Festival of Literature 2020

The 11th Festival of Literature 2020 started on Thursday 6th February with Harry Potter Night and ended on Friday 14th February with our annual Festival finale, the book sale in the FLT for Prep School pupils.  For a taste of this year's Festival take a look at the sections below.

You can also review the wonderful line-up of authors, poets and storytellers who headlined the 10th Festival in 2019 by clicking here

Schools Events

Throughout the Festival Week we will be holding a number of events to which we invite local schools. Please see below for this year's line-up of author events:

Friday 7th February 2.00pm – 3.00pm 

Steve Cole

Steve Cole Festival event in Pre-Prep

On Friday 7th February, Shell pupils enjoyed a hilarious talk from Steve Cole, author of both the Adventure Duck and the Astrosaurs series. Steve demonstrated, in an extremely entertaining fashion including using a piano and a ukulele at different times, how the most mundane of events can be used to create funny and imaginative fiction. Steve shared tales from his salad-detesting youth, where he nearly managed to fool a dinner lady into believing him that his cucumber was actually an evil villain; Dracucumber. After discussing the origins of the superpowers of famous superheroes, Steve also showed us, with the help of Lisa C and the rest of Shell, how everyday animals can be used to create new superheroes, such as a cat that spits furballs and has incredibly powerful swiping claws. After singing one of his songs to us, “Aliens Stink”, he concluded by fielded some questions about how he became a writer, what was enjoyable about his profession (mainly not having to commute to work) and whether he would consider writing a book about a panda. It was a fantastically engaging session and every single pupil was smiling as they exited the hall for lunch.

Steve Cole on guitar in Prep School Hall Steve Cole entertains Prep School audience

Shell Book Club with Author Steve Cole

During lunchtime, Steve Cole met with Shell Book Club in the packed Library. It was a great chance for pupils and parents, to quiz Steve about his life and inspirations, as well as focussing more closely on the book, Adventure Duck vs Power Pug.

Sadly we ran out of the time for any more questions from pupils and parents but Steve told us that pupils could contact him with further questions at stevecolebooks.co.uk  or astrosaurs.co.uk. He intends to write a blog about his enjoyable time at the College.

Steve Cole also entertained Years 1 and 2 in the morning.

Pre-Prep pupils enjoy Steve Cole talk


Monday 10th February 9.30am – 10.30am

Paul Jackson 

Paul Jackson entertains in Prep School Hall


Monday 10th February 2.00pm – 3.00pm

Brian Moses

Brian Moses in Prep School Library Brian Moses in Prep School Hall


Tuesday 11th February 2.00pm – 3.00pm

Elizabeth Laird 

Elizabeth Laird in Prep School Hall


Tuesday 11th February 4.00pm – 5.00pm

Sita Brahmachari

Sita Brahmachari in Prep School Library Sita Brahmachari giving talk in Prep School Hall


Thursday 13th February 2.00pm – 3.00pm 

Petr Horacek and Vivian French

Petr Horacek drawing in front of Prep School Audience Vivian French drawing in Prep School Hall

Vivian French & Petr Horacek in Prep School Hall


Thursday 13th February 3.45pm – 4.45pm 

Steven Camden

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 Tees logo small  Sponsored by Tees Law.

The Bishop's Stortford Picture Book Award

The Picture Book Award 2020 was presented by Festival guest Petr Horacek. Congratulations to overall winner,This Is A Dog by Ross Collins, which received the most votes out of the nine shortlisted titles from pupils and staff at the College and participating schools.

A little bit brave cover front 700 Dragon post Dont worry little crab

The day war came Show and tell This is a dog 509826 1

Once upon a snowstorm The hug My hair

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Tees logo smallThe Bishop's Stortford Picture Book Award Presentation is brought to you in association with Tees Law who we wholeheartedly thank for their continued support of this prestigious event.


Jamie McDonald - Tuesday 11th February, 6.00-7.00pm

Jamie McDonald speaks to evening Festival audience

Jamie McDonald, aka 'Adventureman' beguiled his audience with tales of his incredible journeys across countries on Tuesday 11th February. Read Evie Grattan's review below. 

Jamie McDonald Festival of Literature talk Jamie McDonald entertains Festival audience

Surrounded by a gaggle of squawking boy scouts, I must say, I initially felt rather out of place at Jamie McDonald’s talk. Here I was surrounded by adventuring folk when I complain if I have to walk home from school. Eventually, the crowd hushed, eagerly awaiting an informational and practical talk; then a man in a neon spandex came dashing onto the stage!

The aforementioned costumed man was the award-winning Jamie McDonald himself.

When I heard he was a two-time Guinness world record breaker, Pride of Britain Award winner and a motivational speaker, I was expecting a stoic man to stride onto the stage. Instead here he was, laughing and joking with the crowd, proclaiming how he was, "Actually just a normal man from Gloucester."

He explained to us how as a child, he was told he would end up in a wheelchair.

Despite this, through sheer determination and help from a children’s hospital he smashed the doctor’s expectations. It was the superhero within that helped him achieve this goal. After overcoming adversity in childhood, the time came for McDonald to settle down and buy a house. He saved all his money, was about to sign the paperwork, but then it struck him, there is more to life!

Using the money he had saved, he funded his lifelong goal to fundraise for the children’s hospital by pushing his body to the limit. So, he set off on a fourteen-thousand-mile journey on a fifty quid bike (as one does) and has only pushed himself further since then, inspiring many others along the way. I will not spoil any more, as his book ‘Adventureman’ is a thrilling read.

Overall, the talk was an inspiration for people of all walks of life, imploring everyone to find the superhero inside. I am never going to whinge about walking home again.

By Evie Grattan

Read more about this event on the Bishop's Stortford Independent website. 

Our tSavills logohanks go to our event sponsors Savills for their support of this event. 

Tammy Cohen & Emma Curtis - Wednesday 12th February, 7.30-8.30pm

Tammy Cohen, Emma Curtis & Chris Whitaker in FLT

Two acclaimed crime writers took centre stage at the Festival last Wednesday (12th Feb) to give a fascinating insight into their journeys to becoming authors. Emma Curtis and Tammy Cohen were in conversation with a fellow crime writer and former Festival speaker, Sawbridgeworth resident Chris Whitaker, who interviewed them and shared notes on the processes involved in writing a book, creating characters and getting published. The final chapter in the event was a question and answer session with the audience. 

The informal chat was a real treat for anyone thinking about turning their dream of writing into a reality as the two women spoke openly and honestly about the hard work involved and the satisfaction at being able to do what they love. 

Tammy was a freelance journalist for many years writing features for The Times, Marie Claire and The Independent, but the downward spiral of print media led her to pursue her true vocation and she now has 12 historical and crime novels to her name, the former written under the pseudonym of Rachel Rhys. 

She draws on her experiences as a mother for her latest thriller, Stop at Nothing, revealing how a real-life attached on her daughter was the inspiration for it. 

Books for sale at Emma Curtis & Tammy Cohen talk

Emma, who had aspirations of becoming the next Jilly Cooper with her heart set on romantic fiction, endured years of rejection from publishers until she was steered towards the psychological suspense genre off the back of popular titles such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, and she discovered her forte for domestic noir. Her latest book, Keep Her Quiet, is out in September. 

What was particularly fascinating was hearing how each approcahed a book. Chapter plans and story synopsis were not always key, said Emma, who often started writing, not knowing where the story would take her or how it would end. Tammy usually knew the ending, but had to work out how to get there.

They revealed the input from editors, who suggested plot twists and rewrites - although the keen eyes of a copy editor almost missed a glaring error in one of her historical fictions where she had written that the main character had checked her phone for the time instead of her watch - an occupational hazard these days along with DNA, which makes crime much less mysterious from an author's perspective. 

Their overriding message was for authors to hang on to the freedom to write about whatever they want, to retain the right to express yourself by doing what you love most. And to stick at it! Perseverance pays off, as both women discovered after years of writing. 

By Hollie Ryder - The Bishop's Stortford Independent

 Festival of Literature talk with Emma Curtis & Tammy Cohen

Many thanks to MJ Warner for sponsoring this event  Mj warner low res

Literature Live judged by Steven Camden - Thursday 13th February, 5.30-6.30pm

Literature Live 2020 group of performers in FLT

Literature Live once again proved to be an unforgettable evening of powerful and moving poetry, judged this year by poet, author, playwright and screenwriter, Steven Camden. Read Anya Wilson's review below. 

Literature Live 2020 boys performing in FLT Literature Live 2020 Tee House girls performing

Trotman House girl performing Literature Live 2020 Literature Live 2020 boy performing on stage

Steven Camden judging Literature Live 2020

Literature Live 2020 performanceLiterature Live 2020 Girls performing in FLT

Bishop’s Stortford College’s annual Literature Live competition kicked off on Thursday (13th) night, this time judged by spoken-word artist Steven Camden (aka Polar bear) and did not disappoint!

The 4th Form section was a display of the budding younger pupils at the College who I am sure will be seen in following years in various theatrical productions. Their performances, either solo or paired, ranged from comedic car-trips (Collett) to powerful messages about the human impact on our planet (Benson), and all in all provided entertainment for the audience. The ability to define the individual characters in each of their poems, giving each one a separate personality, was what impressed me the most and paid tribute to their confidence and talent.

The group section preceded, and once more gave Camden an even harder decision to make. We were told the darker side to Beethoven’s story by Robert Pearce House, whilst enjoying the humour of Tee House’s poem all about the crucial need of cats in our lives! All the groups showed exceptional artistry in telling a story full of character, intensity and passion.

Finally, to round off the evening, the Sixth Form competition truly stole the show. All the performers showed their expertise and practice in telling an effective and thought-provoking story, whether about the struggles of anorexia or how we as humans are so ungrateful for our existence and have constant need to complain about some aspect of our lives. Toby Brown ingeniously embodied the character of Rowan Atkinson in his speech ‘Welcome to Hell’, but Izzy Grout from Trotman House triumphed in victory with her bitter poem ‘Perfect’. Overall, there was a real poignancy that hung in the air and appreciation for the gifted students.

By judgment time, Camden was brimming with praise for all the contestants, thanking them for all their hard-work and spoken-word skill. Each contestant gave off the impression that they were enjoying themselves and thus allowed the audience to see a ‘slice of personality’ within all the poems/extracts. He conveyed his excitement by explaining that the passion shown by these younger generations was promising for their futures and that their control in performance was captivating.

It is safe to say this year topped expectations and demonstrated the sheer talent on offer at the College!

By Anya Wilson

Our thanks to Simpsons Creative for supporting this event.Simpsons creative logo smaller

Clare Mulley - Thursday 13th February, 7.30-8.30pm

Clare Mulley Festival of Literature Talk

Clare Mulley, award-winning author and broadcaster, bought the Festival to a close on Thursday 13th with a fascinating insight into the life of Krystyna Skarbek, a fearless British-Polish WWII spy. Read Bella Hart's review below. 

Clare Mulley speaking at Festival of Literature Clare Mulley Festival talk in the FLT 2020

On Thursday 13th February, Bishop's Stortford College was fortunate enough to welcome Clare Mulley as one of the speakers at the school’s 11th Festival of Literature, whose enigmatic revival of Krystina Skarbek moved and inspired all who attended. Clare’s novel ‘The Spy Who Loved’ is just one in a series of novels recognising incredible women unappreciated and undeservedly ignored in history. This novel focuses on the true character of Krystyna Skarbek, also known as Christine Granville, a Polish agent of the British Special Operations Executive during the Second World War.

The evening was extremely thought-provoking as Clare detailed the courage and tenacity of Krystyna, a woman whose life and stories were so dramatic and implausible, you would believe them to be fiction if it were not for Clare Mulley’s extensive research reinforcing their validity. She was the first female agent of the British to serve in the field and the longest serving of all Britain's wartime female agents, yet before this talk I, along with many others, had never heard of her.

Clare enthralled us with her portrayal of this charismatic woman who was so exceedingly brave and interesting yet whose gender unjustly impeded her appreciation at the time. In writing this novel and presenting Krystyna’s life, we are able to recognise an unsung female hero, who through Clare Mulley’s work is resurrected and commended as she should have been for the life she lived, and the ones she saved. As a result of such unappreciation, Krystyna’s story is tinged with sadness. However this in no way made for a dispiriting evening, but one filled with admiration and inspiration for a woman whose 'greatest weapon was her mind.’  

By Bella Hart

Delta logoWe would like to thank Delta2020 for sponsoring this event.


Shaun Wallace - Saturday 8th February, 7.30-9.30pm

Shaun Wallace at Festival of Literature 2020

Shaun Wallace, barrister, Mastermind champion and ‘The Dark Destroyer’ on ITV’s hit show, The Chase, put the Festival audience to the test with a night of intellectual stimulation and quizzing on the evening of Saturday 8th February. Read Edward Suckling's review below.   

Shaun Wallace Festival of Literature talk Shaun Wallace with quiz winners at Festival 2020

Shaun Wallace books on sale at Festival of Literature 741 4439

Saturday 8th February saw criminal defence barrister and ‘Chaser’, Shaun Wallace, come to Bishop’s Stortford College and share some valuable and entertaining lessons he has learnt from his life.

The talk began with Shaun expressing how he is a barrister first and ‘Chaser’ second before telling the audience how he came to be both a highly regarded law professional and mastermind quizzer.

Starting with his childhood, Shaun explained how he was determined from the age of eleven to become a barrister, whilst showing the audience some photos of when he was young on the projector. Yet, despite having a photographic memory, academic success did not always come easy to him. Shaun explained how he was told by his career's supervisor that he would most likely be in prison after telling them he wanted to work in law. He also told the audience how he failed his A Levels due to being unable to perform under exam conditions. However, he explained that these failures only drove him to take control of his destiny and work even harder.

After telling the audience about how he passed his Bar exam and became a barrister, which were met with graduation photos, Shaun described how began to pursue quizzing and game shows. Much like his early academic career, Shaun’s game show career was also difficult to begin with. He continued by showing the audience a video of his first TV appearance. The show was ‘15-1’, which he had taken three weeks off work to prepare for, only to be the first person to go home.

After other short videos and explanations of the game shows he had been on, he told us how he got a place on ‘Mastermind’. After moving through the first few rounds of the show, Shaun landed a seat in the 2004 final. With his chosen topic of ‘FA Cup finals since 1970’ Shaun managed to tie scores after the first and general knowledge rounds, edging the win due to his lack of passes. Not only was Shaun the first black applicant on the show, he was also the first black winner, something that he was extremely proud of. It was inspiring to see his persistence to becoming a quizzing champion over decades.

He closed his talk by sharing how after his ‘Mastermind’ win, he got the opportunity to become a ‘Chaser’ on the now international show, ‘The Chase’. Throughout his talk Shaun would always come back to one important point, taking control of your own destiny, he attributes his legal and game show success to this. The evening concluded with questions and a quiz, with the likes of “Who chooses offers on The Chase” being asked.

Shaun’s talk was both entertaining and inspiring as he shared some valuable lessons from his fascinating life. I would highly recommend going to one of his future talks or buying his autobiography, ‘Chasing the Dream’, which tells many of the same stories and lessons.

By Edward Suckling

Read more from this event on the Bishop's Stortford Independent website. 

Many thanks to Hertfordshire Display plc for sponsoring this eHDPrint logovent

Matthew Hoggard - Friday 7th February, 7.30-9.00pm

Festival 2020 talk by Matthew Hoggard

As one of The Cricketer's Top 100 Schools for Cricket we were thrilled to welcome former England cricketer and Leicestershire CCC Captain, Matthew Hoggard MBE on the evening of Friday 7th February.  Read Charlie Hughes' review below.

Matthew Hoggard in suit by Alexandra Wood

  Matthew Hoggard speaking at Festival of Literature 2020 Alexandra Wood poster at Festival 2020

On Friday 7th February, a cricket-loving audience was bowled over by Matthew Hoggard’s wildly entertaining and inspiring account of his own career. He reminisces about his travels in South Africa, his ascent to the England squad and in particular, the 2005 Ashes victory.

As no more than an occasional follower of the sport, I felt myself being converted by Matthew’s enthusiasm and sheer passion for cricket. His story was universally engaging, focusing not only on the cricket that has made him so famous but his personal life and the people that supported him through his career. Matthew also provided insight into the characters of much-loved cricketing icons. His often hilarious array of anecdotes, which included mischievous umpires and drunken all-rounders, provoked cheers, gasps and applause in equal measure from the audience.

Another of the evening’s unexpected triumphs was Matthew’s unrelenting sense of humour. Someone passing by the College’s Ferguson Lecture Theatre would have been given the impression that a stand-up comedian was performing inside: Matthew’s ability to keep the audience on their toes was remarkable However, the jokes were far from scripted - he kept the laughs going during the Q&A at the end of the evening, whereby he offered a range of expertise to awestruck fans and young, aspiring cricketers.

It was clear from the evening that Matthew is a highly talented speaker - his humour and down-to-earth demeanour undoubtedly resonated with the audience. Matthew left the evening on a note about the future: he hopes to start up a barbecue school to train young people in the art of the grill. As for me, I’ll be spending my time watching the Ashes highlights from 2005.  

By Charlie Hughes

Read more about this event on the Bishop's Stortford Independent website. 

Alexandra Wood Logo WHITE

Many thanks to Alexandra Wood Bespoke for sponsoring this event and for dressing Matthew Hoggard in the dashing blue suit for the talk.



Financial Assistance

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