The 10th Aldeburgh Literary Festival 2011

The Tenth Aldeburgh Literary Festival

Friday 4th – Sunday 6th March 2011


Friday 4th March


10.00 am – 11.00 am                        Robin Hanbury-Tenison


Robin Hanbury-Tenison has been described as the greatest explorer of his generation.  He has led many expeditions into some of the most remote and dangerous regions on earth.   He was the first to cross South America at its widest point whilst still a very young man, and his accounts of his adventures in the deserts and jungles of Africa and the Far East are exciting, and occasionally hilarious.


As a conservationist, his work has been hugely influential: concern for the threatened tribal peoples of the rainforests led him to help found Survival International; and he led the Royal Geographical Society’s largest expedition of 140 scientists to study the rainforests of Sarawak.  Hanbury-Tenison is a Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society and an International Fellow of the Explorers Club.  His talk will cover both his own experiences, and those of others whose stories are told in his fascinating new book The Great Explorers.



12.30 pm – 1.30 pm            Event at The Aldeburgh Cinema

Three Authors - Three books:


Paul Bailey on his new novel, Chapman’s Odyssey           


Paul Bailey will be talking about his latest and long-awaited novel Chapman’s Odyssey.  The book tells the story of the hospital-bound Harry Chapman who hears voices from a diverse range of people including his parents, Babar and Celeste, and Pip from Great Expectations.


Paul Bailey has won many awards in different fields of literature.  His essay ‘The Limitations of Despair’ won the George Orwell Memorial Prize in 1978, and his novel, At the Jerusalem, received the Somerset Maugham Award as well as an Arts Council Award for the best novel published between 1963 and 1967.  Two of his later novels were short-listed for the Booker.  He reviews for the Guardian and the TLS and his journalism is widely published.  He has written plays for radio and television.



Andrew Barrow on Animal Magic, a memoir of his brother Jonathan.  


This is a book unlike any other.  It's a wonderfully original memoir, an account of two brothers and the exhilarating private world they invented.  Three days before his wedding, Andrew’s brother Jonathan died in a car crash aged 22 with his girlfriend.  There was no time to send out new invitations, so the wedding guest list became the funeral guest list.  Eerily, Jonathan had predicted his own death having written an account of just such a crash in his—until now—unpublished novel, The Queue.  Animal Magic is about jokes and brothers and grief; it's about love and death and how much, and how little you can ever know someone else.  Like all the best autobiographies, it is also about the need to remember. Offbeat, obsessive, and often very funny.  Andrew Barrow is a writer and journalist, who regularly contributes to the pages of the Independent, The Daily Telegraph and the Spectator.  He is also the author of two novels, The Tap Dancer and The Man in the Moon, and a biography of two great English eccentrics: Quentin Crisp and Philip O'Connor. 


Frances Welch on The Russian Court at Sea: The Voyage of HMS Marlborough, April 1919.


On 11th April 1919 less than a year after the assassination of the Romanovs the British battleship the HMS Marlborough left Yalta carrying 20 members of the Russian Imperial Family into exile.  Passengers included the Tsar’s mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, and his sister, the Grand Duchess Xenia, Grand Duke Nicholas, the former Commander-in Chief of the Russian armies, as well as Felix Youssupov, the murderer of Rasputin.  As the ship prepared to sail a British sloop carrying 170 White Russian soldiers drew along side.  The soldiers stood on deck and sang the Russian national anthem: the last time the anthem was sung to members of the Royal family on Russian soil for 70 years. The journalist and author Frances Welch will be talking about this her latest book, which recreates this unlikely voyage.  As well as its bizarre assortment of warring characters, the ship carried a priceless cargo of treasures including rolled-up Rembrandts and Faberge eggs.





3.30 pm – 4.30 pm                        Mary Chamberlain and Carmen Callil               Fenwomen: a Portrait of Women in an English Village


Mary Chamberlain will be discussing her book, Fenwomen, with Carmen Callil. Fenwomen was Virago’s very first publication in 1975, so we are pleased that we have Carmen Callil, founder of Virago, here to interview Mary Chamberlain. An oral  classic history, Fenwomen has just been reprinted in a fine new edition by Full Circle Editions with a new introduction by Mary Chamberlain. Chamberlain has revisited the East Anglian village that she described so movingly 35 years ago.  The book also includes a new photographic essay by Justin Partyka (see exhibition at The Aldeburgh Cinema during the Festival).


These are the unspoken stories of the women of the countryside.  Told primarily through interviews with the women of the East Anglian village of Gislea, these are heartbreaking, enthralling tales of back-breaking work, desperate poverty, generation-long prejudices, and familial warmth.


Mary Chamberlain is now Emeritus Professor of Caribbean History at Oxford Brookes University.  Since 1975, she has worked with oral history and life story methods, and has published widely on these, on women’s history and since 1991, on Caribbean history, notably on migration and diasporic families.




Exhibition at The Aldeburgh Cinema Gallery

Justin Partyka


This exhibition of  photographs commissioned for the new edition of Fenwomen will be on display throughout the weekend at The Aldeburgh Cinema Gallery.


Justin Partyka is a photographer currently based in Norfolk.  He has made a particular study of the agrarian landscapes and communities of East Anglia. His photographs were included in the exhibition of British Landscape Art, “A Picture of Britain”, at the Tate gallery in London, 2005.  Since then they have appeared in various publications including Granta, and featured as a major solo exhibition, “The East Anglians”, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, 2009.





5.00 pm – 6.00 pm                        Susannah Fiennes                        The Language of Painting: Looking at Paintings from an Artist’s Point of View             sold out


How do we look at paintings when we visit a gallery?  Susannah Fiennes challenges the traditional presentation of exhibitions, and argues that too great an emphasis is placed on history, biography and psychology, without enough consideration of the aesthetic, formal language that painters have used since the Renaissance.  Consequently, curators unintentionally deny access to a greater understanding of the artist’s intentions and many of the truths inherent in great paintings are obscured.


Susannah Fiennes graduated with a first class degree from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and has won the Boise Travel Scholarship and the BP Travel Award in 1993.  Since then, she has shown her work widely in both group and solo exhibits and taught painting.  As well as the National Portrait Gallery, London, The House of Commons, Westminster and Barings Bank, London, her work is included in the collection of HRH the Prince of Wales, whom she accompanied on a number of official foreign visits including the handover of Hong Kong in 1997.




6.30 pm – 7.30 pm                        General Lord Dannatt GCB, CBE, MC          sold out

General Lord Dannatt is one of the most respected British generals of modern times.  He retired from the British Army in August 2009 after 40 years of service.  His career began in Northern Ireland, where he won an MC, and ended as Head of the Army.  As Chief of the General Staff he publicly criticised both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s commitment to the British Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also used his position to campaign for improved pay and conditions for our armed forces, which earned him the reputation as the ‘Soldiers’ General’.  He will be talking about his new autobiography, Leading from the Front.


8.00 pm to 9 pm                         Terence Blacker and Derek Hewitson: From Prohibition to Political Correctness.

Song-writing, guitar-playing duo Terence Blacker and Derek Hewitson, who together form ‘Something Happened’, will be performing songs original and new.  This performance will be recorded at the Aldeburgh Literary Festival as part of a two-part series on politically incorrect music for Radio 4 to be broadcast in June 2011.




Saturday 5th March


10.00 am – 11.00 am                        David Reynolds: Obama’s America in the Light of History      sold out

In 2008 David Reynolds won the Voice of the Listener Award for his 90-episode history of the United States of America called Empire of Liberty.  The series was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and is a collection of essays that traced the story of America from its beginnings to the present day.  David Reynolds is Professor of International History at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of Christ’s College. He won the Wolfson Prize for History in 2004 and was created a Fellow of the British Academy in 2005.



11.30 am – 12.30 pm     Caroline Moorehead   Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution    sold out

Madame de la Tour du Pin witnessed, participated in and wrote vivid diaries detailing one of the most tumultuous periods of history. From life in the Court of Versailles, through the French Revolution, narrowly escaping the guillotine, running a farm in New England, to Napoleon’s rule, Lucie survived extraordinary times with great spirit. She described people, politics and intrigue, alongside the minutiae of everyday life.  Caroline Moorehead tells her fascinating story with a lightness of touch, bringing to life the complicated political twists and turns of this era and enabling the reader to understand what it might have been to live in France at this time.


Caroline Moorehead’s previous biographical subjects have included Iris Origo, Martha Gellhorn, Freya Stark and Bertrand Russell.  She is also a human rights campaigner and journalist, her book Human Cargo (2004) examined the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in the modern world.  Her new book, due out in September 2011, is called A Train in Winter, and is the story of 230 women of the French resistance who were sent to Auschwitz.


2.30 pm – 3.30 pm                        Bill Emmott                        Rivals: How the Power struggle between China, India and Japan will shape our next Decade    sold out

As political and economic power shifts further to the East Bill Emmott argues that our future will be dominated by the three economic Asian giants, China, India, and a newly resurgent Japan.  His latest book, Rivals, identifies the opportunities, tensions and dangers of this new world order and suggest how the West should respond.

Bill Emmott is a former editor of The Economist and now a writer on international affairs.



4.00 pm – 5.00 pm                        Selina Hastings            The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham    sold out

Somerset Maugham was one of the most famous writers in the world, yet he lived most of his life under cover.  A spy in both world wars, predominately homosexual, though married with a child, Maugham led a dramatic double life as exciting and intriguing as any of his own novels and short stories.

‘Every now and then a biography appears of such power that it is more than a chronicle of human life, it is a work of art … such is Selina Hastings’s skill that this horrible story is richly enjoyable.’  Selina Hastings has written biographies of Nancy Mitford, Rosamond Lehmann and Evelyn Waugh (winner of the Marsh Biography Prize),  She has also written a number of books for children, including a complete retelling of the Bible.            



5.30 pm – 6.30 pm                        Lionel Shriver          sold out

Lionel Shriver’s novels include the million selling winner of the 2005 Orange Prize We Need To Talk About Kevin, and the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World. Her latest novel, So Much For That, is a searing, deeply humane novel about a crumbling marriage resurrected in the face of illness, and a family’s struggle to come to terms with disease and dying.  Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages, and her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.




Sunday 6th March


10.00 am – 11.00 am                        Matt Ridley                        The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves      sold out

In 1970 the future looked bleak. Doom mongers predicted an unstoppable population explosion, cancer of epidemic proportions, the end of oil, universal famine and nuclear winter. In 2010 general prosperity has increased, infant mortality has decreased and, despite ever increasing world population, we are still able to feed ourselves.  How did we get it so wrong and what has happened to defy the merchants of doom?  In his bold new book, The Rational Optimist, science writer Matt Ridley, author of Genome, The Red Queen and Nature via Nurture, explains why humanity has progressed, covering the entire sweep of human history from the Stone Age to the internet.


11.30 am – 1.00 pm            Craig Brown with Eleanor Bron  The Lost Diaries  sold out

Craig Brown is Britain’s funniest and cleverest satirist.  He will discuss the art of parody and, together with Eleanor Bron, will perform extracts from The Lost Diaries, his new collection of parodies of the rich and famous.  No public figure is safe, from Heather Mills McCartney, Nigella Lawson, and the Duchess of Devonshire to Tony Blair, Harold Pinter and Barack Obama.  


2.30 pm – 3.30 pm                        William Nicholson on The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life  sold out


William Nicholson’s writing career is impressive and varied.  His first play, Shadowlands, based on the relationship between C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, won awards on television and stage in the West End and on Broadway.  His screenplay for the acclaimed film version in 1993, starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, directed by Richard Attenborough, was nominated for an Oscar.  Nicholson worked as co-writer on the epic film Gladiator in 2000, for which he received a second Oscar nomination.  He has also written for children, including the hugely successful teenage series, The Wind on Fire, the first of which, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award. 


His subtle and brilliant novel, The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life, asks the question how can we really know what others are thinking?  Over six short days we watch a dozen lives collide and transform each other, without any of the protagonists realising the true impact of their words and actions.  These are ordinary people, getting on with unremarkable lives.  But for each one their life is a passionate drama in which they take the lead part.  The sequel, All the Hopeful Lovers, was published in 2010.



4.00 – 5.00 pm                        A. N. Wilson and Paul Bailey: A Tribute to Beryl Bainbridge


Beryl Bainbridge was one of the greatest writers of her generation. She was the author of 17 remarkable novels including The Birthday Boys (1991), based on Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic, and According to Queeney (2001), about the friendship between Samuel Johnson and Mrs Thrale. She had just finished The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress when she died.  Beryl Bainbridge won the Whitbread Prize for best novel in 1977 and 1996 and was nominated five times for the Booker Prize.  She was made a Dame in 2000.  Friends and fellow writers, Paul Bailey and A.N. Wilson.


Paul Bailey has won many awards in different fields of literature.  His essay ‘The Limitations of Despair’ won the George Orwell Memorial Prize in 1978, and his novel, At the Jerusalem, received the Somerset Maugham Award as well as an Arts Council Award for the best novel published between 1963 and 1967.  Two of his later novels were short-listed for the Booker.  He reviews for the Guardian and the TLS and his journalism is widely published.  His latest book, Chapman’s Odyssey, has just been published by Bloomsbury (see Event 2 at the Aldeburgh Cinema on Friday).


A. N. Wilson is a celebrated novelist, an award-winning biographer and historian, a prominent journalist and commentator.  His biographical subjects include Jesus, C.S. Lewis, Sir Walter Scott, Betjeman and Milton and his much-anticipated life of Dante will be published in June 2011.  His most recent novel, Winnie and Wolf, was short-listed for the Booker Prize




If you would like to add your name to the mailing list, please contact us here.



© Aldeburgh Bookshop    T: +44 (0) 1728 452389    42 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5AB, England    
Site Map