Archives: Festival Authors

Tom Parfitt

Tom Parfitt in conversation with Georgie Fenn

High Caucasus

This record of an extraordinary 1,000-mile trek across the mountainous southern Russian republics of the Caucasus uncovers a brutal history that resonates today

On 1 September 2004, Chechen and Ingush militants took more than a thousand people captive at a school in the Caucasus region of southern Russia. Working as a correspondent, Tom Parfitt witnessed the bloody climax in which 314 hostages died, more than half of them children. The experience left Tom emotionally shredded, struggling to find a way to return to his life in Moscow and put to rest the ghosts of the Beslan siege.

Having long been fascinated by the mountainous North Caucasus, Tom turned to his love of walking as a source of both recuperation and discovery. In High Caucasus, he shares his remarkable 1,000 mile quest in search of personal peace – and a greater understanding of the roots of violence in a region whose fate has tragic parallels with the Ukraine of today.

Starting his journey in Sochi on the Black Sea and walking the mountain ranges to Derbent, the ancient fortress city on the Caspian, Tom traverses the political, religious and ethnic fault-lines of seven Russian republics, including Chechnya and Dagestan. Through bear-haunted forests, across high altitude pastures and over the shoulders of Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain, he finds companionship and respite in the homes of proud, little-known peoples. Walking exerts a restorative power; it also provides a unique, ground-level view of a troubled yet exquisite corner of the world.

High Caucasus is a stunning memoir of confronting trauma through connection with history, people and place.

Soibhan Daniels

Soibhan Daniels

Retirement Rebel

One woman, one motorhome, one great big adventure

Approaching retirement and frustrated with her job, Siobhan Daniels made a BIG decision: to start living life on her own terms. Rather than hiding from life’s challenges, she buys a motorhome and drives off to find them.

Retirement Rebel is Siobhan’s honest and uplifting story of how one woman stepped off the merry-go-round of life, slowed down and started enjoying the journey. Of how she sold up, packed up and hit the roads of the UK with no real plan, embarking on an age-positive adventure and hoping to inspire women across the country with her message that retirement could be the start of life’s adventures. With no shortage of mishaps and hardships along the way – not least being commanded to ‘stay at home’ during the Covid lockdowns, despite always being at home wherever she was – Siobhan’s story can inspire us all. Her message is that we can make simple lifestyle changes to feel happier and more fulfilled. Because at the end of the day, age shouldn’t be a barrier to having an adventure.

Felice Hardy

Felice Hardy

The Tennis Champion Who Escaped the Nazis

Liesl Herbst’s Remarkable Journey, from Vienna to Wimbledon

In 1930, at the age of twenty-seven, Liesl Herbst was the Austrian National Tennis Champion and a celebrity in Vienna. Liesl, her husband David and their daughter Dorli then came to Britain after escaping the Nazis.

In London, though initially stripped of their Austrian passports and rendered stateless aliens, both Liesl and her daughter Dorli competed at Wimbledon. They remain the only mother and daughter ever to have played doubles together at Wimbledon.

This moving story of escape and survival is told by Liesl’s grand-daughter. It is as much a search for the author’s own identity as for her own children and grandchildren to ensure that the remarkable family history is never lost again.

Illustrated throughout with family photographs and original documents, this is a story of survival against terrible odds and an inspiring tale of resilience and hope.

Arthur Snell

Arthur Snell in conversation with Simon Levey

How Britain Broke The World

Greed and Blunders from Kosovo to Afghanistan, 1997-2022

In a piercing analysis, Arthur Snell reveals the role the United Kingdom has played in raising tension and creating global flashpoints in the 21st century.

With decades of service in the Foreign Office, Snell looks at British interventions from Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan, as well as UK policy towards Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.
Far from being a minor player, he argues, Britain has often been decisive in world affairs. Britain supplied the dodgy intelligence that America used to justify its invasion of Iraq. Britain has provided money-laundering services for the Russian elite in London perpetuating the rule of Vladimir Putin.

Without the UK’s marginal but key role, Snell argues, the wars in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya would not have happened and our world today would be safer. The book reveals the internal politics and concerns of the world’s major powers.

Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller in conversation with Jo Hall

The Memory of Animals

A haunting novel about love, survival and everything in between …….
Claire Fuller is a Costa-winning, Women’s Prize-shortlisted author

Neffy is a young woman running away from grief and guilt and the one big mistake that has cost her a career. When she answers the call to volunteer in a controlled vaccine trial, it offers a way for her to pay off her many debts and, perhaps, to begin to make up for the past.

But when the world outside her hospital window is utterly transformed, Neffy finds herself abandoned – along with the remaining four other volunteers – in a future they never believed could actually unfold.

With a finite amount of food left and her sense that the strangers she is with may be holding back secrets, Neffy must decide whether she’s safer staying inside the unit or braving the unknown of the streets outside. While she weighs up her choices, she is introduced to a pioneering and controversial technology that allows her to revisit memories from her life before. Seduced by the possibility of being reunited virtually with her loved ones, perhaps the only way she will ever be able to see them again, her drive to leave the unit begins to falter.

The Memory of Animals is a taut and emotionally charged novel about freedom and captivity, survival and sacrifice and whether you can save anyone before you save yourself.

Tom Fort

Tom Fort

Rivets, Trivets & Galvanised Buckets

A hymn to hardware . . . charming . . . This book tells a quirky tale of subculture, a shrine where many of us worship.

In 2018 Tom Fort’s daughter-in-law took over a century-old hardware shop. The family dreamed of developing the shop into one that would become the centre of village life; that much did come true, but not in the way they had expected.

Interweaving the evolution of the shop, its previous owners, the customers it serves and the items it sells, Rivets, Trivets & Galvanised Buckets offers a delightful study of community and shines a light on the eccentricities of ordinary people. Alongside this, it presents a fascinating history of technological development; from who thought of screwdrivers to where the spirit level came from, who devised the process of galvanisation and what genius worked out that a suction pad on the end of a piece of wood could unblock sinks.

As Tom recounts – ‘A little girl came with her father into Heath and Watkins, looked around for a while and said “Daddy, this is the shop of EVERYTHING”‘. This is the story of how that happened.

Fergus Butler-Gallie

Fergus Butler-Gallie

Touching Cloth

Touching Cloth is a wickedly entertaining record of life as a young priest and a love letter to the Church of England at its best

A laugh-out-loud memoir of becoming a 21st-century priest, Touching Cloth is also a love letter to the Prayer Book, Liverpool, funerals, cake tins, lager and, above all, to what the Church of England can be at its best.

The very word ‘reverend’ inspires solemnity. To be a priest is to dedicate one’s life to quiet prayer and spiritual contemplation, or is it?

Fergus Butler-Gallie reveals what it’s like to become a priest in the 21st century. Find out why black really is slimming, how to keep a straight face when someone is inadvertently hot-boxing a funeral, and which royal-themed biscuit tin can best contain a very loud personal alarm that no one knows how to switch off. Spot a sweet old lady trying to pay for a taxi with coinage from fascist Spain?

Behind the daily scrapes is an all-too-human love letter to the Church of England and the amazing variety of people who manage to keep it going by providing a listening ear, company and community at a time when so many people desperately need it and a reflection on what it means to follow a spiritual path amidst the chaos of the modern world.

Fergus Butler-Gallie is a writer and priest who has ministered in parishes in Liverpool and Central London. He grew up within a large family of maniacs and was then educated at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He speaks regularly on radio and writes for several newspapers and journals.

Rebecca Struthers

Rebecca Struthers in conversation with Richard Price

The Hands of Time

A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

An intricate and personal history of watches and time from an extraordinary watchmaker and historian.

Timepieces are one of humanity’s most ingenious innovations. Their invention was to hold more significance for human culture than would the printing press or even the wheel. They have travelled the world with us, from the depths of the oceans to the summit of Everest, and even to the Moon. They regulate our daily lives and have sculpted the social and economic development of society in surprising and dramatic ways.

In Hands of Time watchmaker and historian Rebecca Struthers welcomes us into the hidden world of watchmaking, offering a personal history of watches that spans centuries and continents. From her workshop bench, Rebecca explores the ways in which timekeeping has indelibly shaped our attitudes to work, leisure, trade, politics, exploration and mortality, and introduces us to some extraordinary and treasured devices, each with their own story to tell.

Hands of Time is an intricate and uniquely personal exploration of the history, science, philosophy, and craft of timekeeping.

Libby Page

Libby Page

Libby Page in conversation with Camilla Nelson

The Vintage Shop of Second Chances

Local and bestselling author of The Lido spins another irresistible tale of community and second chances.

Among the cobbled streets of the Somerset town of Frome, Lou is embarking on the start of something new. After the death of her beloved mother, she takes a deep breath into the unknown and is opening her own vintage clothes shop.

In upstate New York, Donna has just found out some news about her family, which has called into question her whole upbringing. The only clue she has to unlock her past is a picture of a yellow dress and that is currently on display in a shop in England.

Maggy is now facing life as a 70-something divorcee and, while she got the house, she’s not sure what to fill it with now her family have moved out. The new vintage shop in town sparks memories of her past and reignites a passion she’s been missing.

Together, can these three women find the answers they are searching for and unlock a second chance at a new life? It’s never too late to start again.

Martin Williams

Martin Williams

Martin Williams in conversation with Trevor Bailey

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Majesty, Mourning and Modernity in Edwardian Britain

Unforgettable as it was, the public response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 was not without precedent. When her great-grandfather King Edward VII – glamorous, cosmopolitan and extraordinarily popular – died in May 1910, the political, social and cultural anxieties of a nation in turmoil were temporarily set aside during a summer of intense and ritualised mourning.

In The King is Dead, Long Live the King! Martin Williams charts a period of tension and transition as one era slipped away and another began to take shape. Witnessed by a diverse but interconnected cast of characters – crowned heads and Cabinet ministers, debutantes and suffragettes, artists and murderers – here is the swansong of Edwardian Britain. Set against a backdrop of bereavement and parliamentary crisis overshadowed by the gathering clouds of war, we see a people caught between the past and the future, tradition and modernity, as they unite to bid farewell to a much-loved monarch, who had come to personify the age.

From Buckingham Palace to Bloomsbury and from the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall to a now legendary Royal Ascot bedecked in black, this is a vivid evocation of a world on the brink of seismic upheaval.