Book in to Sidmouth’s first literary festival

Helen Lederer

Helen Lederer - Credit: Archant

Helen Lederer, Michael Jecks and Ann Widdecombe among speakers

If you fancy learning about witchcraft and spells, then a visit to Sidmouth’s first literary festival, Sun, Sea and Books, is a must.

Author Karen Maitland, who specialises in writing medieval murder mystery stories, will be talking about the research she has done into medieval magic, myths and plant lore, as well as discussing her latest novel, The Raven’s Head, from 2pm on Saturday, June 20.

Tickets to hear Karen are £8, as are those for another master of the medieval genre, Michael Jecks, who will appear on Saturday at 5pm to talk about his latest thriller, Blood on the Sand.

Otterton sculptress Christine Lee has received acclamation for her debut memoir, The Midwife’s Sister, about her and her sister, Jennifer Worth, of BBC TV’s Call the Midwife. She will be in conversation with former Herald news editor, Di Bowerman, now chairman of the trustees at Kennaway House, on the first of the two-day festival, Friday, June 19, at 1pm in the Hatton Wood room. Tickets £8.

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Actress Helen Lederer, best known as the dippy Catriona in Absolutely Fabulous, has just published her first novel, Losing It, so she will have plenty to talk about and entertain the audience with at 8pm next Friday evening. Tickets are £12.

On the Saturday, there will be plenty to keep children busy, with workshops run by Amanda Mitchison and Babs Horton and a talk by Sarah Lean, author of Harry and Hope. Special fliers have been distributed to schools in the locality. Amanda’s two workshops (11am and 2pm) are based on her book, Crog, about a Bronze Age boy and aimed at nine to 11-year-olds, who will have the chance to dress as a Bronze Age child.

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Babs will hold an illustrated creative writing workshop for 11 to 16-year-olds at 3pm, exploring the use of the different senses, and looking at associations of time and space and past and imagined experiences.

They will see how the writer creates a character, physical descriptions, imagery and dialogue, as well as the importance of setting, and drawing on the diversity and wealth of the English language.

They will write a poem or piece of prose based on their discoveries.

Five thousand festival programmes have been distributed in East Devon, including at health centres, hotels, libraries and shops. Tickets are on sale for all talks at Kennaway House, venue of the two-day event, and Winstone’s book shop in High Street on 01395 515551.

Sidmouth Museum, Sidmouth Library and Paragon Books will have stands at the event and local hotels have backed the project, giving sponsorship towards authors’ fees.

“We would like to thank The Royal Glen, Kingswood and Devoran, The Victoria Hotel and Paragon Books for their support, as well as Sidmouth Print for its help in printing the festival programme and Winstone’s,” said Di Bowerman.

“Now it is up to the public to support this venture and we hope they will as this is another event that will put Sidmouth well and truly on the cultural map.”

On the Friday, well-known Fay Weldon, will begin the festival at 11.30am in conversation with Sophie.

Other authors taking part include Christine Lee, sister of Jennifer Worth of Call the Midwife fame and Dr Ian Mortimer—one of the most innovative historians today.

Marc Allum, freelance arts and antiques journalist and miscellaneous specialist for the Antiques Road-show, will talk about his work and has also agreed to do a valuation session.

Terry Waite, the former special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury taken hostage in Beirut for five years in the 1980s, will be followed by actress and comedienne Helen Lederer.

The Saturday will feature Karen Maitland, author of medieval thrillers such as The Vanishing Witch, will talk about her latest work, children’s author, Sarah Lean and Michael Jecks, master of the medieval murder mystery.

There will also be hands-on children’s workshops, a Jane Austen afternoon tea - with a speaker in Regency costume – and a Sidmouth Library stand.

Former MP and Strictly Come Dancing star Ann Widdecombe will round off the festival on the Saturday evening with a talk about her varied career, including her latest novel, The Dancing Detective.

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