with novel writing as much as anyone else in the field but her “luck” at being surrounded by so much history is unbelievable. Not just dull history – the stuff of dates learned by rote – but history with human stories. Wonderful stuff.

... I don't know what happened to these- the plates were empty when I got there ...

… I don’t know what happened to these- the plates were empty when I got there …



... your Blogger, posing ...

… your Blogger, posing …






Having been taken back to the travails of the Keyt family with Caroline, Brian Clegg focused our minds on how we could build our own time machine.

... Brian opening the doors to a parallel universe ...

… Brian opening the doors to a parallel universe …


Yep, you can do it. Honest. The faster you travel the slower time becomes around you. That will probably explain why when I go for my morning jog the faster I run I never seem to get back home any quicker. Brian’s talk was very thought provoking.

There were some musings and thoughtful rubbing of chins (sometimes more than one on each person) as we looked to the heavens and thought “I wonder if…..” To borrow from the old Radio Times ads….. I never thought there was so much to it….

Chris Skidmore stopped by to give us his take on the lead up to and significance of the Battle of Bosworth. It is such a fundamental battle in English history that we’ve all heard of it, and now that Richard has been found under a car park in Leicester, even more interesting.

... Chris gets kingly ...

… Chris gets kingly …

Chris brought the toing and froing of friends and foes to life with his energy and enthusiasm for his subject and I don’t think any of us will forget the gruesome detail of King Richard’s death now that we have seen the evidence. Poor man. Did you know that when he was cornered they …….. no, you’ll have to read the book.



Sad to say, another LitFest over and as we shuffled down the path homewards we were already thinking of 2016 and where we would go for our holidays. It has been a wonderful weekend, the feedback has been great, we have had some interesting speakers and a super time meeting you all.

We can work hard to put the event on but it amounts to nothing if no-one turns up so we are eternally grateful to you all, our faithful LitFesters, for supporting us once again. You really do make it all worthwhile. Onwards, a horse … my kingdom for a horse ….


Day 2 – as it happened

Day 2 , the rain has stopped, the sun is out. It is a beautiful spring morning. Back up to the church for 11.30am and already people are arriving for a 12.30 start. (I was incredulous – then I had to eat humble pie because I had written the wrong start time on a few tickets. Doh ! Oh well, they enjoyed another walk around the village in the sunshine until……………..)


... Lord Brian Mawhinney makes the point ...

… Lord Brian Mawhinney makes the point …

Brian Mawhinney: a simple Belfast boy in one way but hardly in another. Brian brought to life some of the deal making and political shenanigans that went on behind the scenes of Northern Irish politics and the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We all saw the newspaper headlines – Brian told us what happened to get there. An intriguing insight. And as for the Football League ! For those of us who have poured our money onto the terraces of our favourite club his stories about league chairman behaviour would make you cry……….. if you didn’t already suspect it. A stimulating look behind the scenes of Lord Mawhinney’s career. My advice ? Don’t mess with this simple Belfast boy.

... Lord Hurd ready to roll ...

… Lord Hurd ready to roll …

Lord Hurd: Disraeli the dandy. Cor, what a character. The Boris Johnson of 19th century politics. Who’d have thought ? Well, that’s my take anyway. Packed, it was, the church, for Lord Hurd’s talk on this old English statesman. Very colourful, indeed. The man who invented the soundbite. Disraeli, that is, not Lord Hurd. But what we all wanted to know was what did LH think of today’s lot ? Too many public school boys at the top of politics? It wasn’t always the case ? Don’t vote them in, he says. It’s your choice. Iraq ? What weapons of mass destruction ? But what does a PM need today? He needs to be able to make people laugh. It was a serious point. Like Disraeli.




...allgo at the Madhatter Bookstall ...

…all go at the Madhatter Bookstall …






... Tim lectures on the finer points of tea drinking ...

… Tim lectures on the finer points of tea drinking …




Next up was Simon Parke …….



Simon Parke: now here’s another serious point. Having run a couple of LitFests now it is often the case that the lesser known speakers are just as, or even more, interesting and entertaining than the “names”. Simon Parke and coming up, Jessie Childs, are two cases in point. Simon linked his murder mystery stories with his life and work, and philosophical analysis, of political satire. Throw in the fact that satire used to be Simon’s bread-and-butter and you are going to get some very funny takes on things, too. First thing you noticed about Simon is that he was more animated, being that most of our previous speakers probably needed hip replacements (joke). Getting an unblurred shot was difficult.

... see ...

… see …







Simon read from his latest novel and interspersed this with thought provoking linkages to satire, it’s role and weaknesses as a philosophical weapon. Sounds dry? Not a bit of it. If you see Simon on the line-up elsewhere go along and listen. Fascinating stuff.

... mt fastest shutter speed. Thanks Simon, I really enjoyed it ...

… my fastest shutter speed. Thanks Simon, I really enjoyed it …


Jessie Childs: came striding up the path with her beautiful winning smile ready to take on the world, or at least the 40-odd people who had turned up to hear about persecution in Elizabethan England.  IMG_5129Jessie’s latest book has to make it to TV. She gave a superbly structured talk on the key moments of 16th century history and how Catholic sympathisers were treated. Detailed stories of imprisonment, torture (not too much detail), escape and persecution illuminated the progression through time. Note that this is not a religious book, it is a detailed picture of a time in history, with some surprising parallels for modern day. Quite rightly she went home, her book box somewhat lighter and her purse somewhat heavier. See The Guradian review. Buy it and read it.

The end of day 2, the sun was still shining, and tired and happily we trundled home. It had, indeed, been a wonderful afternoon. Tomorrow would bring more enlightenment, we were sure.

Kempsford Literary Weekend Review – Friday

...The Church. It didn't look like this on Friday! (photo:Colin West)

…The Church. It didn’t look like this on Friday! (photo:Colin West)

The rain lashed down from lunchtime. What a start ! Setting up whilst you steam gently is never very appetizing for what lies ahead but we managed it with about 40 minutes to spare before the first LitFesters arrived, dashing as they did, head down into the driving rain. Bright eyed and smiling I was ready on the door.Ticket Man – Money Man. I shivered in the church porch but that’s okay. The show was about to begin.


First up, Sir Ivor Crewe: got us off to fine start with a fascinating subject matter bringing back memories of policies that had spectacularly failed for one reason or another and, more worryingly, had cost the taxpayer serious cash. This book is a “must” for every civil servant who thinks he knows his stuff. The policy failures are numerous, possibly the costliest is the NHS IT programme……… still in our memory of shambles.


Barry Norman: wonderfully laid back delivery – a lovely man, honest and genuine. Peppered his life and work in journalism with the story of his relationship and the subsequent passing of his wife of 53 years, Diana. Barry gave us a warm, touching talk of their fun and grumbles, and plenty of funny stories about the Norman household. Throw in a few anecdotes about well known film stars and directors and the drinking of Fleet Street and you have an entertaining evening. Everyone loved it.


Jonathan Aitken: feedback from the audience was that this talk was far more thought provoking than was expected. This was due, I think, to the honesty with which Jonathan has laid bare, as he sees it, the Margaret Thatcher story. Jonathan Aitken saw it all, her rise to power, riding the crest of the wave, and fall from grace, often from an intimate setting, being the family friend that he was.
Did you know he once made a joke at her expense in her very early days? He told someone at a dinner that her foreign policy knowledge was poor – that she thought Sinai (as in desert) was a plural of sinus. This got back to her – and she never let him forget it. Margaret Thatcher polarises a nation. Jonathan gave us a view of the woman she was that nobody but her closest intimates saw. It wouldn’t have changed your view of her, like her or not, but you did come away with a bigger picture.

So the first evening was over and a highly promising turnout for such a foul night. It had been a very long day for your Blogger so I retired, via the fish and chip shop, to slump on my sofa with a large wine and larger f&c. I needed a good night’s sleep.

We’re off …………. and away we go !!

The start of the weekend and our Literary Festival is here.

I have already appeared on BBC Radio Gloucester during the breakfast show to plug the weekend. I hope I didn’t mumble and go all Jamaica Inn-ish.

Tickets are still available for all speakers so please come along for a fiver or so. You will here some interesting stuff, I guarantee it. It’s going to be great fun.



Timings are ;

Today –

Sir Ivor Crewe         4.30pm
Barry Norman        6.00pm
Jonathan Aitken     7.30pm

Tomorrow –

Lord Mawhinney    12.30pm
Lord Hurd                 2.30pm
Simon Parke             4.00pm
Jessie Childs              5.30pm

Sunday –

Caroline Sandon     3.00pm
Brian Clegg              4.30pm
Chris Skidmore       6.00pm

This is the place to be this weekend. And don’t forget a pint in The George whilst you are in the village. Highly recommended.

See you there …………………….  !!!


Build your own Time Machine – top science writer appears at Kempsford Festival

When we put the programme together, Brian Clegg could have been in a different universe, we don’t know. But we are delighted to announce that top science writer, Brian Clegg, will be appearing on Sunday 27th April at 4.30pm to give his wonderful guidance on “Building your own Time Machine” (that is unless it’s already happened).

Brian Clegg 2 mediumBrian is a well-known writer and broadcaster on all things scientific and could recently be found on TV explaining quantum physics to BBC presenter Robert Peston.

Apparently, there are no physical laws preventing time travel so come along and find out if you’d really like to go back to the long hot summer of ’76.

Brian has kindly agreed to stand-in for Roy Hattersley and for that we are grateful, for one thing, but wow … what a topic. And there’s more, you can check out Brian’s book list at his website here. You won’t know where to start !!

The rest of the line-up is here ….

Final plans taking place so we’re looking forward to a fun and very stimulating weekend. If you are free ….. GET YOUR TICKETS !!!!!

The ups and downs of being a promoter …

… okay, so I don’t know them all. But I know a few. Do you think the people who organise Glastonbury have this problem? Probably. Anyway, unfortunately one of our top drawer names for the Literary Weekend has had to pull out on doctors orders. We wish Lord Hattersley a speedy recovery.



The usual shuffling regarding tickets has been circulated but more than that, we now have a gap and that’s unfortunate too.

So, does anyone out there know a kindly author who has nothing to do that Sunday afternoon but would like to come and talk about their latest book ? We are a small group who do this to raise money every couple of years for local good causes. We can’t offer payment for the talk but we can offer travel expenses, the opportunity to talk and promote your book with a signing stall too, and probably with only 3 weeks to go, not the biggest audience you’ve ever had. But if you live in The Cotswolds and you can help us out, please get in touch…… the cakes are to die for !


The programme is finalised… ta-dah !

So, the Kempsford Political Literary Weekend, or KLW for short (it can all get a bit wordy) is finally arranged. The theme does seem to have a political bent but there are some interludes to ease the pace. Running from 25th April through to Sunday 27th and all events taking place in St.Mary’s Church, Kempsford the line-up is as follows;

Friday 25th April:
4:30pm: ivor_crew_450 Sir Ivor Crewe: The Blunders of our Government …. we all think they make a mess of it. Government, that is. Sir Ivor Crewe will prove it to you. Gasp in awe at the incredulouness of it all – laugh in despair.
6:00pm:  BarryNormanBarry Norman: See you in the Morning ….. who can say those words, Barry Norman, without humming the tune to “Film ..whatever” ? Here he talks about his book and his 53 year long marriage in a candid and witty reflection.
7:30pm: . Jonathan Aitken: Margaret Thatcher – Power and Personalilty … an insider’s view.

Saturday 26th April:
12.30pm: belfast boy Lord Brian Mawhinney: Just  a simple Belfast boy ….  a tale of operating at the top of politics, and, more importantly, football.
2:30pm: dougie Lord Hurd: Disraeli – Or the Two Lives … Douglas does Disraeli, the enigma, the man. Described by The Guardian as a “fascinating character study” and “an unflagging pleasure to read”.
4.00pm:  simon_parke_portraitSimon Parke:The Abbott Peters thrillers and political satire …. Simon has written for The Independent and The Evening Standard, and is currently columnist with the Daily Mail….. and who amongst us can forget Spitting Image ? – Simon contributed to that too.
5:30pm: JessieChildsCover-550x413  Jessie Childs: God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England …. Jessie is a historian and author and will be taking us back to Elizabethan England… and it wasn’t all roses.

Sunday 27th April;
3:00pm: Caroline Sandon Caroline Sandon, Countess of Harrowby: Burnt Norton …. The Countess’ debut novel set in the Cotswolds in 1731, it follows the travails of Sir William Keyt, master of Norton House – a man who will go to any lengths to get what he wants.
4:30pm: hattersley_792704c Lord Hattersley : The Devonshires – A Family and A Nation …. If you’ve been to Chatsworth you’ll love it – if you haven’t you should. According  to The Telegraph, “ an engaging account of a gallery of historical figures”.  Cancelled unfortunately.
6:00pm:  cs Chris Skidmore MP: Bosworth – The Birth of The Tudors …. under the circle of Lancastrian roses in the Church, come and raise the Standard, bring your own Pike….

And so there you have it. Tickets are £5 each per speaker  …………  yes, cheaper than ever !
£15 for 4 speakers or £20 for 6 speakers and can be obtained by contacting here ….

As usual, all proceeds will go to local charitable causes and books for purchase will be supplied by Madhatters Book Shop, Burford who are supporting us once again.