Friday 18th January
Ringing the Changes: Bellringing in English history and literatureIn this joint event with Holland House, keen bellringers Tim and Mary Anne Keyes gave a very informative and entertaining talk on bellringing in english history and literature, with some wonderful readings by Mary Anne. A sell out event and a great start to our 2019 Festival.“A great talk, a great lunch, and very good company. A thoroughly enjoyable event.” (Elizabeth Spencer)
Saturday 16th February
This delightful play, performed by professional local performers, Pauline Beale and John Horton, is the story of two people who meet at primary school and maintain a correspondence throughout their lives, charting a complex and intriguing relationship speckled with sadness and humour, and all recorded in the letters which pass between them.
“A wonderful play, beautifully performed, and with some lines that are so appropriate for a Festival of Words.” (Sue Ablett)
Monday 25th February
Workshop: 'Motivation and Moving Forward, with Ellie Stevenson
How to make your book happen – the ideal workshop for anyone with a work in progress but who needs help with motivation or practical issues.
“Great fun. Great chocolate cake! Be great to follow up with another of Ellie’s workshops on marketing and self-publishing.”
Friday 15th March
Francis Brett Young - Worcestershire Poet and Novelist
Following a two-course lunch at the beautiful venue of Holland House, Dr Michael Hall, Chairman of the Francis Brett Young Society, gave a fascinating and most enjoyable talk about this famous Worcestershire poet and novelist. Born in Halesowen, Francis Brett Young acquired the dilapidated Craycombe House (1.5 miles north of Cropthorne’s Holland House) in 1932, which he was able to buy and renovate due to his continuing success as a writer. Following his death in 1954, his ashes were interred in Worcester Cathedral.
“A fabulous lunch, great company, and a very interesting talk. Another great Festival of Words event.”
Monday 18th March
Workshop: 'Writing HIstorical Fiction', with Sue Johnson and Elizabeth Beacon
This workshop was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the huge amount of shared knowledge and experience of local writers, Sue Johnson and Elizabeth Beacon.
Sue Johnson is a poet, short story writer and novelist. She is a creative writing tutor, and author of books to help writers with their writing. Elizabeth has a passion for history and storytelling. After a variety of jobs she finally landed her dream job, writing Regency romances for Harlequin, Mills and Boon.
“Another really good Evesham Festival Workshop.” (Helen Yendall)
Monday 15th April
Workshop: 'Writing Crime Fiction', with Alice Castle
Before turning to a life of crime writing, Alice Castle, author of the very successful London Murder Mystery series, with amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane, enjoyed a career as a UK newspaper journalist. In this workshop Alice discussed the different types of genres, a guide to plotting, developing a protagonist, the advantages of series versus standalone stories, creating suspense, a flash writing exercise and an exciting denouement.
IThanks so much for organising this workshop. Alice was pretty inspiring and I think we all learned a lot. I was fizzing like a sherbet fountain by the time I left. And I bought the first book in her series. Cake went down a treat too.” (Gill Sharp)
“The workshop was great. Loved the carrot cake too.” (Sue Johnson)
The Drum Horse in the FountainIf you don’t know your First Life Guards from your Second Life Guards, your Welsh Guards from your Grenadier Guards you need go no further than The Drum Horse in the Fountain. Co-written by retired Second Lifeguard, Christopher Joll, with Sir Anthony Weldon, this book positively bursts with stories from the 18th Century right up to the Second World War.Joll, the Regimental Historian to the Household Cavalry, has created a masterpiece, his research unearthing a mix of lesser-known names, not to mention Jacob the goose, that feature in the history of the Regiments that are now the Household Cavalry. Stories of bravery, courage, tenacity and pure stoicism interweave with those of infidelity, cheating and even murder, the famous bearskin being no prevention or protection for some from acts of skulduggery.Christopher Joll’s presentation at Ecgwins Club, Evesham, on Wednesday, May 17th, was a revelation, a perfect ingredient to the mix of events throughout the year which are collectively, ‘Evesham Festival of Words 2019’. For more information about Christopher Joll’s work visit www.christopherjoll.com
Thursday 9th May
Behind the Scenes - A Humorous View of the Auction World
Ellenden Farm Shop once again hosted a delicious 2-course supper, followed by after dinner speaker, in what was another fabulous evening. Who doesn’t love an auction, or wonder about the value of what’s hidden in their attic? Warwickshire based Auctioneer, Steven Bruce, took us behind the scenes in a humorous view of the auction world and the many associated television programmes. With plenty of items to look at, everyone present is going to be checking the family silver, seeing if they have any old coins that might be of value, or anything else that might be better off in an auction than sitting unwanted in a cupboard. Once again the Ellenden event was our fastest selling event for 2019.
Friday 24th May
'Outside the Box' (A live show about death)
Outside the Box is a unique one-woman show about death, written, directed and performed by Liz Rothschild. Liz trained at the Bristol Old Vic. She went on to become a theatre practitioner, then a celebrant, then a burial ground manager. Realising the need to reach people before they have been bereaved or died, she set up the first Kicking the Bucket Festival in 2012 in Oxford. Liz’s unique insight into the ‘business of dying’ has created a highly original and beautifully cathartic show. Totally unique and original, Outside the Box asks its audience to embrace mortality and look on the bright side of life. The event saw a packed house and an enthralled audience for this remarkable and very original event.
“We really enjoyed Liz’s show. It was funny, thought-provoking and informative. I’d recommend her show to anyone.” (Terry and Annis Baldock)
Wednesday 5th June
'An Evening with Simon Brett'
Simon Brett has written over a hundred books, including the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering, and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels. His writing also includes comedy in radio and television series such as No Commitments and After Henry. Simon was awarded an OBE in 2016 ‘for services to literature’ and around the same time elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2014 he was presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger, one of the highest accolades in the crime writing world. Simon is a wonderfully entertaining speaker and a packed house was enthralled as he spoke of his career in radio, television and the world of books.
“It was a brilliant evening. He was so entertaining.” (Noelle Chambers)
Saturday 8th June
'Secret Evesham' book signing
Festival Treasurer, Stan Brotherton, celebrated publication of his latest Evesham book, entitled ‘Secret Evesham’ with a book signing at WH Smith, Evesham. This is another great addition to the range of books that keen local historian and author, Stan, has already published.
Wednesday 26th June
Bookworms Quiz Night
Now a regular part of our Festival warm-up, the Bookworms Quiz Night is always a popular and very enjoyable event. Quizmasters, Helen Yendall and Chris Cherry, once again set a mix of easy and challenging questions – to tax your brain, or let you shine. As always the questions included a mix of knowledge of novels, nursery rhymes, poetry, plays, and anything ‘wordy’.
“Always a fun night even if we struggled with the questions! Venue and supper great as always – thanks to Raphaels. Congratulations to the winning team – One of Us is Missing – who scored a magnificent 77 out of a possible 100” (Sue Ablett)
Thursday 27th June
Schools Spelling Bee
The De Montfort School played host today to a Spelling Bee, with pupils from year 5 and 6 from a number of local schools taking part. Evesham Festival of Words sponsored the event with prizes and refreshments. The Spelling Bee will hopefully become an annual event in memory of ‘The Evesham Poet’, Mike Edwards, who died last year. Mike was a great exponent of Asum grammar and pupils were given a taste of a few Asum words. The standard of spelling was fantastic. Well done to everyone who took part. They should all wear their Spelling Bee badges with pride!
Whole of June
It's All There in Black and White
For the third year running, members of Birlingham Photography Club put on an exhibition of members’ photos. With a theme for 2019 of ‘It’s all there in black and white‘, the exhibition was a new take on old films with a collection of monochrome photographic images showcasing a world of black and white cinematography. The photos were on display for the whole of June in the Circle Bar of Evesham’s iconic Regal Cinema. A huge thank you to Sue and Ian Wiper and all at the Regal for allowing us to exhibit at The Regal, and well done to organiser Angela Fitch whose photograph depicting Oliver Twist won the popular vote.
Thursday 27th June
Crime Panel, chaired by Debbie Young
Everybody loves a crime novel. In this new event for Evesham Festival of Words, Debbie Young, popular local crime writer of the Sophie Sayers series, and founder of the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival, chatted with a panel of experienced and very different crime writers. David Penny, author of historical thrillers, sets his stories in Moorish Spain at the end of the 15th century; Angela Buckley writes about real-life Victorian crime. Her life of crime began with her own shady ancestors who struggled to survive in the dangerous slums of Victorian Manchester. Barry Faulkner, best-selling author of the DCS Palmer Detective books, was born into a family of petty criminals, his father, uncle and elder brothers running with the notorious Richardson gang in the 1980s. Barry did not follow the family tradition but the characters he met and the events he witnessed have added a certain authenticity to his books.
Friday 28th June
Workshop 'Introduction to Playwriting: Finding Your Voice, with Caroline Summerfield
If you have a story to tell and love theatre, TV, film or radio plays, then this was the workshop for you. Designed to be interactive, fun and informative, this workshop introduced attendees to: The key structural elements in a play; and a series of practical exercises – The Interview – Establishing Character; The Witness – The art of story telling; A Game of Consequences – Creating dramatic dialogue, and A journey through my senses – Pushing the boundaries of your writing. Through these practical exercises those present started to learn how plays are structured, create interesting stories, characters, dialogue and discover your voice as a writer.
Friday 28th June
A Globetrotter's A-Z
By popular demand, Festival Chair, Sue Ablett, returned for another of her illustrated travel talks with a literary twist, this time with ‘A Globetrotter’s A – Z’ , featuring some of Sue’s favourite, or most interesting, or disastrous, destinations of her many and varied travels. Sue is a passionate traveller and an equally enthusiastic speaker. Always fun and fascinating.
“Another great talk, may be the best one yet” (Anne Albright)
“Well that talk has made me add a few new places to my ‘must visit’ list.” (Nicola Kendall)
Friday 28th June
Flawed Characters: Real-life Issues
With author, Kate Hewitt. From high concept, heart-wrenching dramas to cosy village sagas, whatever the genre Kate enjoys writing emotionally compelling stories peopled with flawed characters who struggle with real life issues. She got her start writing short stories for magazines, then moved on to writing romance for Mills & Boon. As a mum of five children, and the wife of a former vicar, Kate is often asked how she manages to write as many books as she does.
“Enjoyed this session and love Kate’s books. She’s right, we are all flawed in some way!” (Sue Ablett)
Friday 28th June
The Prince Who Beat The Empire
Author, Moin Mir, has written extensively on 19th century India and empire. His latest book, ‘The Prince who beat the Empire: How an Indian ruler took on the might of the East India Company’, traces the true and untold story of an Indian prince’s epic quest for justice against the might of the Empire in Victorian England. Having been unjustly stripped of his lands, estates and possessions by the English East India Company, the Prince of Surat twice travelled to England to expose the corruption of the colonising corporation, finding unlikely allies in Victoria and Albert, with a campaign for justice playing out in the House of Commons, and ultimately finding true love in Victorian England. Moin Mir is a direct descendent of the Prince of Surat and weaves a fascinating story.
“I was totally enthralled in this story and Moin’s presentation was brilliant. One of the very best Evesham Festival events of the last four years!” (John Dickman)
Friday 28th June
An Evening with Mike Gayle
Our main Festival weekend opening night featured popular author, Mike Gayle. Mike started his working life in London hoping to become a music journalist. This didn’t happen and he ended up as an agony uncle for teenage girls’ magazine, Bliss, before becoming features editor on the now much missed Just Seventeen. Since then Mike has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan. Mike became a full-time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, My Legendary Girlfriend, hailed by The Times as a “funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic.” To date Mike is the author of twelve novels, including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty, and Turning Forty – to name but a few.
The chat with Mike was followed by the presentation of prizes to the winners of our 2019 Festival of Words Short Story Competition.
“What a wonderful character, such an enjoyable evening, and so much good advice to potential writers.”
Saturday 29th June
The Bewildering Business of Book Covers
In this fast-paced session, best-selling novelist, Martin Davies, talked about book covers old and new, and about his own personal joys and frustrations in discovering how a book gets its cover. Funny, furious and highly visual, this session was a must for anyone who has ever judged a book by its cover!
Martin’s writing career got off to a rocky start at primary school where his creative writing was considered so bad he was put on the equivalent of the writing naughty step! After a while, things picked up! Martin’s first novel was published in 2004 (in Dutch bizarrely), and he is currently working on his eighth novel. Most of his work is based on historical fact and true stories. The Conjuror’s Bird, his first UK novel, was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and sold over 150,000 copies. Havana Sleeping, an espionage thriller, was shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Historical Dagger Award. He is also author of the Holmes & Hudson Series, about Sherlock Holmes’ housekeeper.
Saturday 29th June
Dorothy Parker - Men, Misery and Mirth
Dorothy Parker was an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist based in New York; she was best known for her wit and wisecracks. Her one-liners are legendary: “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and “I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true”, to name but two. Reading from her works, Linda Hart’s one-woman performance revealed Dorothy’s fascinating life, her struggle with depression, masked by her biting wit; her career as a drama critic and book reviewer, and her involvement in politics.
“I learnt a lot about Dorothy Parker in this session, and I particularly liked the way the biographical elements were interspersed with readings.”
Saturday 29th June
Workshop 'Kickstarting Your Novel' with Martin Davies
Martin Davies ‘s workshops are fun, very fast moving and quite light-hearted, but address serious issues and hopefully sent people on their way eager to put pen to paper. This Workshop, Kickstarting Your Novel, was less about the craft of writing but more about overcoming all the obstacles that prevent people from starting their novels, or from finishing the work they’ve started but set aside. Martin coverd plotting and planning and scene setting and character development, etc, but with the emphasis always on building momentum, enthusiasm and reinvigorating the imagination.
Saturday 29th June
A E Housman: A Worcestershire Lad
AE Housman was the leading classical scholar of his day, yet he is better known as the author of A Shropshire Lad, a perfect evocation of lost love and a vanishing English landscape. It may come as a surprise to know that he was not actually born in Shropshire, but in the Worcestershire town of Bromsgrove. In this illustrated talk by Julian Hunt we heard how the poet’s view of the world was shaped by the early death of his mother, the financial failure of his father, and above all, by his hopeless attachment to a fellow student at Oxford. Julian Hunt is Editor of the Housman Society Newsletter. His father was co-founder of the Housman Society
We were delighted to present this talk as a joint event between Evesham Festival of Words and the Housman Society.
Saturday 29th June
Jane Austen at Home
Jane Austen has enduring popularity the world over. Described as a “lively and varied recital/performance, with engaging drawing-room intimacy” this one-woman show celebrated the life and mind and writings of one of our greatest novelists.
Consisting entirely of Jane Austen’s words, ‘Jane Austen at Home’ celebrates the variety and wit of her writings, with extracts from her memoirs, letters, juvenilia, poetry and novels, and takes us into the attitudes, imagination and sensations of those who lived in country houses and rectories in the early nineteenth century. The show includes much of her perceptive (often satirical) observation of the social life of English country families. The extracts also capture her warm-heartedness and affection. Although designed for country-house drawing rooms, this is an event which fitted beautifully in the lovely setting of All Saints Church. Jane Austen at Home is devised and directed by Stephen Siddall, with actress Kate Cavendish performing as Jane. This event was kindly sponsored by Richmond Villages, Wood Norton.
Sunday 30th June
'Calligraphy Workshop' with Josie Brown
For anyone fascinated by the beauty of calligraphy and who may have just given it a little go, or a complete novice, this was the perfect Workshop. It was a chance to learn the art of using the dip pen and complete a small project, using the popular Mouse Roman script.
Josie Brown is a professional calligrapher and heraldic artist, carrying out commissions for the private, academic and military sectors. Teaching has always been an important feature of Josie’s work – teaching in several curriculum areas as well as calligraphy.
“This was a great taster session, can’t believe how difficult it was but very proud of my bookmark. Can’t wait to do more.” (Sue Ablett)
Sunday 30th June
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities – nothing to do with Charles Dickens – was a transatlantic poetry project set up by poet, Nina Lewis, as her Laureate Legacy. It involved 47 poets from Worcester UK and Worcester USA, exchanging call and response poems. In the first half, UK poets started with live readings of their call poems sent to the USA, and then their American partner reads their response poem on video. The second half started with video call poems first followed by UK response poems.
Nina Lewis was crowned Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2017. “Being involved in poetry has changed my life, it is good to give something back. I really want to encourage people to write, read and enjoy poetry.”
Sunday 30th June
Popular Worcester-based poet, Suz Winspear, was the leader for this year’s Poetry Picnic. In her own words, Suz “writes Gothic fiction, lives in a disused church, and have a day-job in the local museum!” She was Worcestershire Poet Laureate in 2016. Usually dressed in all her Gothic finery, Suz is a fabulous performance poet, really making her poetry come to life.
The Poetry Picnic was held in the delightful setting of the Friends Meeting House. With its hidden gem of a beautiful secluded garden, this is the perfect setting for a meeting of poetry minds. There were some invited poets but also opportunities for poets to bring their own poetry, or poems that they love, or have found inspiring, written by other poets.
Sunday 30th June
Music at the Red Lion
The Red Lion is the perfect venue to while away a couple of hours, sipping a pint (or whatever takes your fancy) while listening to some great music from our very talented local musicians. Tucked away in the corner of Evesham’s Market Square, the Red Lion was first recorded as a public house in 1728. It now provides a very friendly, welcoming and informal venue, with a good range of music on offer throughout the year.
Local songster, Griff Collins, performed Songs of His Years. Whatever your age, or musical taste, there really was something to suit!
Sunday 30th June
'The Trouble with Goats and Sheep' with Joanna Cannon
‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ was the Sunday Times best-selling debut novel. Selling over 250,000 copies in the UK alone, and now published in more than 15 countries, this is the book that launched the writing career of Joanna Cannon. Since then Joanna has been on TV and radio. Her second novel, ‘Three Things about Elsie’ was published in January 2018.
As an only child of an only child, a great number of Joanna’s friends lived within the pages of a book, and she soon discovered what would become a life-long fascination with words, stories and character. Abandoning her A levels, it wasn’t until her 30’s that Joanna went back to college and subsequently qualified as a doctor. A real favourite with book clubs, this really was a very special session.
“I had a wonderful afternoon in Evesham. Look forward to coming back again with another book.” (Jo Cannon)
Sunday 30th June
Three Men in a Boat
Giles Shenton, who in 2018 wowed the audience with his performance of Old Herbaceous, returned by popular demand, with a rip roaring barrel of fun, Three Men in a Boat, with Giles playing the part of Jerome K Jerome. We joined Jerome as he recounts the hilarious story of his boating holiday along the magnificent River Thames, with his two companions and Montmorency the dog. The audience enjoyed Giles expertly taking the helm and piloting us through the ridiculous tale of men behaving badly while messing about in boats!
Three Men in a Boat is a wonderfully timeless book, and Giles Shenton is a superb performer. He has the knack of establishing an immediate rapport with the audience, and make the characters feel so real, we will feel we have known them forever. A great ending to our main Festival weekend.
“Another great performance from Giles. I feel as though I’ve travelled the length of the Thames with him.” (John Dickman)
Saturday 6th July
Workshop: 'Songwriting' with Colin PItts
Which comes first, the words or the tune? If you’ve ever wondered, then this workshop was for you.
Colin Pitts is a popular songwriter with a rapidly growing reputation. His songs are regularly sung at acoustic events across the country. He has appeared at many festivals, events, and on radio in the UK and abroad. Colin has released a total of 7 albums, including one with local poets, Sue Johnson and Bob Woodroofe. Many of his songs are inspired by, or are about, Evesham – the reason he spends so much time sitting in our local cafes!
The Songwriting Workshop provided the opportunity to try your hand at writing a song, picking up tips on writing from Colin’s long experience. The workshop was ideal for those who do not have experience, but have the desire to put that line from a notebook into a song.
Thursday 18th July
'Remembering Johnny Kingdom'
Johnny Kingdom, gravedigger, wildlife enthusiast and utterly unique television personality did more than anyone since Lorna Doone to bring the wonderful landscape and wildlife of Exmoor to millions of people. Johnny was extraordinary. With no training and little formal education, he used a video camera and an unadulterated enthusiasm to take the viewing public with him into the magical world of red deer, badger, fox and all manner of wildlife in this superb but little known corner of England. Johnny died tragically in the autumn of 2018 on land he had bought and spent more than a decade transforming into his own personal Eden.
David Parker was the man who brought Johnny to television. The two worked together for more than 15 years in a roller coaster relationship that took them to far flung parts of the Moor and latterly the world. David used clips from the more than 50 television programmes they made together and talked about how they worked and why Johnny was so brilliant at bringing us closer to the world of wildlife he himself enjoyed so much. David gave a wonderful talk in 2018 about Laurie Lee. We are delighted to have him back again in 2019.
“Another outstanding Festival event. Such a good speaker and so well presented.” (Galen Bartholomew)
Wednesday 28th August
Redcoats: celebrating 80 years of Butlins, with Mikron Theatre Company
It was a huge thrill to welcome the very popular Mikron Theatre Company to Evesham with a performance of their new show, Redcoats, a show that brought back wonderful memories for anyone who has ever been to Butlins, or for those who haven’t.
Billy Butlin used Shakespeare himself to sell a seaside dream to the great British public. Join us as Mikron delved into holiday huts, bonny babies and knobbly knees, with guest appearances from Marlene Dietrich, Gracie Fields and Laurel and Hardy. Mikron’s radiant Redcoats guided the audience through 80 years of Butlins splendour, with their trademark mix of fun, pathos and songs.
“Such talent and a wonderful script. Made me think I must go and stay at Butlins! Really hope we can have Mikron back again next year. A fantastic addition to the Festival programme.” (Sue Ablett)
Completed events 2019
Here are some events you may have missed in 2019.