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The 10th Hexham Book Festival opens for business

Authors and publishers will be heading for Hexham in the coming days to entertain and educate about the literary world

Chris Watt Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith

On Monday (April 20) the Tyne Valley will be welcoming Kev F Sutherland, comic artist, comedian and trailblazer whose work has appeared in The Beano and Marvel Comics.

Why trailblazer? Because the Scot is the first of many star attractions at this year’s 10th Hexham Book Festival.

He will be hosting a Fentimans-sponsored cartoon workshop at the Queen’s Hall between 7pm and 9pm. Participants – aged 13 plus – are promised their own comic to take home and a caricature by Kev himself.

The local drinks company has also put its weight behind other festival workshops this week.

On Thursday Prue Phillipson will explain The Art of Historical Novel Writing and on Saturday you can hear Berwick author Bea Davenport sharing tips about fiction writing and Sarah Leipciger (her debut novel The Mountain Can Wait is on the way) and commissioning editor Mary-Anne Harrington (Tinder Press) explain how to get noticed in the publishing jungle.

CALLUM BENNETTS - MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY Prof Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-religious studies at the University of Edinburgh
Prof Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-religious studies at the University of Edinburgh

Plenty of those who succeeded in getting noticed are heading for Hexham in the coming days.

But not all who get to hear celebrated author Alexander McCall Smith at Hexham Abbey on April 28 will be able to see him perfectly.

Such was the popularity of his event that 80 more ‘restricted view’ seats were made available at the weekend. The tickets, priced accordingly, are available only at the Queen’s Hall box office (tel. 01434 652477) and not online.

McCall Smith, of course, is a huge festival attraction with his many popular titles including his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, his 44 Scotland Street series and his Sunday Philosophy Club series – to say nothing of his brilliant children’s books.

Poet Simon Armitage
Poet Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage, one of our most brilliant and inventive poets, will take to the Queen’s Hall stage on Tuesday to talk about the 25 years’ work encapsulated in Selected Poems 1989-2014.

Armitage has always been a great supporter of North East writers and many will recall him walking the Pennine Way, stopping off to do poetry readings along the way. It provided the material for a best-selling memoir.

A satellite venue, The Hearth at Horsley, will play host on Wednesday to Julian Spalding, the art critic, writer, broadcaster and museum director.

In a talk called Realisation: from Seeing to Understanding – The Origins of Art he will suggest ways in which our modern world view is shaped by the attitudes of our distant ancestors.

The festival boasts author talks aplenty but there are lots of quirky events for readers who enjoy something a bit different.

Harry Pearson
Harry Pearson

Harry Pearson, as well as being a highly entertaining writer, is a famous purveyor of quirkiness. On May 4 – jumping ahead a bit here – there will be a screening at the Forum Cinema of The Claim, the British western with a screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce and loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor Casterbridge (which happens to be this year’s festival read).

After the screening, Harry will share some thoughts about the film and his enthusiasm for westerns.

He has just written one himself. Blizzard Justice is described as “a ripping western yarn with blazing six-shooters, black-hearted outlaws and lone men seeking redemption on the wild frontier”. If there’s not a laugh in there somewhere I’ll be very surprised.

Harry, incidentally, is writer-in-residence at Hexham Abbey until April 25 as part of a festival 0th anniversary scheme supported by Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council.

Also look out for Michael Chaplin at Nine Banks and, from May 1, Will Atkins in Blanchland.

In the meantime, check the festival programme and website – www.hexhambookfestival.co.uk – for lots of bookish goodies coming our way fast.


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