The 12th Aldeburgh Literary Festival 2013

The 12th Aldeburgh Literary Festival


Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd March 2013
Friday 1st March

The Aldeburgh Cinema


9.30 am               Frances Osborne          Park Lane and The Bolter


London 1914 is the setting for Park Lane, Frances Osborne’s latest novel. Two young women dream of breaking free from tradition and obligation. Suffragettes are on the march and war looms. Belowstairs maid Grace Campbell is struggling to send more money home to her family in Carlisle than she earns.  Whilst upstairs Miss Beatrice, bored by the London season, is drawn into the world of militant suffragettes. The war comes and the two girls are set on a collision course that will change their lives forever.


Frances Osborne’s book, The Bolter, was the best-selling biography of Idina Sackville, whose behaviour is said to have inspired the Nancy Mitford character of the same name. In 1919 Idina scandalised London society by running off to Kenya with a near penniless man, leaving her two boys and husband behind. Idina went on to divorce five times yet died with a picture of her first love by her bed.


Frances Osborne will be talking about these two books and the difficulties and differences between writing fiction and non-fiction.




11.00 am              Rory Stuart: What Are Gardens For? Experiencing, Making and Thinking about Gardens


In this thought-provoking book, garden designer Rory Stuart asks the fundamental question: what are gardens for?  With reference to music, literature and painting, he explores the physical, psychological and spiritual pleasure that gardens give us, and explains that they must be understood in the context of their culture.


Rory Stuart worked as a teacher of English Literature (‘a prince among teachers’ according to his admiring former pupil Stephen Fry) before inheriting a Cotswold cottage with a beautiful garden.  Trained in garden design, he began to look at plants and gardens critically. He writes articles for many garden magazines and has led garden tours in France, India and Italy. His previous works include Gardens of the World: the Great Traditions, and Reflections on a Garden, written with Susan Hill.


12.30 pm    William Sieghart with Rosie Boycott  Winning Words: Inspiring Poems for Everyday Life


William Sieghart has made it his challenge to make poetry appear more relevant to people in their everyday lives.  For over two decades, Sieghart, philanthropist, entrepreneur and publisher, has promoted contemporary poetry through the Forward Arts Foundation, which includes the Forward Prizes for Poetry, National Poetry Day, and now Winning Words.  This anthology, a collection of old and new poems, aims to help the reader through the problems that beset us in our modern age.  William Sieghart will introduce his book and discuss his choices with Rosie Boycott, journalist, campaigner and pioneering feminist.




William Sieghart’s Poetry Pharmacy


Take ten minutes and bring your problems to William’s Poetry Pharmacy.  He will listen and prescribe an appropriate poem (or poems) to take away and inwardly digest as an alternative to a cocktail of pills or any other form of therapy.


William will be taking patients from 2 pm at The Aldeburgh Cinema.





The Jubilee Hall


4.00 pm      Sheila Hale         Titian


Sheila Hale’s biography of Titian  (the first since 1877) presents Titian through the lens of the turbulent century in which he lived, and paints a vivid portrait of how this innovative sixteenth-century master conveyed in his paintings a kind of truth that few other artists have been able to communicate and which has fascinated Titian’s admirers and followers for centuries.  Drawing on the latest scientific examinations of his paintings, she explains the evolution of his methods and charts his artistic progress.


Sheila Hale has known and lived in Venice since 1965.  She was a research assistant to her husband the late John Hale with whom she worked on Renaissance Venice and The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance. She will be talking about Titian: his Life.


5.30 pm      Francis Spufford Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense

‘My daughter has just turned six.  Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We’re weird because we go to church.’  So begins Francis Spufford’s witty, emotional, sharp-tongued defence of Christian belief.  It’s a passionate, emotional riposte to the New Atheism of Dawkins’ God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. This is not a book about religious theory; it is a record of religious experience. Like the rest of us, Spufford doesn't know if there is a god. ‘And neither do you, and neither does Richard bloody Dawkins, and neither does anyone.’


Francis Spufford is an award-winning and hugely versatile author. His first book, I May Be Some Time, is a cultural history of our obsession with polar exploration and won no less than three prizes.  In the beautifully-written memoir, The Child that Books Built, he reread all his favourite books from childhood.  Backroom Boys, the Secret Return of the Backroom Boffin was described as ‘a rapturous history of British engineering, a vivid love-letter to quiet men in pullovers’.  Red Plenty tackled the Kruschevian era of the Soviet Union in a brilliant and undefinable mix of history and fiction. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and teaches Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College.


7.00 pm               James Woodall discusses Chico Buarque and Spilt Milk


Chico Buarque is one of Brazil's most famous musicians and novelists but his work is less well-known in England.  His novel Spilt Milk, which as Leite derramado won two important Brazilian literary prizes in 2010, has recently been published in London.  This is Buarque’s fourth novel to be translated into English since Turbulence in 1992 and his work is becoming increasingly recognised outside Brazil.

Writer James Woodall met this unique artist when Turbulence was being published and has followed Buarque’s output closely ever since (visiting him several times in Rio de Janeiro).  To mark the UK appearance of the new novel, Woodall is offering an illustrated guide through Chico's many songs and published words.  It’s about music and fiction and samba.



Saturday 2nd March


10.00 am             Artemis Cooper on Patrick Leigh Fermor


Artemis Cooper’s beautifully-crafted, eagerly-anticipated biography of the legendary war hero Patrick Leigh Fermor draws on years of interviews and conversations with him and his closest friends.  She portrays a man of extraordinary gifts--widely considered to be the greatest travel writer of our time.


In 1934 at the age of 18 Patrick Leigh Fermor walked diagonally across Europe. In just over a year he had travelled through nine countries, taught himself three languages and had caught a glimpse of Europe at a turning point before the onset of the Second World War.  At the outset of the war he joined up with the Intelligence Corps and was responsible for the capture of a German general on the Island of Crete. 
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11.30 am              Catherine Bailey in conversation with William Sieghart about The Secret Rooms


Catherine Bailey, the best-selling author of Black Diamonds, went to Belvoir Castle intending to research a completely different book about the impact of the First World War on the Duke of Rutland’s estate. When Bailey began reading the family papers in the Muniments Room, she realised they contained inexplicable gaps.  She had stumbled upon a major and dreadful mystery.

Bailey’s resulting book, The Secret Rooms: a true Gothic Mystery reads like a thriller as she uncovers the true story of family secrets kept hidden for over sixty years, a plotting Duchess, a mysterious death and a castle full of lies.

In April 1940, the ninth Duke of Rutland died in mysterious circumstances in a murky room next to the servants' quarters of his family home, Belvoir Castle.  The mystery surrounding his death holds the key to a tragic story that is played out on the brutal battlefields of the Western Front and in the exclusive salons of Mayfair and Belgravia in the dying years of la belle époque.

Catherine Bailey will discuss the book with William Sieghart, entrepreneur, publisher, founder of the Forward Prizes for Poetry and recently editor of the inspirational poetry anthology Winning Words.

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2.00 pm               Anne Applebaum in conversation with Emma Duncan about Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Europe 1944 – 1956


At the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union found itself in control of a large swathe of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert radically different countries to a new political and moral system: communism.


Drawing on new archival material and interviews with individuals Anne Applebaum  shows in her latest book Iron Curtain how in a short period of time political parties, the church, the media and all institutions of civil society at every level were eviscerated and all forms of opposition were undermined and destroyed.


Iron Curtain is a brilliant history of how this brutal world began, an exceptional work of moral reckoning and a haunting reminder of how fragile societies can be.


American journalist and Pulitzer-prize winning author, Anne Applebaum will discuss Iron Curtain with Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist.

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3.30 pm      Frances Ashcroft  The Spark of Life


We are all familiar with the idea that machines are powered by electricity but not so aware that this is true for the human body. In her latest book The Spark of Life Frances Ashcroft shows how electrical signals in our cells  are responsible for everything we think and do. Frances Ashcroft weaves real-life stories with the latest scientific findings to show the fundamental role of electricity in our physiology. What makes this event so special  is that Frances Ashcroft (as well as being the great science communicator) was the  researcher who  discovered the protein that acted as the link between blood-glucose levels and insulin which itself is secreted as a result of electrical activity. As a result people with the rare inherited form of diabetes can now relieve their symptoms by taking a drug in pill form rather than insulin injections.


Frances Ashcroft is the Royal Society Glaxo Smith-Kline Professor of Physiology at Oxford University as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society.


5.00 pm      Ben MacIntyre  Double Cross



Double agents and D-Day


The story of how the allies managed to deceive the Nazi High command into thinking an invasion was to come from Calais and Norway rather than the Normandy beaches is one of the more extraordinary events of the Second World War.


 At the  heart of this deception was a team of just 5 spies who must have been one of the oddest military units ever assembled; a bisexual Peruvian Playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a Serbian seducer, an imaginative Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming, and a hysterical Frenchwoman. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a eccentric but brilliant intelligence officer in tartan trousers. Their deception was so intricate that Hitler’s army was ensnared and allied troops were able to cross the channel on D Day.


Ben Macintyre is a columnist and associate editor of The Times and is the author of Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat.

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Sunday 3rd March


10.00 am              Professor Jane Ridley on Bertie: a Life of Edward VII


Edward VII was 59 when he came to the throne in 1901 and was king for the last nine years of his life.


The eldest son of Victoria and Albert was bullied by both is parents. His mother blamed him for the early demise of Prince Albert and their relationship was one of the stormiest mother-son relationships in history.


Denied any responsibility whilst his mother was alive he spent his time eating, pursuing women, gambling, racing and shooting pheasants. His arranged marriage to a stunning Danish princess Alexandra gave him access to the European dynastic network: but his name was associated with many beauties including Lillie Langtry. The most dangerous and romantic was Daisy Brooke and the most political and manipulative was Alice Keppel.


But contrary to popular belief the playboy prince was an instinctive diplomat: when he finally ascended the throne in 1901 he did a good job especially in foreign policy and further confounded his critics by reinvigorating the monarchy and giving it a new role for the twentieth century.


Jane Ridley will be in conversation with Joan Winterkorn.

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11.30 am              Professor Eamon Duffy: Saints, Sacrilege & Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations


Professor Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge.  Provocative, elegant and eloquent, his books have challenged ‘conventional wisdom when it comes to Reformation history.  His award-winning book, The Stripping of the Altars (1992), overturned the prevailing view that in the years leading up to Henry VIII’s break with Rome, English Catholicism was a decaying force, and that the new Protestantism was quickly established.’ (Peter Stanford in The Independent).  His ground-breaking book, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, won the Hawthornden Prize in 2002, and other titles,among them Fires of Faith, Marking the Hours, and Saints and Sinners, have all been reeived with acclaim.  In his new book, Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations, Professor Duffy again ‘with grace, eloquence and wit’ questions the prejudices and myths about the Reformation.

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2.00 pm      Justin Cartwright


Justin Cartwright’s novels have established him as one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and versatile writers of the English language today. His most recent work, Other People’s Money, is a tragi-comic depiction of the banking crisis centred on the private bank of Tubal and Co which is on the


verge of collapse.  ‘A literary first – a feel-good novel about the financial crisis … a comedy of manners [where] in the end, though other people’s money may have been lost, other things have been gained; life goes on in this delightful novel (Financial Times).


His more serious novel The Song Before It Is Sung, on the other hand, concentrates on the wholly tragic events surrounding the German aristocrat involved in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.  ‘A profound exploration of guilt, friendship, voyeurism and morality’ (Independent on Sunday).  The Promise of Happiness explored an English family in crisis.  It won the Hawthornden Prize in 2005.  Justin Cartwright will be talking about some of themes in these and his other works.


3.30 pm      Lucy Hughes-Hallett on The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War


Lucy Hughes-Hallett will discuss the story of Gabriele d'Annunzio, poet, daredevil--and Fascist. In September 1919 Gabriele d'Annunzio, successful poet and occasional politician, declared himself Commandante of the city of Fiume in modern day Croatia. His intention - to establish a utopian state based on his fascist and artistic ideals. It was a fittingly dramatic pinnacle to an outrageous career. Lucy Hughes-Hallett charts the controversial life of d'Annunzio, the debauched artist who became a military and national hero. His evolution from idealist Romantic to radical right-wing revolutionary is a political parable. Through his ideological journey, culminating in the failure of the Fiume endeavour, we witness the political turbulence of early 20th century Europe and the noxious influence of emergent fascism. As in her successful book Heroes, Hughes-Hallett scrutinizes one life to explore the wider society of the time. While she addresses the cult of nationalism and the origins of political extremism, at the centre of the book stands the charismatic d'Annunzio: a figure as deplorable as he is fascinating.





5.00 pm      Craig Brown and Eleanor Bron perform One on One

A technical tour-de-force, each encounter in this daisy chain of a book is based entirely on fact, beginning with John Scott-Ellis’s account of running over Adolf Hitler in 1931, and ending with Hitler's 1937 meeting with the Duchess of Windsor. In between are 101 chance meetings, juxtaposing the famous and the infamous, the artistic and the philistine, the pompous and the comical, the snobbish and the vulgar, each exactly 1,001 words long, and with a time span stretching from the 19th century to the 21st.

One on One examines the curious nature of different types of meeting, from the oddity of encounters with the Royal Family (who start giggling during a recital by TS Eliot) to those often perilous meetings between old and young (Mark Twain terrifying Rudyard Kipling) and between young and old (the 23-year-old Sarah Miles having her leg squeezed by the nonagenarian Bertrand Russell), to contemporary random encounters (George Galloway meeting Michael Barrymore on Celebrity Big Brother).

Ingenious in its construction, witty in its narration, panoramic in its breadth, One on One is a wholly original book.  It will be brought to life with readings by Eleanor Bron and Craig Brown.

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