Cumbria Crack

Borderlines Book Festival returns for a fourth year

[B]orderlines Book Festival returns to Carlisle in October for its fourth successive year. The main festival takes place over the weekend of 6th – 8th October with pre- festival events taking place from 30th September at the Crown & Mitre Hotel, Carlisle Library, Tullie House Museum, the Cathedral and Cakes & Ale Café.

This year we’re opening the main weekend with something very special – a performance by the Liverpool String Quartet who are all members of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, the Liverpool String Quartet will play a selection of Beatles songs, many familiar and some less so – including Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and When I’m Sixty Four. Introduced by Hunter Davies, author of the only authorised biography of the Beatles, this promises to be an entertaining hour as he provides fascinating insights, in his own inimitable style, as to how the songs came to be written. Formed in 2010, the Liverpool String Quartet have performed extensively throughout the UK and abroad.

Performance will play an important part in the festival this year. As well as the Liverpool String Quartet, there will be performance plays and music depicting the lives of Beatrix Potter; Lucy Barfield, the inspiration behind C S Lewis’s Narnia stories, and the poetry and life of Robert Louis Stevenson. There will also be a performance workshop by Carlisle’s own Dance Ahead company.

Hunter Davies will also take the stage with his daughter, Caitlin Davies, who is also a writer. In “Memories of Margaret and Mum”, they will talk about how the late novelist, Margaret Forster influenced their writing careers, and how she managed a writing career herself whilst bringing up a young family.

Legendary mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington will be in conversation with BBC broadcaster Eric Robson and will talk about his life as a climber and will celebrate the publication of his new autobiography, Ascent which also covers the recent years of Chris’s life

This year’s festival also features an appearance from journalist, author and broadcaster Peter Snow and his wife Ann MacMillan, an internationally renowned journalist. Peter and Ann will be discussing their new book War Stories, a fascinating account of ordinary people swept up by the horror of war. The 31 stories from history since the 18th century include that of Edward Seager in the Charge of the Light Brigade, Benedict Arnold, a US turncoat in the War of Independence and Madeleine de Lancey who nursed her dying husband after the Battle of Waterloo.

Other fantastic names on the programme include Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, and mother of nine children, whom, with her husband, looks after 3000 sheep on a remote 2000-acre farm in the Yorkshire Dales. John O’Farrell will bring the laughs with the long-awaited sequel to his best-selling Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter – in Things Can Only Get Worse John will take us on a sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking rollercoaster ride from the highs of that Labour victory in ’97 to the lows of Brexit.

The festival will host events by two acclaimed biographers. Jenny Uglow, whose biographies include Thomas Bewick, George Eliot and Sarah Losh explores the timeless work of Edward Lear.

Claire Tomalin, renowned biographer of Dickens, Pepys and Austen will focus on her own life in a much-anticipated autobiography to be published in the Autumn.

Once again, the festival will focus on the wealth of writers connected with Cumbria.

Marie-Elsa Bragg will discuss her debut novel Towards Mellbreak, and how Cumbrian folklore, tradition, landscape and spirituality weave their way into her writing, and Jacob Polley, winner of the 2017 T S Eliot Poetry Prize will read from his collection Jackself, described by the judges as “a firework of a book; inventive, exciting and astounding in its imaginative range and depth of feeling.”

Other Cumbrian talks include Peter Brears on Traditional Cumbrian Food, Dr David Cross on Cumbrian monuments and sculpture, Steve Matthews on Carlisle in Literature; Jen Ashworth and Andrew Hurley on Cumbrian landscape in their fiction and journalist Alan Cleaver on folklore of Cumbria

A huge range of topics are covered in this year’s festival, including first hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles and human rights activists caught up in the 2011 conflict in Syria by media commentator and author Robin Yassin-Kassab and human rights activist Leila Al-Shami. Robin and Leila, along with broadcaster and journalist Roger Bolton as Chair, will discuss the issues from the grassroots to the political, including the role of the international community in bringing the bloodshed to an end.

Themes as diverse as fellrunning with the incredible Steve Birkinshaw, who broke Joss Naylor’s 1987 record for tackling all of Alfred Wainwright’s 214 Lake District peaks, and a year in the life of the natural world with award-winning author and presenter Brett Westwood, to the codebreakers of Bletchley Park with Sinclair McKay, and Neil Faulkner on the Russian Revolution in this, the centenary year, will also be explored. The rise of Ruth Davidson, Scottish Tory leader will be discussed by Andrew Liddle. Something for everyone!

The festival committee is run by a group of volunteers, including staff from Cumbria County Council’s Library Service, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery and Bookends Bookshop. The Cathedral is also a key partner, offering its beautiful venues for some of the events. Borderlines is staged in association with Cumbria Life which is the festival’s Media Partner.

Each year the festival has grown, with almost three thousand ticket holders coming from further afield than ever to hear speakers such as Susan Calman, Alan Johnson, Juliet Barker and Val McDermid.

By popular demand our programme of writer’s workshops returns, with inspirational subjects and tutors including Jeff Cowton from the Wordsworth Trust discussing manuscripts, ghost stories from the Iron Press, Kim Moore on poetry and Paul Teague on self-publishing. There will also be two masterclasses during the festival weekend: Kathleen Jones will give participants an insight into writing biographies, and Zosia Wand will run an inspiring session on structure and plot.

The ever-popular Poetry Breakfast with Malcolm Carson will return in the Function Room at Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery and this year’s competition for poets returns, with theme of ‘Exile’. There’s a first prize of £200, and poems of up to 40 lines can be submitted via the Borderlines website for an entry fee of £5 per poem. Renowned biographer and poet Kathleen Jones will judge the competition and winning entries will be read at a Poetry and Prose showcase evening in the beautiful space of the Cathedral Fratry, featuring local poets and special guests.

The full programme will be announced late July when tickets will also go on sale – tickets can be purchased via the Borderlines website, or at Bookends, Carlisle.