Festival of Literature 2019

10th festival logo

We celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Festival of Literature from Friday 1st - Thursday 14th February 2019 and, being during our 150th Anniversary year, with more events and more speakers than ever before, including a number of returning favourite authors. As well as our usual busy schedule of talks and workshops, the 10th Festival also featured a community and education programme aimed specifically at children and young people. 

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all who have kindly supported the 2019 Festival of Literature.  Thank you to Marilyn Brocklehurst, founder of the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, who has been central to the running of the Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature since its inception and to the Prep School Friends, who are involved every year. The Bishop’s Stortford Independent has given fantastic support and encouragement as well, helping us to spread the word about the Festival.

Schools Events and Picture Book Award

College pupils and pupils from local schools enjoyed visits from an exciting range of authors, illustrators and storytellers during this year's Festival of Literature: Nick Schon with Pre-Prep, Chris Riddell (Year 3), Chitra Soundar (Year 1), Paul Cookson and Steve Skidmore (Year 5), Lauren St John (Year 6), Debs Newbold (Years 7 and 8), Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve (Year 4), Petr Horacek (Year 2) and, still to come, Jackie Morris and James Mayhew with College pupils in Year 2 and Shell.  Some of the authors also met with Prep School book clubs, Senior School PSHE pupils and side games pupils and judged the Lower 3rd and Upper 3rd Poetry Declamation, so it has truly been a literary festival for the whole of the College and community.

Chris Riddell with book club during Festival of Literature 2019 Sarah McIntyre with Pre-Prep at Festival of Literature 2019 Luke Wright with L5th PSHE Festival of Literature 2019

Debs Newbold with L3 & U3 Festival of Literature 2019 Prep School Poetry declamation finalists with Paul Cookson & Steve Skidmore Lauren St John with Form 1 Book Club

Sarah McIntyre & Philip Reeve with F1 & Shell Philip Reeve with L3 & U3 during Festival of Literature 2019 Philip Reeve with L3 & U3 Mortal Engines Book Club

Petr Horacek with drawing in Pre-Prep Chitra Soundar with Pre-Prep pupils 2019 Jackie Morris with James Mayhew in Prep School Hall

Picture Book Award 2019

Baby's First Bank Heist winner of Picture Book Award 2019

Picture Book Award winners 2019 with Sarah McIntyre Baby's First Bank Heist winners with drawing for PS Library

Jim Whalley, author, and Stephen Collins, illustrator, were awarded this year's Picture Book Award trophy for Baby's First Bank Heist. Pupils and staff from the College and local schools had voted on their favourite picture book out of the eight shortlisted titles, and the story of Martin the baby who robs a bank to buy lots of pets came away with the most votes. Sarah McIntyre presented the trophy to Jim and Stephen in front of all the cheering pupils from participating schools.

Book Fair

Norfolk Children Book Centre once again provided all of the books for the Festival of Literature and, as is tradition, they put on a fantastic book fair for Prep School pupils on Friday 8th February. Pupils were clearly over the moon to peruse the wonderful display of books and to pick out their favourites. 

Prep School book fair in FLT 2019 Prep School boys looking at books at book fair 2019

Prep School pupils enjoying book fair 2019 Norfolk Childrens Book Centre Prep School fair 2019

We are very grateful to Tees for sponsoring all of our Schools Events, including the Bishop's Stortford Picture Book Award.  Tees logo small 

Chris Riddell & College Musicians - REVIEW

Chris Riddell Launches Festival with College Musicians

Chris Riddell in Mem Hall with College musicians 2019

College musicians with artist Chris Riddell delivered an amazing evening to kick off this year’s Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature. The theme for the event, Film Music and Literature, ensured a fascinating and diverse repertoire that included a setting of Shakespeare and music from the Twilight Saga.

 Harry performs on first night of Festival of Literature Drummer at first night of Festival of Literature 2019

Accompanying each musical item were visual illustrations that interpreted the music being played, magically produced as the music unfolded by artist Chris Riddell, illustrator, political cartoonist for the Observer and Children’s Laureate 2015 – 2017. Chris sat in front of the audience and sketched busily as his dextrous, witty drawings were projected onto a big screen behind the performers. This delighted the audience who could view an artwork being created from the first pencil stroke to the finish. Wizardry indeed, considering the artist had only about four or five minutes to complete each work. 

Violinists on first night of Festival of Literature 2019 College musicians performing while Chris Riddell draws

Senior Strings were in typically sparkling form for their selection of film music. My favourite was Boccherini’s Minuet in A, so elegantly played and, from Mr Riddell, a memorable drawing of Alec Guinness in pensive mood, a reminder that the music was used in the 1955 film The Ladykillers. Next up was Thomas P-M, who was utterly compelling in a beautiful song by Roger Quilter supplemented by a wonderfully intricate portrait of Cymbeline, King of Britain from Mr Riddell. This was by followed by moving performances from Holly H and Billianna I. Fifi D’s harp music was entrancing, as were the String Quartet with Highlights form Harry Potter.

Chris Riddell bear at Festival of Literature 2019 Chris Riddell fox drawing Festival of Literature 2019 DSC 3045 DSC 2999

The Big Band was in swinging style with two excellent numbers incorporating persuasive improvisations, smooth saxophone and brass sections, solid bass and keyboard with electrifying drums. Accomplished vocalist, Harry B joineGuitarists on first night of Festival of Literature 2019d them for Mack the Knife, which left the audience beaming with enjoyment. The delightful Guitar Ensemble opened the second part of the concert with a succession of unforgettable movie themes, including the Deerhunter and Cinema Paradiso while their Zorba the Greek motivated a magnificent portrait for the audience to observe. Finally, the superbly prepared Senior Orchestra gave a colourful account of four movements form Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, ending with the popular Dambusters Themes, all confidently delivered with nice shading and fine ensemble. It was an uplifting evening, and each item was a highpoint. Once the music had finished, all gathered for an auction of Chris Riddell’s impressive artwork. Credit must go to the directors of the ensembles, Mr Gould, Mrs Fowler and Mr Kelleher, for coaxing such a high standard from the players. Thanks to all the teachers who prepared the soloists and ‘bravo’ to all the performers, who worked so hard, and also to Mrs Rosie Pike, whose brainchild this evening was.

Helen Pervez, Music

Thank you to Savills for sponsoring this event. Savills logo

Writing for Children Panel - REVIEW

Thank you to Christine for the following review of the Writing for Children Panel on Saturday 2nd February:

‘Skateboarding dogs and Other Stories Too!’ 

Writing for Children Panel in FLT Festival of Literature

On Saturday 2nd of February, the Childrens Panel, at Bishop’s Stortford College’s Festival of Literature, had Gillian McClure, Pippa Goodhart and Rosemary Hayes come in to speak about their experiences of producing fiction for children. Each author/illustrator was greatly accomplished with awards and bestselling storybooks.  

Author Pippa Goodhart Festival of Literature 2019 Writing for Children Panel Pippa Goodhart & Rosemary Hayes Gillian McClure at Festival of Literature 2019

Although each author had their own method of working, they all shared a common goal of wanting to nurture a childs love of books and desire to read as, they felt, children are the most receptive audiences. Gillian McClure writes for young children and strives to create books such as, Dog on Wheels, to captivate audiences with entertaining storylines and visual subplots. Pippa Goodhart emphasised that lifetime readers are made when children feel confident.  Through her work such as ‘Ginny’s Egg’, she writes a story that the audience can relate to, but, picking a single aspect that is spun into a fantasy. Lastly, Rosemary Hayes, author of captivating books such as, The Blue-Eyed Aborigine, and, The Mark, creates stories based on real events and accounts of incidents that have taken place and gives characters a voice and a story which draws in young adults, providing a window to another world, their own world, or an escape.  

After listening to all the authors speak, I began to understand the amount of work that goes into writing a book, be it for young children or for older children. The three bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators not only spoke of their own experiences but gave encouraging recommendations and advice to many in the audience who are aspiring authors. It takes dedication and passion for the authors to write and publish their books and for children to appreciate and come to be lifetime readers, and this was conveyed most successfully by all of the panel today. 

Christine Chow 

Robin Ince - REVIEW

Anna has reviewed the evening with Robin Ince on Sunday 3rd February:

An Ince-pired Look at the Humour of Humanity 

Evening with Robin Ince at Festival of Literature 2019

Co-host of Radio 4’s podcast, ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’, along with famous physicist Brian Cox, Robin Ince also rejoices in excellent scientific credentials. Despite this, he appears to lack scientific rigour in his approach to comedy. Refreshingly honest and proclaiming himself a “professional idiot”, Ince concocted a cunning amalgamation of witty observations while leading us on a tangent-ridden journey to explore what makes us human.  

Robin Ince entertains Festival of Literature 2019 Robin Ince at Festival of Literature 2019 Festival of Literature 2019 with Robin Ince

There seemed to be no entertainment celebrity Ince hadn’t encountered, as he drew on an ever-extending bank of diverse accents and impersonations. Veering from the volcanic Brian Blessed, to a seraphic Brian Cox, Ince’s impressions never failed to wring out yet more laughter from a rapt audience. Of course, this did not distract from Ince’s own jaunty personality as he leapt around the stage, carrying through a comedic sense of fun as well as a heartfelt sincerity of his own.  

What most struck me about Ince’s comedy was that he was unafraid to tackle more complex issues surrounding death, mental health and grief. Perhaps demonstrating his maturity as a comic, he refused to shy away from potentially disturbing topics. This crafted moments of vulnerability which only augmented the sense of intimate communication with the audience, and a wry laugh or two immediately dissolved the emergence of too melancholic an atmosphere. 

Perhaps Ince’s thrown-together, slightly messy yet poignant reflections, which were able to inspire hilarity as well as sorrow, display better than any objective science could, what it is to be human. 

Anna Butcher

You can find out more about Robin on his website.  Twitter logo smaller

Debs Newbold - REVIEW

Pupil Charlie Hughes was at the Festival of Literature to watch actor and performance storyteller Debs Newbold on Monday 4th February:

The Spectacu-Lear Debs Newbold 

Debs newbold smaller

On a bare stage, with no props and no costumes, theatre actress and performer Debs Newbold builds a bewitching world of kings and queens, devotion and love, betrayal and tragedy, in this captivating one-woman performance. She retells the story of King Lear, one of the Bard’s most brilliant and best, putting her own engaging spin on the Shakespearean language that makes so many students tremble. 

Debs channels her passion for Shakespeare into her storytelling: her Debs Newbold at the Festival of Literature 2019energy and enthusiasm is captivating and you are left unaware that time has passed. Impersonating all characters in the play, Debs seamlessly switches from the ailing King Lear to one of his treacherous daughters, which is testament to her acting talent. Debs uses participation to keep the audience on their toes and in a surprising extra twist, interlaces modern day humour into the tale, which makes the presentation yet more engaging.  

The real triumph of this performance however is Debs’ ability to open the impenetrable gates of William Shakespeare to a wider audience. She translates his creative genius into her own words, but uses many original phrases to maintain the authenticity and originality of the story, which work particularly well in the more full-blooded, iconic moments of the play.  

It is this contemporary interpretation that unlocks the rich world of Shakespeare, even for those who have previously found it inaccessible.  

Although fans of Shakespeare will love Debs’ unique interpretation of this familiar play, the real treat is for those that believe Shakespeare isn’t for them, who for the first time, will be able to appreciate the genius of his work.  

Charlie Hughes

Find out more about Debs on her website.Twitter logo smaller

Claire Lomas - REVIEW

Claire Lomas was at the Festival of Literature on Tuesday 5th February.  Pupil Serena James was in the audience and has written the following review:

Conquering Adversity 

Claire Lomas at the Festival of Literature in FLT

I was lucky enough to listen to Claire Lomas talk about a life changing moment in her life that shaped the person she has become. From the beginning of the talk I was instantly engaged as it started with a short video presenting an insight to her life since the incident and highlighting some of the many things that she has been able to achieve since.  

Claire Lomas at the 2019 Festival of Literature Claire Lomas on stage for Festival of Literature

Claire Lomas demonstrating robotic suit at Festival of Literature Claire Lomas at Festival of Literature with robot suit

We were given the opportunity to see and hear about her life before the accident. It was clear to me how passionate she is about horses and taking part in riding competitively, so it was sad to hear that her accident occurred while she was taking part in a competition. There was a miscommunication between the horse and herself which resulted in Claire colliding with a tree, causing her to be paralysed from the waist down.  

Despite this, as the talk progressed I was getting significantly more impressed with her motivation and dedication and even though she acknowledged that she is not always motivated and has her rough days, she has persevered through all of this and raised a huge sum of money, around £600,000, by doing events such as the London Marathon, the Great North run and hand cycling 400 miles around the UK.  

Claire also had the honour of lighting the Paralympic flame in Trafalgar Square, which was fascinating to hear about and she should be enormously proud of what she has accomplished and what she will do in the future. At the end of her talk there was a demonstration of how her special “exo suit worked (a robotic suit to aid movement) and this was extremely interesting to see as I was very curious as to how it worked and the different features it has. The audience was very engaged, asking a lot of questions, enabling us to get a deeper insight to Claire’s life Overall, it was an incredibly informative evening and I left feeling very motivated and inspired to work hard and persevere through any challenges in life.  

Serena James

Thank you to Delta2020 for sponsoring this event Delta logo. You can read more about Claire here.

Dr Michael Leach - REVIEW

You can read all about Cameraman Michael Leach's Festival of Literature event on Tuesday 5th February from Sixth Former Alex Francis, who has written the following review of the night:

Behind the Invisible Lens  

Michael Leach in FLT for Festival of Literature

From the offset Michael Leach provided a welcome contrast to the monotony of everyday urban life. Michael’s passion for his field of work did not go amiss. His charisma and excellent narrative skills allowed for a captivating speech which delved into the challenges for an aspiring zoologist, the astounding patience required for his craft and the secrets behind wildlife photography. 

Michael Leach speaking at Festival of Literature Michael Leach at Festival of Literature 2019

Owls by Michael Leach at Festival of Literature 2019 Photograph by Festival of Literature speaker Michael Leach

Michael, most importantly, provided an invaluable insight into the behind-the-scenes of wildlife photography. Perhaps the most striking statement to take from the talk was that for every ‘1 second of usable footage, 24 hours of filming was required’. I think this truly puts into perspective the difficulty of wildlife photography and reveals the resilience required for such a trade. After listening to Michael regale stories of a 96-hour wait, keeping absolutely still, to catch one shot of a bird, I think it impossible to not admire the work of such a man. 

The talk explored a previously unknown area of expertise, behavioural ecology. Michael used countless anecdotes which allowed for a greater understanding of the behaviour of animals. Humorous stories of foxes, to owls, or ravens allowed the audience and me to develop an informed insight into the tricks of the trade. Michael explained, for example, how to take an incredibly close photo by exploiting a birds lack of capacity to count. For me, it was Michael's extensive knowledge of the behavioural science of animals and the utility such knowledge grants in taking pictures of some of the most elusive wildlife that was the most interesting. It exposed the incredible science behind the artistic licence of wildlife photography that we all take for granted. 

It was undoubtedly a wonderful way to spend a Thursday evening. An effortless blend of creativity, science, and humour meant the talk was both insightful and enjoyable to an everyday audience. I would be glad to see Michael again.  As man who has visited 110 different countries, I feel he had much more to share, and, if possible, would’ve endlessly recounted more incredible stories of his global adventures. 

Alex Francis

Find out more about Michael on his website.  Thank you to Delta2020 for their sponsorship of this event Delta logo 

Sarah McIntyre - REVIEW

We were joined by the amazingly talented illustrator and author Sarah McIntyre on Wednesday 6th February. Read the full review here by Sixth Form student Flo Stephens:

Illustrating the Art of Book-Making 

Sarah McIntyre in FLT for Festival of Literature 2019

The 6th of February saw Sarah McIntyre, a published children’s books illustrator and author, at the Festival of Literature. This fun-packed session was full of top tips of her career journey from her very first comic book about her dead goldfish, to her soon to be published picture book, Grumpycorn.  

Sarah McIntyre at the Festival of Literature 2019 Sarah McIntyre illustrations at Festival of Literature 2019

Sarah took the audience on a whistle stop tour of how her characters are first sketched out, to the final glorious fluorescent pages visible in her books.  Her characters are engaging for children, such as her Dinosaur Firefighters and The Prince of Pants, with huge detail in every page of beautifully formed artworSarah McIntyre drawing for Festival of Literature 2019k. 

“Writing is quick, but drawing is slow!” exclaimed Sarah when talking about her work. She used the comparison of drawing to playing the piano. “You cannot stand in front of a piano and expect to start playing Beethoven, so you cannot expect to start drawing brilliant pictures, without the practice”.  

One part of the talk I found particularly captivating was her view point on the size of picture books, relative to her target audience - something that one would not necessarily consider.  She mentioned how picture books should be so engaging for a child, since they literally wrap the child in the book, making them become a part of the story. 

With the session ending, I am sure that every audience member was rushing home to start making their very own books. Thank you very much to Sarah McIntyre for such an enjoyable evening and to the Bishops Stortford College Festival of Literature for hosting it.  

Flo Stephens 

You can find out more about Sarah on her website.

Fiona Barton - REVIEW

Fiona Barton is a crime writer with a background in investigative journalism, who followed many well-publicised, grisly cases. On Wednesday 6th February Fiona was interviewed by a panel consisting of members of the Sixth Form Book Group.  Read the full review here by Sixth Form student Arthur Sullivan:

Fiona Turns the Charm Bart-On 

6th Form English students with Fiona Barton Festival of Literature

Fiona Barton took centre stage on Wednesday night in the Bishops Stortford College Festival of Literature series, delivering a riveting dialogue with the student panel on her experiences of true crime, her creative process and her transition from life as an award-winning journalist to that of a bestselling author. 

Barton’s approach to discussing her writing process was clear-cut and bruFiona Barton with 6th Form English paneltally honest compared to many other authors: she is a self-admitted “professional procrastinator” and doesn’t meticulously storyboard her narrative events. However, this approach is ultimately purposeful, as it allows Barton to stay flexible and open to adjusting the overarching story as she progresses through writing, leading to a finished product which compels from start to finish and fully commands her vision of the themes she set out to explore. For example, this process allowed Barton to make the protagonist of “The Widow” an effective unreliable narrator, which leads the reader to be on edge constantly, evaluating their own predictions and understandings of the narrative. 

It was clear from the outset of the lecture that Barton’s style draws upon her ‘journalist blood’. Many of her characters are amalgamated from genuine people she’s interviewed along her career, which creates a chilling realism that may strike a chord with the reader where a fabricated character could not. Moreover, Barton’s penchant for realism bleeds over into her overall take on the psychological thriller genre; as the sense of normalcy which she cultivates jars violently with the eventual sinister events of the narratives, reminding the reader that horrific events could be lurking below the surface of their normal, day-to-day life. 

Overall, Barton’s grounding in journalistic work shines through in both her novels and her speaking approach; her work grips the attention at any cost, no matter the medium. 

Arthur Sullivan 

You can read more about Fiona on her website and follow her on Twitter logo smaller

Literature Live - REVIEW

Sixth Former Harry watched Senior School pupils compete in the reading competition, Literature Live, on Thursday 7th February, and has written the following review of this ever-popular highlight of the Festival:

Literature: Livening up the Festival

Tee House performing in 2019 Literature Live

Tantalising tales, terrific tragedies and tenacious trios, all shaped the epic ending to an eagerly awaited ‘Literature Live’ House Reading Competition Final. Crowds gathered to spectate as the anxious performers gave it their all, leaving everything out on the stage in their final performance of their rigorously rehearsed texts. In front our all-star judge, Luke Wright, they showcased their performance skills expertly, as each performer was a pioneer for their poem, illustrating the craft of the writer perfectly as words came to life before our eyes. 

Luke Wright judging Literature Live 2019

The 4th form section was won by Hayward House. Matthew and George gave us advice on how to stop a sinister bully, capturing the audience under a net of laughter, irony and brilliant impersonations of school receptionists; ultimately, they stole the day. Other excellent performances came from, most notably, Henry Wilson as he cleverly picked holes at the English language. 

Alliott House performing Literature Live 2019 Trotman House performing Literature Live 2019

In the 5th Form competition, it was Tee who seized the day with their call to action, through the poem ‘Pause’ written by survivors of the Parkland Shooting. Anya and Fifi led the team moving the audience with their powerful and poised performance as part of a brilliant quartet. 

Josh reading at Literature Live 2019 Josh with Luke Wright at Literature Live 2019

Tee House with Luke Wright Literature Live 2019 Hayward House winners with Luke Wright Literature Live

Finally, the 6th Form. In Luke’s words ‘they could’ve all been the winner’ but it was Joshua C-S’s recital of Trunchball’s Monologue’ from ‘Matilda the Musical’ who won. His camp and snarling performance hypnotised the audience as he took on the role, exquisitely breaking down, maniacally, exactly what he was to do with Matilda’s body. Lucy, Toby and Olga all deserve a commendation; Toby’s performance in particular was very touching and sympathetic.  

They say a picture tells a thousand words, but there was no need for pictures at this event, the stories were all we could have asked for. A brilliant evening: well done to all involved. 

Harry Belton

Luke Wright - REVIEW

Luke Wright entertained his Festival of Literature audience on Thursday 7th February. Read the review by pupil Elizabeth Kesterton here:

The Coolest Man in Bungay? 

Luke Wright speaking at Festival of Literature 2019

Luke Wright’s performance poetry has been described as, “fierce, wistful, and witty”. These words barely scratch the surface of his performance, which encompassed everything from Georgian petty crime, to the current condition of England.  

He kicked off the evening with a poem, simply named, “The Ballad of Chris and Ann’s Fish Bar”, and it was from then on he set the tone for his time on stagLuke Wright evening performance for Festival of Literature 2019e. A tale of love, and love lost, with humour woven in to the very fabric of the piece, immediately showed this was a man who understood life; all its joys and disappointments. And more importantly, knew how to convey it in a way that was both entertaining and thought provoking.  

Luke took us on a wild journey through his past and present, making the audience laugh with his poem, “Judge Crush” (the title says it all, really), or calling upon them to ponder their own lives with, “Prayer”, or simply regaling them with a classic story like, “The Ballad of Edward Dando”.  

No matter what topic or emotion he was handling, he spoke with passion and wit, and all we could do was hang on to his every word. To end, he finished with a poem that asked us to embrace all that we sometimes find ourselves looking down on. “Embrace the Wank”, was an energy-filled celebration of life in Britain today.    

There were some tall tales told about past and current poet laureates. Maybe, one day, he will be included in their number! 

Elizabeth Kesterton

You can find out more about Luke on his website.

We are grateful to Barnes Construction for sponsoring this event Barnes construction logo

Andrew Graham-Dixon - REVIEW

On Friday 8th February, the Festival welcomed renowned art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Eleanor was in the audience and has reviewed the evening here:

Andrew Graham-Dixon Paints Vivid Picture of Paul Nash 

Andrew Graham-Dixon in FLT for Festival of Literature

Award-winning art critic and presenter of arts television in BBC Two series such as The Culture Show, A History of British Art and The Art of Germany, Andrew Graham-Dixon was welcomed by a full house to Bishops Stortford College on Friday evening. 

For more than twenty years he has published a weekly column on art and has written a diverse collection of acclaimed books on subjects ranging from medieval paintings to contemporary art, but for the Festival of Literature he chose to delve into the art of war-time painter Paul Nash, the so-called ‘unsung hero’ of World War I artists.  

Andrew Graham-Dixon discussing Paul Nash at Festival of Literature Paul Nash painting discussed by Andrew Graham-Dixon

Rather than analysing the technique or methodology of the application of paint, Graham-Dixon prefers to consider a painting in its context and the reaction to its message or purpose beyond the canvas, specifically drawing attention to the importance of the often revelatory nature of the paintings’ titles. Graham-Dixon praised Nash’s devotion to portraying the grim reality of life in the trenches; despite narrowly escaping the bloody Battle of Passchendaele, Nash decided to return to the front line to act as a witness to the horror and injustice of the British government’s betrayal of the people.  

Exploring how Nash employed the laTalk by Andrew Graham-Dixon at Festival of Literature 2019ndscape to represent the dismembered corpses of soldiers, he explained how the absence of graphic depictions of war not only proves to be an even more evocative illustration of its vast impact, but also manages to preserve the dignity of the soldiers involved, compared to his counterparts, namely Henry Tonks. Graham-Dixon illuminated the efficacy of demonstrating the war as an assault on nature itself, instead of being limited to individuals. As a result, Graham-Dixon claims that Nash’s earlier works can be described as unambiguously unpatriotic, given how he vehemently refused to glorify the war which effectively destroyed any perceived notion of heroism.  

He finished by describing some of his favourite works, notably Caulfield’s ‘Fish and Sandwich’ and Caravaggio’s ‘The Beheading of John the Baptist’, anecdotally setting the context for the pieces through dry humour and a wealth of knowledge surrounding the purpose and reception of the paintings. Many of us in the audience were left eager to learn more about the role of art in documenting a time in history. 

Eleanor Milnes 

Read more about Andrew Graham-Dixon on his website. We are grateful to M J Warner for sponsoring this event M j warner

Saira Hamilton - REVIEW

Lucy and Pendra were at Saira Hamilton's cookery event on Saturday 9th February and have written the following review:

‘Sour Mangos and Mung Beans’ 

Saira hamilton festival of literature cooking 2019

On Saturday 9th February, Saira Hamilton visited Bishops Stortford College for her 3rd time to promote her book and share her Bangladeshi inspired recipes.  

After coming within the top four in Master Chef 2013 and running her business, ‘Small Aubergine’, she composed hundreds of recipes from her native country to share with other food lovers. She describes the book, My Bangladesh Kitchen, as a love letter to her parents”, expressing the love for her home country and a tribute to all the memories that they gave her. It is full of interesting information regarding Bangladeshi culture and history, as well as family customs, which influenced her career in her later life. 

Audience at Saira Hamilton Festival cookery event February 2019 Saira Hamilton with Gary Law Festival of Literature 2019

Saira cooked a range of traditional Bangladeshi foods for the audience -very tasty- and demonstrated how to cook her beef curry and paratha sharing helpful tips and tricks along the way. We feasted upon curry, samosas and other cuisine which burst with unusual flavours and spices. This Bangladeshi fusion of ingredients filled the room with wonderful scents inspiring everyone to sample everything she had to offer. She introduced what might have been new ingredients to some of the audience such as sour mangos and mung beans and allowed them to smell and taste their wonderful aromas. 

Throughout the evening, Hamilton enlightened the guests with her humorous remarks, on Bangladeshi culture and her personal life.  In the past she has said, These dishes will introduce you to some of the ingredients and cooking techniques which make Bangladeshi cuisine what it is, and I hope that they will become as familiar and dear to you as they are to me.” The whole audience was excited and inspired to go away and begin incorporating these recipes into their kitchens at home.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening with this former Master Chef finalist.   

Lucy Wade-Baylis and Pendra Stewart

You can find out more about Saira on her website. Thank you to Herts Display for sponsoring this event Hdc logo smaller


David Starkey - Review

Historian David Starkey gave an enlightening talk on the evening of Saturday 9th February. Thank you to Senior School pupil Izzy, for her review of the night:

From Henry VIII’s Brexit to Drinks with the Queen of Denmark: a marriage of wit and intellect with David Starkey 

David Starkey in FLT for Festival of Literature 2019

Expecting to be enlightened on the quirks and progressions of the English Monarchy, the prelude to Starkey’s talk consisted of several anecdotes which immediately abolished any pretence of English marriage customs – and indeed English customs generally – as being anything but, as Starkey himself quipped, ‘strange.’ But as  he began, it became clear we were to be informed on not jusFestival of Literature 2019 with David Starkeyt the world of English marriage, but England, marriage and indeed the world.   

Starkey offered insight into the historical complexities of the monarchy and its indisputable relevance today, remarking with a wry smile on Meghan Markle being dubbed, ‘exotic’, before eloquently referencing a mixed-race fourteenth century Spanish princess who married into the English monarchy to highlight history’s uncanny way of repeating itself.  

Starkey delighted in digressing through politics and culture in subverting stereotypes of traditional customs, referencing Henry VIII as ‘a kind, compassionate and understanding husband… until he cut your head off!’ and a prime example of marrying for love. This seems to be a funny four-letter word when discussing the monarchy, however Starkey did not shy away from the fact that marriage and love are not always synonymous.  Although, surprisingly, it did seem to be the true motive for many 14th-15th century nuptials.  

The Q&A demonstrated not only Starkey’s broad intellectual experience, but his ability to make complex history and politics entertaining and enjoyable. For example, when, chuckling to himself, he explained how he had discovered his good friend the Queen of Denmark’s favourite hobby was ‘carpentry – making and breaking cabinets,’ when she had had a little too much to drink!  

The evening ended with an explanation of Henry VIII’s 16th century Brexit which, dare I say it seemed surprisingly convincing – or at least compared to the 21st century version!  

Izzy Grout 

We are very grateful to Herts Display for their sponsorship of this event Hdc logo smaller

Jackie Morris & James Mayhew (REVIEW)

Jackie Morris with James Mayhew at Festival 2019

Artist and author Jackie Morris was joined by fellow artist and author James Mayhew for our final Festival event on Thursday 14th February. Together they guided us through The Lost Words, the stunning book illustrated by Jackie and written by Robert Macfarlane, featuring words from the natural world which are disappearing from our everyday vocabulary. Jackie and James discussed the inspiration behind the book and the audience was treated to some beautiful drawings of animals and nature.

Jackie Morris artwork from The Lost Words Festival 2019 Festival of Literature 2019 with Jackie Morris artist

Jackie Morris bird drawing Festival of Literature 2019 Jackie Morris drawing at Festival 2019

Thank you to Simpsons Creative for sponsoring this event Simpsons creative logo smaller