The 11th Aldeburgh Literary Festival 2012

The 11th Aldeburgh Literary Festival took place earlier in March this year 2012.

Full copy of the programme attached here:


The 11th Aldeburgh Literary Festival

9th – 11th March 2012


Friday 9th March


The Aldeburgh Cinema


Event 1.         10.00 am at The Aldeburgh Cinema


UEA Biography and Creative Non Fiction: Kathryn Hughes and William Fiennes


Biography is currently undergoing rapid change and reassessment. Instead of the ‘cradle to grave’ narrative, writers are experimenting with new forms and subjects.  Two biographers will discuss the process of writing Biography and Creative Non Fiction.


Kathryn Hughes is Professor of Life Writing at the University of East Anglia and Director of its MA in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction.    Her latest book, The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton (2005) won several prizes and was made into a film by the BBC.  Her second book, George Eliot: The Last Victorian (1999), won the James Tait Black Award.  Kathryn writes for The Guardian, and appears regularly on Radio 4. She is currently writing a book about famous Victorians seen from unusual angles.


William Fiennes is teaching the MA in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction.  He is himself a highly acclaimed proponent of ‘creative non-fiction’.  His first book The Snow Geese is a profoundly moving poetic meditation on departure and return, wandering and belonging suspended on a thread of natural history.  His subsequent memoir, The Music Room was hailed as ‘a small masterpiece, a powerful tribute to place, family and memory’.


Since 2000 UEA’s MA in Life Writing has been providing emerging writers with the resources they need to develop their careers as biographers.  From 2012  the course will broaden its focus and become the MA in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction.  This programme is for anyone wishing to  explore and experiment with such forms as travel and nature writing, memoir and, of course, biography in all its exciting variations.  Taught by Kathryn Hughes and William Fiennes, the MA in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction is the first of its kind in a mainstream British university.






Event 2         11.30 am at The Aldeburgh Cinema


UEA Creative Writing: Giles Foden


In 1971 Malcolm Bradbury set up the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Course, which was the first of its kind in this country.  Since then the Course has attracted some of the most brilliant writers of the last forty years as lecturers: Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing, John Fowles, Iris Murdoch and Rose Tremain.  The dazzling list of alumni demonstrates the spirit and diversity of the Course.  These include Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anne Enright, Tash Aw, Andrew Cowan, and many many more.


This prestigious course continues to thrive under the new Professor, novelist Giles Foden.   Foden’s debut novel, The Last King of Scotland, which won the 1998 Whitbread First Novel Award, was released as an Oscar-winning film in 2007.  He is the author of three other novels – Ladysmith, Zanzibar, and most recently Turbulence – as well as a work of narrative non-fiction, Mimi and Toutou Go Forth


Foden will discuss the history of the UEA Course and its significant role in the writing of fiction today.  He has recently edited Body of Work, an anthology published by Full Circle Editions, comprising over fifty pieces by writers connected with the Creative Writing programme at UEA.


The Jubilee Hall


Event 3         4.00 pm         Jon Canter and Adam Mars-Jones


Aldeburgh’s own Jon Canter has written his third novel, Worth, set in the fictionalised hamlet of that name in Suffolk. Worth is about friendship, family and the perils of loving your neighbour.  The Sunday Times called it ‘hilarious, snappy reading’. Canter, who also writes for TV and radio, is a writer of wit and originality with a piercing observational eye.


Adam Mars-Jones is a novelist, essayist and The Observer’s main fiction reviewer.  He was famously hailed twice in Granta’s ‘Best Young British Novelists’ as an acclaimed novelist – without having written a novel, although he had published a collection of short stories, Lantern Lecture, which won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1981.  Since then he has written the acclaimed novels The Waters of Thirst in 1993, followed by Pilcrow in 2008.  He has taught Creative Writing at the University of Virginia and was film critic for The Independent and The Times.


‘Huge’, ‘sparkling’, ‘exhilarating’, ‘magnificent’ and ‘different’ are some of the words that have been used to describe these first two novels of Mars-Jones’ projected trilogy.  The first, Pilcrow, introducing the character John Cromer, is followed by Cedilla, which sees Cromer launch himself into the world of higher education.



Event 4         5.30 pm         Alexandra Harris on Virginia Woolf

Alexandra Harris modestly presents her new book on Virginia Woolf as an ‘introduction’ to her life and writing.  Any reader wondering whether there was a need for another biography of Woolf, will be convinced by this freshly written and so engaging book.  ‘A wonderfully perceptive, unpretentious study which is pacy in style, riveting in content and perfectly accessible … Every page of Harris’s insightful book is pervaded by Woolf’s passion for life, her sense of fun and her immense capacity for joy … by the final page Harris has made you desperate to tackle the novels, to get stuck in and to submerge yourself in Woolf’s unmistakable, wholly original and imaginative responses to the world’, wrote one reviewer.

Harris’s first book, Romantic Moderns (2010), traced connections between some of the most brilliant artists and writers of the twentieth century, inlcuding Virginia Woolf, John Piper, Bill Brandt, Eric Ravilious, Rex Whistler, and the Sitwells. The book won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Prize.  She has also edited (with Lara Feigel) a collection of essays about modern art and the seaside, and is now writing a cultural history of English weather.  Harris teaches at the University of Liverpool.





Event 5         7.00 pm          Roddy Doyle


There isn’t much that the Irish writer Roddy Doyle hasn’t achieved: he has written nine novels, winning the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha  in 1993; in his brilliant trilogy of novels, A Star Called Henry, Oh, Play That Thing and The Dead Republic, Doyle encompasses the complete history of Ireland in the twentieth century.  He has written numerous screenplays, including that of his own novel The Commitments for Alan Parker’s film, as well as original plays and adaptions for the stage (his version of Gogol’s satirical comedy, The Government Inspector is playing this winter at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin).  He has written a memoir of his parents (Rory and Ita), short stories, and hugely successful children’s works, such as The Giggler Treatment.  Doyle has also recently established a Creative Writing Centre in Dublin called ‘Fighting Words’.


The Aldeburgh Cinema


Event 6         8.00 pm           Late Spring: a Film by Yasujiro Ozu introduced by Adam Mars-Jones                                             

Adam Mars-Jones has recently championed the Japanese classic film Late Spring in his remarkable essay Noriko Smiling published by Notting Hill Editions.  ‘Late Spring, directed and co-written by Yasujiro Ozu, was released in 1949, which makes it an old film, or a film that has been new for a long time…’  Film-critic Mars-Jones breathes new life into both Ozu’s film, and film studies as a whole, drawing out a host of meaning from the reticence of Ozu’s classic Japanese movie. 

‘So long after its first release, Late Spring is still limber and elusive,’ enthuses Mars-Jones.  He will discuss the film briefly before the screening.

The Jubilee Hall

Saturday 10th March


Event 7         10.00 am         Claire Tomalin on Charles Dickens


Acclaimed and award-winning biographer Claire Tomalin has undertaken the huge and challenging task of writing a life of Charles Dickens.  The result is an extraordinary feat, untangling all the various threads of his complicated life and analysing the novels with great perception.  She paints a portrait of a complex and exacting man, who was at once vivacious and charming, charismatic and altruistic and possessed of tireless energy—he was, for instance, writing Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby simultaneously.


‘What is so valuable about this biography is the palpable sense of the man himself that emerges.  Tomalin doesn't hesitate to condemn Dickens when his behaviour demands it, yet she writes throughout with great sympathy and unrivalled knowledge in the most limpid and stylish prose.  She has the gift of being able to set a scene and a time with compelling vividness.  This is a superb biography …’ (William Boyd in The Guardian).  Claire Tomalin’s previous subjects have included Samuel Pepys, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and Dickens’ mistress Nelly Ternan.


Event 8         11.30 am         Eugene Rogan           The Arab Spring


Dr Eugene Rogan is an author, lecturer, fellow of St Antony’s College and Fellow of the Middle Eastern Centre at the University of Oxford.  He is currently on a British Academy fellowship writing his next book, a history of the First World War in the Middle East.  Dr Rogan is the author of a large number of papers on Arabic history.  The Arabs:  a History is considered to be the most authoritative account of the people and the region.  Dr Rogan will be talking about the Arab Spring in the context of history. 





Event 9         2.30 pm         Tim Harford         Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure


‘Trial and error is a tremendously powerful process for solving problems in a complex world while expert leadership is not’.   So says Tim Harford in his latest book, Adapt:  Why Success Always Starts with Failure.


Deftly weaving together psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, physics and economics, Harford presents a compelling story of hard won lessons.  He makes a passionate case for the importance of adaptive trial-and-error processes in tackling issues such as poverty, foreign aid, computer games and the financial crisis.


‘This is a brilliant and fascinating book … It should be required reading for anyone serving in government, working at a company, trying to build a career – or simply trying to navigate an increasingly complex world’ (Gillian Tett, US Managing Editor, Financial Times, and author of Fool’s Gold0.


Tim Harford is the author of The Undercover Economist which has sold over a million copies and inspired a weekly column of the same name in the Financial Times.  He was the winner of the 2006 Bastiat Prize for economic journalism, and he presents the popular BBC Radio 4 programme More or Less, which won the 2010 Royal Statistical Society Award for Excellence in Journal.  Tim Harford will be talking about Adapt.


Event 10         4.00 pm         Nicola Shulman         Sir Thomas Wyatt, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII: Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy


In her new book, Graven with Diamonds, Nicola Shulman interweaves the bloody events of Henry VIII’s reign with the story of English love poetry and the life of its first master, Sir Thomas Wyatt.  Courtier, spy, wit, diplomat, assassin and favourite both of Henry and his sinister minister Thomas Cromwell, the glamorous and enigmatic Wyatt played a central role at Henry’s court.  ‘This glitteringly brilliant book is not only an account of [Wyatt’s] life, including the notorious question of his affair with Anne Boleyn, but an analysis of the function and purpose of poetry at the Henrician court which dazzles in its scope, its scholarship and its originality … As a biography it is exceptionally accomplished, as an illumination of the function of literature under tyranny it is extraordinarily modern.’ (Lisa Hilton in the TLS).


Graven with Diamonds won The Writers' Guild Award for the Best Non-Fiction Book of 2011.



Event 11         5.30 pm          A Celebration of 50 Years of Private Eye with Ian Hislop, Craig Brown and friends


Founded in 1961, Private Eye has survived as Britain’s first, most successful and indeed only fortnightly satirical magazine.  After five turbulent decades of scandal and libel suits it is still going strong, consistently entertaining, informing and irritating its readers.  Robert Maxwell described it as ‘a lying organ.  A disgrace to journalism’.  Sir James Goldsmith called it ‘a sort of general disease within the press’.


The Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop, and columnist and satirist Craig Brown will present this celebration commemorated in Adam MacQueen’s book, Private Eye: the First 50 Years.



Sunday 11th March


Event 12         10.00 am         Michael Frayn talks about his memoir My Father’s Fortune


Michael Frayn is one of our most eminent contemporary writers.  He has written outstanding journalism, brilliant plays (funny and philosophical: Noises Off and Copenhagen), subtle novels (Headlong and Spies) and masterful translations (of Chekhov and Tolstoy).  


He has now turned to another genre: the family memoir and the result is a marvellous and poignant book.  In My Father’s Fortune Michael Frayn sets out to discover his family’s past before all trace of it finally disappears.  He comes to see how much he has inherited from his father and makes some surprising discoveries along the way.


Event 13         11.30 am         Professor Richard Fortey FRS           Survivors: The Animals and Plants that Time Has Left Behind


Professor Richard Fortey is one of the finest science communicators writing today.  He was the Collier Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the Institute of Advanced Studies in 2002; he has held the FRS Michael Faraday Award for the Public Communication of Science in 2006 and has won many awards for his science writing, including the prestigious Lewis Thomas Award in 2006.


Palaentologist Professor Fortey will be talking about his latest book, Survivors, which is a history of life on earth told through the story of organisms that have survived almost unchanged through geological time.  Survivors is a beautifully presented journey across the planet packed with fascinating information.  We follow the horseshoe crab as it scuttles across a moonlit beach in Delaware and catch a glimpse of life 450 million years ago.  Fortey also points to the relevance of scientific study in the modern world.  Like his previous books, Trilobite, The Earth: an Intimate History, and Dry Store Room No 1, Survivors is an example of the very best of scientific writing.


Event 14         2.30 pm         Victoria Hislop                  The Thread


The turbulent history of Thessaloniki in the twentieth century is the setting for Victoria Hislop’s third novel The Thread.  The great fire of 1917, the mass exchange of Christians and Muslims after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1923, the Second World War and the Greek Civil War provide the backdrop for this her latest best selling novel.  It ‘manages to be at once a romance, a thriller (the Second World War sequences are brilliant) and a sombre reflection on how Greece got to where it is today’ (Anthony Horowitz). 


Hislop’s earlier work The Island was set in a leper colony off Crete during the twentieth century.  Granada during the Spanish Civil War was the location for The Return.  All three of her books have become bestsellers: The Island is now one of the most popular television series ever on Greek Television.


Victoria Hislop will be talking to the archivist Joan Winterkorn about the great themes that provide inspiration for her work.


Event 15         4.00 pm         Alistair Darling        Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11


Alistair Darling was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2007 to 2010, a period of unprecedented turmoil encompassing the global economic crisis of 2008.


Darling’s memoir Back from the Brink tells the gripping story of his one thousand days in 11 Downing Street. As Chancellor, he had to avert the collapse of RBS hours before the cash machines ceased to function.  At the eleventh hour he stopped Barclays from acquiring Lehman Brothers in order to protect UK taxpayers. He employed anti-terror legislation to prevent Icelandic banks from withdrawing funds from British banks.  From crisis talks in Washington to dramatic meetings with the titans of international banking, and dealing with the massive political and economic fallout in the UK, Darling places the reader in the rooms where the destinies of millions weighed heavily on the shoulders of a few. His book gives a candid account of life in the Downing Street pressure cooker during the last year of New Labour.




On Saturday 10th March for one day only DrawEast are holding a Pop-Up Drawing Workshop at The Aldeburgh Cinema Gallery.  Drop in between 10 am and 3 pm: see


The Aldeburgh Literary Festival would like to thank John Commander for his elegant design, Torben Merriott for his clever technical services, Hugh Browton for his computer help.











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