The 17th Aldeburgh Literary Festival 2018

The 17th Aldeburgh Literary Festival

Thursday 1st – Sunday 4th March 2018


Thursday 1st March

Event 1

5.00 pm

Jenny Uglow 

Mr Lear: a Life of Art and Nonsense 


In this beautifully illustrated biography of Edward Lear, Jenny Uglow once again proves her credentials as a superb biographer.  She captures the contradictory character of this extraordinary artist: he was a man of great simplicity and charm, adored by children, yet plagued by epilepsy, depression and loneliness, which were masked by his humour.  In his own time he was as famous for his brilliant natural history paintings, landscapes and travel writing as he is now for his ‘nonsenses’, from limericks to love songs such as ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ and ‘The Dong with a Luminous Nose’. 


Jenny Uglow’s books include prize-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth and Sarah Losh. The Lunar Men, published in 2002, was described by Richard Holmes as ‘an extraordinarily gripping account’, while Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, won the National Arts Writers Award and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Her most recent book is In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793–1815.


Event 2

6.30 pm

Craig Brown.  Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 

Craig Brown is our funniest parodist and satirist.  He has written the Private Eye Celebrity Diary for nearly three decades and now, in a dazzling kaleidoscopic experiment in biography he has written a portrait of our most talked-about royal sibling. 

From her mid-20s onwards Princess Margaret was, according to Brown, ‘the world’s most difficult guest’.  As he puts it, she conscientiously set people ‘at their unease’.  Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues and essays, Ma’am Darling is a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

Ma’am Darling is, as you would expect, very funny and also full of quirky facts and genial footnotes. Brown has managed to ingest huge numbers of royal books and documents without losing either his judgment or his sanity. He adores the spectacle of human vanity.’ Julian Barnes, The Guardian.


Friday 2nd March


Event 3

10.00 am

Patrick McGuinness

The Everyday Proust


We can all have our madeleine moment, argues Patrick McGuinness, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Oxford.  Despite writing about aristocrats, Parisian high life, long meals, insomnia, snobbery and interior design, Proust conveys something universal.  Ordinary people and ordinary places have as much richness as any fin-de-siècle aristocracy.  McGuinness’s own exercise in memoir, Other People’s Countries, a Journey into Memory, is a conscious attempt to save memory from this socially upper-crust literary reputation.


Other People’s Countries is an intense and lyrical account of McGuinness’s Belgian family and childhood in the small town of Bouillon.  It won the Duff Cooper Award (2014), the Welsh Book of the Year Award (2015) and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black and the PEN Ackerley Prize.  His novel set at the time of the fall of Ceaucescu, The Last Hundred Days, was short- and long-listed for many major UK prizes including the Man Booker and the Costa.  He is also an award-winning poet and translator.



Event 4

11.30 am

Change of Programme: A. N. Wilson has cancelled. 

Andrew Gimson on Gimson's Prime Ministers 

A concise, sharp-witted and illuminating account of the lives of Britain’s prime ministers written in Andrew Gimson’s inimitable style.
Illustrated by Martin Rowson.  This is a companion volume to Gimson's Kings and Queens, which has been described as both a primer and a refresher for anyone who can't quite remember which were the good and bad Edwards or Henrys.  Andrew Gimson is a political journalist.  He formerly wrote the parliamentary sketch for The Daily Telegraph and has written a book about Boris Johnson.


Event 5

2.00 pm

William Blacker

Along the Enchanted Way, a Story of Love and Life in Romania


‘… I found the sort of Eastern Europe which I had imagined from reading Old Peter’s Russian Tales when I was young; the Eastern Europe of wooden peasant cottages on the edge of forests inhabited by wolves and bears, of snow and sledges and sheepskin coats, and of country people in embroidered smock and headscarves.  I thought I had been born too late to see anything like the peasant life about which Tolstoy and Hardy had written, but I was wrong.  Here was a remnant of an old, almost medieval world, cut off by the mountains and forests I had crossed, and I had stumbled across it quite by accident’, writes William Blacker in the first chapter of Along the Enchanted Way.


The book tells the story of William Blacker’s time in Romania where he lived between 1996 and 2004, which is acknowledged as one of the best travel books of recent times. 


‘This is a wild and captivating story’ (Paddy Leigh Fermor).  ‘Enchantment is the key word [of] this little masterpiece’ (Robert Fox, The Telegraph).


Event 6

3.30 pm

Dave Goulson on Bees   


Dave Goulson is Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex and he is a specialist in the conservation and ecology of bumblebees.  He founded the charity the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in part to engage the wider public in the plight of the bee.  A Sting in the Tale (2013), which became a best-seller and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, was followed by A Buzz in the Meadow (2014) and most recently Bee Quest (2017), in which he searches out the world’s rarest bees.  Passionate and engaging, Goulson provides us with not only a fascinating insight into the life of this most important of insects, but also an overview of the ecological state of the bee’s environment.



Event 7

5.00 pm

Nicholas Crane: The Making of the British Landscape, an illustrated talk   


How much do we know about the place we call ‘home’?  The British landscape has been continuously occupied by humans for 12,000 years, from the end of the Ice Age till the twenty-first century.  It has been transformed from a European peninsula of glacier and tundra to an island of glittering cities and exquisite countryside. 


In this geographical journey through time, we discover the ancient relationship between people and place and the deep-rooted tensions between town and countryside.  As Britain lurches from an exploitative past towards a more sustainable future, this is the story of our age.  The talk is illustrated with beautiful colour photographs, maps and videos, including two digital drone flights above British landscapes.


Nick Crane is a geographer, author and broadcaster.  In recent years, he has become best known for presenting the BBC2 TV series Coast, Map Man, Great British Journeys, Britannia and Town.  Nick’s travels include a solo, 10,000-kilometre walk across Europe, a bicycle ride across the Himalayas, Tibet and Gobi Desert to the geographical centre of Asia and a horseback journey through the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.


His books include Clear Waters Rising, Two Degrees West , Mercator: the Man Who Mapped the Planet and Coast. Nick’s most recent book, The Making of the British Landscape, was published in October 2016.  Crane is currently President of the Royal Geographical Society.



Event 8

6.30 pm

Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics: The Children of Jocasta  


Natalie Haynes’s new novel, The Children of Jocasta, is a vivid retelling of the Oedipus and Antigone myths reveals a new side to an ancient story.  In the plays by Sophocles, Jocasta has only 120 lines and Ismene a mere 60.  Here, these two overlooked women take centre stage in a stunning reimagining of the famous tragedy of incest and patricide.


Natalie Haynes read Classics at Christ’s College, Cambridge.  She then combined her passion for the Classics—and Juvenal in particular—with stand-up comedy.  The resulting fusion of erudition and humour became her highly successful routine and radio series, Stand Up for the Classics.  In 2015, she was awarded the Classical Association Prize for her work in bringing Classics to a wider audience.  Haynes’s first novel, The Amber Fury, was published to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, as was The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, her previous book. 


Saturday 3rd March


Event 9

10.00 am

Penelope Lively in conversation with Alex Preston: Life in the Garden & As Kingfishers Catch Fire   


Penelope Lively has always been passionate about gardening and her new book, Life in the Garden, is partly a memoir of her own life in gardens, and also a wise, engaging and far-ranging exploration of gardens in literature.  This a book to treasure, as beautiful on the inside as its gorgeous cover and endpapers (all by the celebrated illustrator Katie Scott).


Lively, now in her 80s, is the only author to have won both the Booker (for Moon Tiger in 1987) and the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction, (for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe in 1973).  On her last visit to Aldeburgh, she talked about Ammonites and Leaping Fish, her fine memoir and meditation on ageing.  Since then her collection of short stories published last year, The Purple Swamp Hen, garnered excellent reviews.


Equally beautiful as Lively’s garden book is Alex Preston’s new work, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, illustrated by Neil Gower.  Preston is an award-winning novelist (This Bleeding City, The Revelations, In Love and War) and journalist.  An eager birdwatcher as a child, he abandoned the pursuit in adolescence out of fear that it would put off girls.  In its place, he developed an (easier to conceal) obsession with the treatment of birds in literature.  The result is a glorious blend of his own reminiscences with gleanings from poetry and prose. His aim is to illuminate ‘all the webs of meaning, of joy that birds spin out behind them’, and his pages do indeed light up with ‘feathered magic’ (David Cox, The Times).




Event 10

11.30 am

Ann Pettifor: The Production of Money, How to Break the Power of the Bankers  

What is money, where does it come from, and who controls it?


In this accessible, brilliantly-argued book, leading political economist Ann Pettifor explains in straightforward terms history’s most misunderstood invention: the money system.  Pettifor argues that democracies can—and indeed must—reclaims control over money production and restrain the out-of-control finance sector so that it serves the interests of society, as well as the needs of the ecosystem.


The Production of Money examines and assesses popular alternative debates on, and innovations in, money, such as ‘green QE’ and ‘helicopter money.’ She sets out the possibility of linking the money in our pockets (or on our smartphones) to the improvements we want to see in the world around us.


Ann Pettifor is director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics, a network of economists concerned with Keynesian monetary theory and policies; an honorary research fellow at the Political Economy Research Centre at City University, London and a fellow of the British think-tank the New Economics Foundation.  She also chairs the Advisory Board of Goldsmiths College Political Economy Research Centre.  As executive director of the consultancy Advocacy International, Pettifor has advised governments and organisations on sovereign debt restructuring, international finance and sustainable development. She is a trustee of the PREP Foundation for Pluralist Economics.


Pettifor is best known for correctly predicting the Global Financial Crises in several publications including her book The Real World Economic Outlook.  This was followed by The Coming First World Debt Crisis, published in 2006.  Pettifor is a member of the Green New Deal Group of economists, environmentalists and entrepreneurs that published The Green New Deal in July 2008.



Event 11

2.30 pm

Jeremy Greenstock in conversation with Nick Robinson: The Cost of War  


Tony Blair's decision to back George W. Bush in his attack on Iraq will go down as a defining moment for Britain.  First as Ambassador to the UN and then as Special Envoy for Iraq, the UK’s highest authority on the ground, Sir Jeremy Greenstock was centre stage in the tumultuous days leading up to the Iraq war and witnessed first-hand its tremendous impact.


Sir Jeremy Greenstock originally submitted an account of his involvement in 2005, but publication was delayed at the request of the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The book The Cost Of War was finally published in 2016.


In it he writes openly about US-UK relations, taking his readers behind closed doors and revealing the actions of key players in New York, Washington, London, Paris and the Middle East.  To what extent was the Bush administration determined to attack Iraq come what may?  What promise did Blair extract in exchange for backing Bush?  Was the war legal?  What effect is it continuing to have on Britain’s long-term relations with America and Europe?


Sir Jeremy Greenstock will be talking about his book The Cost Of War with Nick Robinson.  Nick Robinson has been Political editor for both BBC and ITV news and is now best known as a presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme.  He is author of two books on contemporary politics: Live from Downing Street (2012) and Election Notebook (2015).



Event 12

4.00 pm

Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Francis Spufford in conversation with Claire Armitstead 

Peculiar Ground and Golden Hill


Two accomplished writers with award-winning non-fiction titles under their belts have now turned their attention to fiction for the first time.  The results are stupendous.  Both novels explore new worlds, new regimes and new experiences.  Both are extraordinary.


Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s rich, multi-layered historical novel set in the imaginary estate of post-Restoration Wychwood finds modern echoes in the 20th-century estate struggling with the new freedoms signaled by the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of The Pike, a biography of Gabriele d'Annunzio, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction, the Costa Biography Award, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Paddy Power Political Biography of the Year Award.  Her other books are Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions which was published in 1990 to wide acclaim, and Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen, published in 2004, which garnered similar praise.

Francis Spufford’s first work of fiction begins with the arrival of Richard Smith in a small town on the tip of the Manhattan peninsula called New York with a promissory note for £1000.  This astonishing novel won the Costa First Novel Award as well as the RSL Ondaatje and Desmond Elliott Prizes.  It was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the Rathbones Folio Prize, the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award and the British Book Awards Debut Novel of the Year.

Francis Spufford is the author of five highly-praised books of non-fiction.  Unapologetic, has been translated into three languages; the one before, Red Plenty, into nine.  He has been long- or shortlisted for prizes in science writing, historical writing, political writing, theological writing, and writing 'evoking the spirit of place'.


Claire Armistead, Associate Editor (Culture) of The Guardian, will invite these new novelists but old writers to discuss the difference between fiction and non-fiction. 



Event 13

5.30 pm

Margaret MacMillan  


In 2001 Margaret MacMillan published Peacemakers, describing the Paris Conference of 1919 that attempted to settle the world after the First World War.  At its heart were the leaders of three great powers—Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau—but

thousands of others came too, each with their own specific agenda.  Kings, prime ministers and foreign ministers with their crowds of advisers rubbed shoulders with journalists and lobbyists for a hundred causes from Armenian independence to women’s rights.  For six months the city was effectively the centre of world government as the peacemakers wound up bankrupt empires and created new countries.  They pushed Russia to the sidelines, alienated China, dismissed the Arabs, struggled with the problems of Kosovo, the Kurds and a homeland for the Jews.


Peacemakers won the Duff Cooper Prize for outstanding literary work in the field of history, biography or politics; the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History; the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for the best work of non-fiction published in the United Kingdom and the 2003 Governor General’s Award in Canada.


Margaret MacMillan is also author of the acclaimed book, The War that Ended Peace as well as Nixon in China and many other books on modern history, most recently History’s People: Personalities and the Past.  She retired as Warden of St Antony’s College Oxford last summer.



Event 14

10.00 am

Roger Scruton

Where We Are, the State of Britain Now    


Roger Scruton describes his new book Where We Are as his response to the Brexit vote.


Addressing one of the most politically turbulent periods in modern British history, philosopher Roger Scruton asks how, in these circumstances, we can come to define our national identity and what in the coming years will hold us together.  To what are our duties owed and why?  How do we respond to the pull of globalisation and mass migration, to the rise of Islam and to the decline of Christian belief? Do we accept these as inevitable or do we resist them? If we resist them, on what basis do we build?


Roger Scruton slices characteristically through the fog of debate with this sensible and profound account of our collective identity.  Scruton is currently Research Professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, where he teaches philosophy at the graduate schools in both Washington and Oxford. He is a writer, philosopher and public commentator. He has specialised in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist.



Event 15

11.30 am

James Hamilton.  Gainsborough, a Portrait 


This exhilarating new biography—the first in decades—reveals Gainsborough in his many contexts: the easy-going Suffolk lad transported to the heights of fashion by a natural talent; the rake-on-the-make in London learning his art in the shadow of Hogarth; falling on his feet when he married a duke’s daughter with a handsome private income; the top society-portrait painter in Bath and London who earned huge sums by bringing the right people into his studio and the charming and amusing friend of George III and Queen Charlotte who nevertheless kept clear of the aristocratic embrace.


Much art history has been written about this chameleon of art, but with fresh insights into original sources, Gainsborough, a Portrait transforms our understanding of this fascinating man, and enlightens the century that bore him.


James Hamilton is an art and cultural historian. His books include Faraday, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Turner and A Strange Business, Making Art and Money in 19th Century Britain, which in 2014 was named Art Book of the Year by the Sunday Times.  Hamilton was—until his retirement in 2013—curator of art collections and projects in Portsmouth, Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds and the University of Birmingham, where he is a Fellow of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.



Event 16

2.30 pm

Julia Samuel in conversation with William Sieghart

Grief Works, Stories of Life, Death and Surviving 


Death affects us all.  Yet it is still the last taboo in our society and grief is still profoundly misunderstood.  In Grief Works, Julia Samuel shows how we can learn from bereavement.  She relates stories from those who have experienced great love and great loss—and survived.  These stories explain how grief unmasks our greatest fears, strips away our layers of protection and reveals our innermost selves.

Julia Samuel, a grief psychotherapist, has spent twenty-five years working with the bereaved and understanding the full repercussions of loss.  Her deeply affecting book is full of psychological insights on how grief, if approached correctly, can heal us.  Through elegant, moving stories, we learn how we can stop feeling awkward and uncertain about death and not shy away from talking honestly with family and friends.  In 1994 she launched Child Bereavement UK and as Founder Patron, continues to play an active role in the charity, for which she was awarded an MBE in 2016.

William Sieghart is a British entrepreneur, publisher and the founder of the Forward Prizes for Poetry.  His recent anthology, The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried and True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul, is published by Penguin.


The following event takes place at The Aldeburgh Cinema

Event 17

4.00 pm

Eamonn McCabe

A Career in Photographs and The History of Photography


McCabe began his career as a sports photographer and won the Sports Photographer of the Year four times between 1978-84.  He then turned his attention to general editorial portraiture for The Observer and The Guardian.  He is now most well known for his photographic contribution to the weekly Guardian Profile.  In 1985 he attended he found himself at the European Cup Final in Brussels, taking the famous but tragic images of the Heysel Stadium disaster for which he won News Photographer of The Year Award.  I arrived as a sports photographer and left as a news photographer.’


In 2017 McCabe presented Britain in Focus: a Photographic History for BBC4.  This fascinating documentary explored the development of the art of photography, looking first at how science and technology allowed pioneering photographers like Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron to create a new art form in the 1800s and finally bringing us right up to date in our age of instant gratification and saturation, with smartphone apps such as Snapchat and Instagram.


And back at The Jubilee Hall


Event 18         5.30 pm - 7.30 pm    

The Adventures of Andy Kershaw: the Legendary Broadcaster and Foreign Correspondent                    Tickets £14.00


Andy Kershaw truly has no off switch.  Already he’s lived ten lives to everybody’s one. As a teenager, he was promoting major rock gigs at Leeds University.  He was Billy Bragg’s driver and roadie one day and presenting Whistle Test and Live Aid the next.

A passionate music enthusiast, he is a man with an obsessive curiosity about the world. Over a twenty?five year career, he has worked for the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, shared an office with John Peel and has amassed a record collection that weighs more than seven tons.

A fearless adventurer, he has visited 97 countries and, as a rock & roll war correspondent ? for Radio 4 and the broadsheets ? he has reported from some of the world’s most perilous places including Iraq, Sierra Leone, North Korea, Angola and Haiti. Andy was one of very few journalists to be an eyewitness to the Rwanda genocide. He has won more Sony Radio awards than any other broadcaster.

Andy will be presenting his one-man show and he will be signing his autobiography, No Off Switch, afterwards.

 ‘Sensational … wildly hilarious.  An amazing read.  An amazing man.  The finest British broadcaster bar none’ (Stephen Fry).


‘Andy Kershaw, without you we wouldn’t know nothing!  Rock on’ (Joe Strummer).


All tickets issued on a first come, first served basis.  If your ticket application is unsuccessful we automatically add your name to the waiting list.  We will get in touch with you by email or telephone if tickets become available.

All tickets are non-refundable.  All information in this programme is correct at the time of going to press.  The Aldeburgh Literary Festival reserves the right without prior warning to alter the programme if circumstances dictate.


Book Launch at The Aldeburgh Bookshop


From 12.30 to 2.30 pm on Saturday 3rd March



Henrietta Inman.  The Natural Baker: a new Way to Bake using the Best Natural Ingredients



Henrietta Inman is a pastry chef and has worked in award-winning kitchens including The Lanesborough Hotel and the Michelin-starred Apsleys.  She now lives and works in London and Suffolk where she takes private commissions and bespoke orders, holds cookery classes and baking demonstrations and does food consultancy, supper clubs and events. 


This book is a celebration of the variety and diversity of natural ingredients.  In her 80 easy-to-follow sweet and savoury recipes, Henrietta balances the flavour, quality and texture of classic patisserie with the natural goodness of simple wholefoods, with outstanding results. Using wholegrain flours, less refined sweeteners and good fats combined with vibrant fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, flower waters, nuts and seeds, she creates delicious unique bakes that will make you smile, taking in every occation from breakfast, lunch and pudding, with many joyous cakes, breads, brownies and biscuits along the way.  




The Aldeburgh Literary Festival Exhibition

Elizabeth Hodder

Exhibition of Paintings at The Aldeburgh Gallery in the High Street


Oil on canvas.

The Festival Exhibition at the Aldeburgh Gallery will be presented by Cambridge artist Elizabeth Hodder, taking the theme of ‘small corners’—warm interiors and unusual corners of Suffolk—and reflecting her many visits to friends and family in the area.


More of Liz’s work can be seen on

The exhibition will be open throughout the course of the weekend from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th March 2018. 


The Aldeburgh Literary Festival wishes to thank John Commander for design; Torben Merriott at Blackwing for technical expertise; Miranda Barclay, Ellen Nall and Gillian Varley for ushing; Catriona Chase and Tracy Rogers for help with the box office; Karen Lear for flowers; Jane Austin, Carol Briggs, Harriet Bailey, Jules Bell, Jakob Hatfield, Alison Molyneux and Judith Russell at The Aldeburgh Bookshop; and last, but certainly not least, all the customers who loyally support the bookshop throughout the year..

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