Keeping it fresh
Catherine Larner previews this year’s Aldeburgh Literary Festival: veteran author and Aldeburgh Lit Fest headliner Penelope Lively and the eclectic Andy Kershaw
CHOOSING a favourite from this year’s line up at the Aldeburgh Literary Festival cannot be done, says organiser, Mary James. “I like them all equally, it’s like one’s children!” Festival-goers will have the same dilemma, of course. There are 18 events, taking place over four days, in a long weekend of entertaining and enlightening presentations.
Speakers include literary royalty. Dame Penelope Lively will be talking about her book on gardens. There will be familiar faces, like broadcaster Nick Robinson, who is interviewing Sir Jeremy Greenstock about the Iraq war. Much-loved biographers Jenny Uglow and AN Wilson will present their studies on Lear and Darwin respectively, and James Hamilton will present his literary portrait of Gainsborough.
There will be a discussion between awardwinning novelists Francis Spufford and Lucy Hughes-Hallett, and there will be respected academics such as Margaret MacMillan, talking about the end of the First World War, and Patrick McGuinness on Proust.
“The intellectual level this year is very good,” says Mary. “We have the very best people to speak on particular subjects.” Dave Goulson will be talking about bees, Nicholas Crane will explore The Making of the British Landscape, and William Blacker will present his book on Romania. With world affairs very much a concern, Ann Pettifor will talk about the economy and the power of the bankers, and philosopher Roger Scruton will outline his response to the Brexit vote.
“From a local point of view, it’s nice to be able to celebrate the work of friends,” says Mary. “People like photographer Eamonn McCabe and satirist Craig Brown, who will be talking about his new book, Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret.”
This is the 17th year of the festival organised by Mary and John James, the owners of Aldeburgh Bookshop. Each year brings a new challenge as they endeavour to offer something fresh while maintaining the exceptionally high standard for which the festival has gained a reputation.
“It’s never easy,” says Mary. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, so we have a chart on the wall and we move speakers around as we hear from them, and can fit them in.” A late addition to the programme this year is a one-man show by broadcaster Andy Kershaw on Sunday, and there will be a book launch of The Natural Baker, by Henrietta Inman, in the bookshop on Saturday afternoon. The 17th Aldeburgh Literary Festival, March 1-4. Contact the Aldeburgh Bookshop for more details www.aldeburghbookshop.co.uk. Tel: 01728 452389
Top: Festival organisers Mary and John James Left: Nick Robinson appearing at the festival