Completed events 2017
Saturday 3rd December 2016
'Open the Book'
Six local writers and six intriguing stories! With stories ranging from regency to crime and all things in between, and a drink and a mince pie, this was a great afternoon, and it was free! This was a taster session in Evesham Library, which has been followed up from January, with Second Friday Stories. Bring a group of creative folk together and creative ideas flow.
Friday 19th May
'A Cartoon History of Here' with Ian McMillan and Luke Carver Goss
Ian McMillan and Luke Carver Goss brought the house down with laughter when they entertained their audience with their witty collection of impromptu poetry and song at Evesham Town Hall on Friday 19th May – our first major fringe event. Ian, a poet with a repertoire second to none and Luke, an accomplished musician, with a fantastic ability to set to music Ian’s wonderful words, and all in an instant, wowed their audience with poetry-based songs about a wide array of observations on life. One of the highlights has to be when the Chair of Wychavon DC, Cllr Liz Eyre, played the part of one of Evesham’s most remembered Mayors, Henry Workman. You needed to be there to see it!
“A brilliant night – I haven’t laughed so much in years!”
Tuesday 23rd May
Great Big Poetry Read
Poetry lovers – this was the afternoon for you. With 13 poets from Cheltenham, Pershore, Winchcombe, Evesham and local area assembled in Evesham Library, we were treated to a real mix of poems – some that rhymed, some that didn’t; funny, poignant, evocative; some that recalled childhood memories (the fish and chip van, chimney sweeps), and two that seemed to focus on chickens!
Tuesday 6th June
Friday 16th June
'Beyond all Doubt ' - A Literary Walk
On a beautiful summer’s evening, author Paige Elizabeth Turner (aka Nigel Barnard) escorted a group around some of the sites that feature in his Evesham based crime novel, ‘Beyond all Doubt’. We saw where murder was committed, investigations carried out, and clues found – with readings of excerpts from the book at key points on the walk.
“A nice way to spend an evening. I’ll never look at some of those places in the same way again!”
Friday 16th June
Festival Bookshop Launch
A packed house gathered in the Almonry for the launch of the Festival Bookshop. It was a real treat to have the chance to listen to so many great authors, representing a range of genres and subject types – crime, regency, cryonics, children and some funny poems. Authors reading were Andrea Darby, Sue Johnson, Tom Bryson, James Bacon, Hilary Orme and Paige Elizabeth Turner (aka Nigel Barnard). We were delighted to have a number of children from Pershore Young Writers present and reading their works – a huge amount of local talent! The Bookshop runs for a month until 15th July, featuring a fantastic range of books – there really is something for everyone.
“I keep saying I won’t be buying any more books for a while, and then I discover yet another new author. You can never have too many books!”
Tuesday 20th June
'The Word Detective' with John Simpson
A packed house enjoyed a lovely lunch in the wonderful setting of Holland House, Cropthorne, followed by a fascinating talk ‘The Word Detective’ by former Oxford English Dictionary Chief Editor, John Simpson. Published in October 2016, ‘The Word Detective’ is described by one critic as “surprisingly moving. John Simpson’s quiet devotion to his daily task, handling words with calmness and devotion, even love, is an inspiration.”
“We explored the origins of dictionaries, qualities of dictionary editors, the process of compiling a dictionary, and finally the online version of OED. Absolutely fascinating talk!”
Sunday 25th June
'Half Him Half Her' with Philip Douch and Suzie Latham
Raphaels Restaurant may not have been finished after its recent fire, but it didn’t stop a good crowd enjoying a warm and welcoming evening of readings and music in the company of Stroud-based writer and actor, Philip Douch, with singer songwriter, Suzie Latham. Philip won the Gloucestershire Writers Network Short Story Prize in 2015 and has performed at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. He and Suzie regularly perform together, with a mixture of Philip’s fun short stories and relaxed musical interludes by Suzie.
“It was a fantastic programme with Philip’s wonderfully expressive poems and stories, performed brilliantly, and the haunting lyrics of Suzie’s songs, sung beautifully. Raphaels did us proud, getting the venue as ready as could be, and laying on a lovely buffet.”
Thursday 29th June
Book Quiz Night
A record 11 teams battled it out this year to be quiz champions. We had some good local rivalry with Evesham U3A fielding 2 teams, and the Almonry, Tour Guides and Hampton WI all putting in a team. Quizmaster, Helen Yendall, and her team, did a great job again in organising the Quiz, as did Sue with the raffle. Special thanks to Diana and Robbie Raphael who accommodated us despite the cafe still not being quite finished.
“A great evening even if we came away feeling we didn’t know very much! Good fun and a great start to the Festival. Look forward to next year!”
Friday 30th June
'A World of Words' with Festival Chair Sue Ablett
Following on from her sell-out talk in 2016, and based on her travels to far-flung places, and passion for books and words, Sue Ablett again took her audience on a fascinating and highly unusual linguistic voyage around the world. If you’d wanted to know why they speak Welsh in Patagonia or the origins of the word kangaroo, then you should have been here! Great home-made cakes on offer too!
“Another brilliant talk – fun, educational and so interesting. And lots of humour!”
“Brilliant. I’m still trying to work out how to drop the word ‘coddiwomple’ into conversation!”
Friday 30th June
Workshop 'Writing Short Stories' with Alexa Radcliffe-Hart
Alexa Radcliffe-Hart is a short story writer, whose work featured in the inaugural Liquorice Fish anthology, Lost Voices, among others. Alongside writing, she works in marketing and as an editor for a variety of literary organisations
Alexa’s short story workshop was a focused hands-on course designed to allow the group to develop their short story skills, with guidance to uncover new characters and situations to explore within the short form.
“Excellent and inspirational workshop in the beautiful and peaceful setting of The Evesham Hotel.”
Friday 30th June
'The Healing Power of Poetry' with Rachel Kelly
Rachel is a former Times journalist, a poet, public speaker, mental health campaigner, and workshop organiser. Poetry was one of the key protagonists of her memoir ‘Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me’, which won the Spear’s Best First Book Award and was recently published in the US. She also touches on the healing power of the written word in her new book ‘Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness’. Rachel was winner of the 2016 Festival Plant a Word competition with her word ‘eggshelly’, meaning feeling fragile, thin-skinned as if one might easily break.
Rachel spoke very openly about her battles with depression, and how poetry being literally dripped at her, line by line, slowly made a difference. Still today, it is poetry she seeks in the middle of a sleepless night.
“A wonderfully passionate and engaging speaker. She touched everyone in the audience and got us all thinking about what we do to keep body and soul healthy and on an even keel.”
Friday 30th June
'A Very Modern Romance' with Phillipa Ashley
Phillipa just loves writing feel good romantic fiction. In this session she talked about her experience of writing best-selling romantic fiction in the digital age. She is author of the best selling Cornish Café series. Book 1 – ‘Summer at the Cornish Café’ was a 2016 summer best seller, and the sequel ‘Christmas at the Cornish Café’ is available from 13th October. Both books are described as “comforting reads with lots of twists and turns”.
In 2016 Phillipa celebrated a decade since her debut novel, ‘Decent Exposure’ was published. It was made into a Lifetime TV movie, called ’12 Men of Christmas’. As ‘Pippa Croft‘ she also wrote the steamy Oxford Blue series published by Penguin.
“A really interesting session, with lots of useful experiences and tips.”
Friday 30th June
'An Evening with Prue Leith'
Prue is familiar to all for her varied roles as cook, restaurateur, food writer, business woman and now a very successful novelist. Her latest novel ‘The Prodigal Daughter’, the second book in the ‘Food of Love’ trilogy, was published by Quercus in September 2016. Prue’s talk, with Cotswold & Vale Magazine Editor, Lynne Powell, was followed by presentation of prizes to the 2017 Festival of Words Short Story Competition winners: Ali Bacon (adult winner) and Iona Mandal (junior – 8-11 – category). (Charvi Jain, winner in the 12 – 15 junior category was not present.)
“A fabulous evening – so interesting to hear about Prue’s wonderfully varied life, and how she moved into novel writing.
“Evesham’s Town Hall is a wonderful venue and perfect for the Festival Highlight evening.”
“What a wonderful evening – so well organised and everyone was so friendly.”
Saturday 1st July
'Fun for Children'
Evesham Library was taken over for a series of free events for children, making a full fun-packed, enjoyable and educational day.
In the morning legendary Romany storyteller, and writer of stories for children, Richard O’Neill, ran two sessions. With skills learned around the campfire as a child of a traveller family, Richard regularly tells his stories to groups ranging from nursery schools to university students. Presented with a ‘National Literacy Hero‘ award by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Richard enthused and inspired children and adults alike, leaving everyone positively buzzing!
In the afternoon we had two sessions with another equally dynamic storyteller, Gavin Young. Originally from South Africa, Gavin is best described as a writer, storyteller, performance poet and compere. He is also a bit of a stone troll! Fascinated with rocks and crystals of every kind, seeing them in much the same way as he sees people: as each owning a wonderfully unique story.
“Both Richard and Gavin were truly inspirational. They kept the children spellbound and that’s a pretty big achievement.”
Saturday 1st July
'A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity' with Trish Nicholson
We were delighted that New Zealand-based author, Trish Nicholson, social anthropologist and writer (most recently of travel memoirs and short stories) visited Evesham Festival as part of a UK book launch tour, with a talk entitled ‘Story-power and why we need it to survive.’ In her new book, ‘A Biography of Story, a Brief History of Humanity’,Trish brings a unique interweaving of literature and history seen through the eyes of storytellers, making a fascinating journey for general readers and students alike.
“A fascinating talk – interesting to consider how the art of story telling has evolved over the centuries. And who knew that Jack and the Beanstalk goes back 3,000 years?!”
Saturday 1st July
'Real Life: Real Drama' with Susan Lewis
We were thrilled to welcome Sunday Times best-selling author, Susan Lewis, to Evesham. Susan started writing fiction while a production assistant for Thames Television. Thirty-seven novels later, Susan is one of the UK’s bestselling fiction writers, renowned for her gripping, heartfelt and meticulously researched novels, which explore how ordinary people cope in extraordinary situations. She has also written two moving memoirs about her childhood in Bristol. Susan’s latest novel, You Said Forever, was published on 9th February 2017. In this session she enjoyed a chat with local author, Alison May.
“This was a lovely intimate session, and a real chance to learn a lot about how Susan writes, the inspiration for her many books, and about her fascinating personal life! She was utterly delightful.”
Saturday 1st July
'More Asum Grammar' with Will and John Dallimore
Back by popular demand, and returning to the Red Lion Pub, the Dallimore brothers (Will and John) again shared their knowledge of, and love for, the local Asum grammar. Always a popular event, John and Will never fail to amuse.
“Great fun as always. They really do love the chance to ‘speak Asum’!”
Saturday 1st July
'Open Mic' event
The Red Lion hosted this year’s Open Mic event. With the line up of presenters coordinated by Sue Johnson, and the event compered by the flamboyant former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Fergus McGonigal, this was a great opportunity for poets and authors to stand up and present their work.
“The Red Lion worked really well, a great atmosphere, and Sue and Fergus worked really well together. Really good fun!”
Saturday 1st July
'An Afternoon with Hanna-h'
Talented singer songwriter, Hanna Knight and musician, Tim Haines, who together make up Hanna-h, are well known on the local music scene. Their first album, Atelophobia, is described as “a collection of musings that journey through the emotions of life and love.” Several seemed to focus on Hanna’s unfortunate choice of men, but one was a lovely tribute to her much loved grandmother, Doris. Their songs tell a story – you have to hear them to understand. Watch out for their second album – its work in progress!
“I really love their songs, and its great to hear them performed live. The Red Lion was a lovely intimate venue. Look forward to seeing them again!”
Saturday 1st July
'Let the Music Speak'
A wonderful concert of music and words, featuring internationally renowned classical pianist, Marcel Zidani, and the choir Mums Aloud, with soloists Sally and Paul Tapley, under the direction of Jenny Newbury. Festival Patron, and TV and radio presenter, Michael Collie, added great enthusiasm as he compered the evening and read some of his favourite AE Houseman poems. Music from Marcel included Chopin Etudes, and his own award-winning piece, The Clock. A truly unique evening in the beautiful setting of All Saints Church, once again allowing us to explore and savour the use of words in all their forms.
“Marcel’s playing was sublime as always. The singing from Mums Aloud and the soloists was beautiful. And Michael Collie brought such enthusiasm to the evening. Fabulous!”
Sunday 2nd July
Once again led by well known local poet, Polly Stretton, and starting and finishing at the Almonry, the Poetry Walk visited a range of beautiful locations in Abbey Park. The settings were stunning and we had a good crowd, with many folk back for the second year running. The weather was perfect, and the Walk was followed by an hour of readings in the beautiful and tranquil setting of the Almonry Garden.
Sunday 2nd July
'A Summer Serenade'
In partnership with Evesham and District Music Club, and set in the beautiful surroundings of Springhill Barn, Fladbury, this popular annual event is a real treat. The wonderful accoustics were the perfect setting for the music of the Michael Bochmann String Trio, with young string players and, for the ‘words’ input, some lovely poetry recitals. The interlude always provides time for relaxation in the beautiful grounds, a stroll round the lake, or a leisurely picnic.
“No better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Just glorious!”
Sunday 2nd and Sunday 9th July
'Writing Short Stories for Women's Magazines'
Helen Yendall is a creative writing tutor, who has had over 100 stories published in women’s magazines. She was the winner of the People’s Friend serial writing competition in 2015. Such was the popularity of Helen and this topic that the sell out event was repeated for a second group. The workshop focussed on what a short story is, and isn’t, and how best to sell it. The Almonry proved an ideal venue.
“The workshop really did live up to the description in the Brochure – fun and hands-on, and it did leave me buzzing with ideas and inspiration!”
Sunday 2nd July
Festival Finale - 'The Odditorium'
Co-authors, David Bramwell and Jo Keeling, together with contributor, John Higgs, presented a wonderful selection of the tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors whose obsessions changed the world. Forty eight of these amazing characters feature in their book ‘The Odditorium’. BBC Breakfast Show host, Chris Evans, read the book and was totally hooked and the book proved so popular that a reprint was required only weeks after it was first released.
“A fascinating range of characters. Who could ever dream up the idea of posting yourself in the mail?”
“David Bramwell really is a fabulous storyteller. Can’t wait to lose myself in the book.”
Tuesday 4th July
'Teens Tackle Shakespeare'
On a gloriously summer’s evening, a packed house gathered in the Almonry Garden to enjoy this unique addition to the Festival of Words programme. Following on from their performance last year at the RSC, The Festival Players, directed by Eric Jones, brought together a group of teenagers, who love acting, for an evening of monologues, excerpts from major works, and musical interludes. These youngsters just love rehearsing some of the extraordinary characters from Shakespeare and others.
“A perfect way to spend a summer’s evening.”
“The teenagers so obviously enjoyed themselves, as did the audience. Eric deserved to be very proud!”
Friday 23rd June to Friday 7th July
'A Picture Paints a Thousand Words'
New to the Festival programme, members of Birlingham Photography Club presented an exhibition of stunning photographs in the lovely surroundings of Word of Mouth Cafe. All the photos had a story to tell, reinforcing the message that ‘a picture paints a thousand words.’
“Lovely to enjoy a cuppa and some home-made cake, while browsing these lovely photos. Couldn’t resist buying a couple!”
Monday 19th June - Saturday 8th July
For a period of three weeks, Evesham Library hosted True Tales, which presented an inspirational contemporary installation based on the true stories from the people of Evesham, young and old, on the theme of new beginnings and change. Curated by artist, Caroline Tredwell, with stories gathered by Rhubarb Rhubarb Creatives. A unique experience!
Thanks to Garage Arts, The De Montfort School, Blackminster Middle School, Ferry View and the participants from Eastern Europe.
“Beautifully done and quite thought provoking. Enjoyed listening to some of the stories.”
Tuesday 22nd August
'Maxwell Knight - MI5's Greatest Spymaster'
Everybody loves a spy story! Not everyone may have heard of Maxwell Knight. In a gripping 40 minute talk, Henry Hemming told the tale of two remarkable female spies and the man who ran them: an animal-loving drop-out who went on to become MI5’s greatest spymaster. Henry’s book is the first biography of Maxwell Knight in over thirty years, and draws on a wealth of material released by MI5 as well as previously unpublished material. Henry is a great speaker, with rave reviews from performances at other festivals – this was always bound to be a fascinating evening.
“This was a brilliant talk with a really outstanding speaker – he held the audience spellbound. Hopefully Henry will be back in Evesham when his next book comes out. A real festival highlight!”
“Thanks you for making the event such a fun evening. I can’t wait to be back in Evesham when my next book comes out.” (Henry Hemming)
Friday 22nd September
'Died Blondes, and Navy Knickers and Nicked TVs'
In the intimate setting of Raphael’s Restaurant, performers Joan Ellis and Donna Jones entertained an enthralled audience. Joan’s interpretation of the last words of the two died blondes, Ruth Ellis and Marilyn Monroe, was mesmerising. “Infamous women, famous last words!” In the second half Joan and Donna joined forces for comedy, poetry, bouncing off each other – wonderfully funny, but also very poignant at times.
“A wonderful evening, one that fitted so perfectly with a Festival of Words.’
“The evening at Raphaels showed your brilliant talent for achieving a programme for the Festival of Words, of the unusual, with experienced performers, and set in the perfect venue.”
Monday 23rd October
'Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting'
Lunch in the delightful surroundings of Holland House was followed by a fascinating talk by Professor Martin Kemp, who uncovered the true story of the Mona Lisa with a wealth of previously undiscovered revelations about the people behind the portrait, how Leonardo painted it, and what it meant to him. Martin Kemp is Emeritus Professor in the History of Art at Trinity College, Oxford University, and is one of the world’s leading authorities on Leonardo da Vinci.
‘Fascinating talk – Martin surely knows everything there is to know about Leonardo! Made us look at the picture in a new light.’
Friday 17th November 2017
'Create a Great Story Workshop' with Sue Johnson
A very eager group of writers gathered for Sue Johnson’s workshop ‘Create a great story’. Ideas flowed, hints were gathered, and the home-made chocolate cake went down a treat! The profits from this workshop and the repeat on 24th November are being split 50:50 between the Festival and the Almonry. Thanks to Sue!
“A great morning – lots of good tips, plenty of encouragement, and just beginning to believe that I might be able to write fiction!” (Sue Ablett)
Saturday 9th December
Around 20 local authors took over the Almonry on Saturday for the first ever Evesham Festival of Words Bookfest. With talks, readings and mini-workshops there really was something on the programme for everyone. Great networking opportunities, and the complimentary tea and home-made cakes certainly kept the conversations going.
Thursday 21st December 2017
'Christmas at the Almonry'
A packed house at the Almonry saw the return of Musyck Anon for another Christmas concert. This time they were joined by Cambridge-based Geoff Hales, who performed a wonderful range of Christmas themed readings from Thomas Hardy, Kenneth Grahame, Rudyard Kipling and Dickens, as well as one or two of his own. A fabulous evening and a fitting end to an amazing series of fringe events.
Quite a number of folk rose to the challenge of sorting out the answers to the first Festival of Words Christmas Quiz. Congratulations to Claire Costello who not only got all the answers, but was the first person to be drawn out of the hat.