Online and free: Berwick Literary Festival registration opens

Registration for the online and free Berwick Literary Festival opens today (September 14) and organisers are urging people to book early.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 8:15 am
Updated Monday, 14th September 2020, 9:11 am

Festival programme co-ordinator Mike Fraser says: ‘We have a superb and diverse line up with several sessions already attracting a lot of attention. We’ve picked up on a number of themes which are very much on people’s minds right now’.

Such timely themes include: Black Lives Matter with Professor Brian Ward’s talk on Frederick Douglass the black slave whose freedom was bought by two Quaker women from Newcastle; the transformative power of bread-making with Pauline Beaumont whose book ‘Bread Therapy’ chimes with lockdown’s sourdough explosion; the healing qualities of the natural world with Tamsin Calidas whose book ‘I am an Island’ details how she eschewed London in favour of a derelict Hebridean croft; and the immediacy of the spoken word with world slam poetry champion Harry Baker whose work is intrinsically of-the-moment.

In keeping with its status as a disputed town with roots in both England and Scotland (Berwick changed hands 14 times until finally being settled in England in 1482), the Festival enjoys contributions from both sides of the border. As well as Tamsin Calidas’ redemptive island memoir, writer/historians John Sadler and Rosie Serdiville explore the gruesome fate of 5,000 Scottish soldiers marched from Dunbar to Durham after Oliver Cromwell’s decisive victory in 1650, Scottish broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove (and former NME editor) delves into 60s soul music in the US and its impact on boxer Cassius Clay, social historian and gardener Ursula Buchan asks: ‘Did we really dig for victory?’, and Wigtown bookseller Sean Bythell talks about his books that are ‘guaranteed to offend anyone who has ever crossed the threshold of a bookshop’.

Other contributors include: master biographer Ann Thwaite whose subjects include AA Milne (she was consultant on the successful 2017 film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’) and Frances Hodgson Burnett; Bloodaxe Books’ editor Neil Astley who is joined by poets including David Constantine for his session for readings from the acclaimed ‘Staying Human – New Poems for Staying Alive’; and political broadcaster and columnist Steve Richards’ whose book ‘The Prime Ministers’ is the basis for his session on the incumbents of Number 10: from Wilson to Johnson.

A spokesman said that the online Festival will be as interactive as ever: “We always aim to be dynamic in our engagement with words – written, spoken and performed – and this year will be no different. Our workshops are always popular – we have poetry and creative writing sessions. And there will be an opportunity to question speakers after each event”.

The online and free Berwick Literary Festival runs from October 15-18.

The online Festival is free, but organisers say that pre-registration for events is a must.

Full details of how to register, the complete programme and all contributors is available on the Berwick Literary Festival website