Festival Speakers | Gladfest 2016



Gervase Phinn

Gervase Phinn - SOLD OUT



WHEN: Friday, 2nd September | 6pm - 7pm

'Funny, touching and entertaining' (The Daily Express)

Gervase Phinn – comedian, author, poet, broadcaster, lecturer, educational guru, after-dinner speaker and ‘born raconteur’ (the Guardian) is perhaps best known for his best-selling series of Dales books for Penguin and his novels with Hodder. Affectionately dubbed ‘the James Herriot of schools’, his warm-hearted reminiscences about his life as a school inspector in the Yorkshire Dales, have featured heavily on Radio 4 Book of the Week and Book at Bedtime slots. He has written a wide range of academic books, children’s poetry and fiction and in 2004 was voted ‘Speaker of the Year’. In a light-hearted and entertaining way, Gervase talks about his life and his work.


Gervase Phinn taught in a range of schools for 14 years before becoming an education adviser and school inspector. He is now a freelance lecturer, broadcaster and writer, a consultant for the Open University, Honorary Fellow of St. John's University, Honorary Fellow of Leeds Trinity University, Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) of the University of Leicester, Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) of the University of Hull and the Fellow and Visiting Professor at the University of Teesside. In 2005 the highest academic award of Sheffield Hallam University, Doctor of the University (D.Univ.) was conferred upon him by the Chancellor, Professor Lord Robert Winston. In 2004, Gervase was voted ‘Speaker of the Year’ by the National Society of Speakers Clubs. In 2006 he became President of The School Library Association and is President of the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama.

Visit Gervase's website.


Gervase Phinn is probably best known for his best-selling five autobiographical Dales novels with Penguin, as read on Radio 4 Book of the Week. Head Over Heels in the Dales was a Number 1 best-seller. He has just completed his fifth novel from the Little Village School series.

Gervase has published many articles, chapters and books and edited a wide range of poetry and short story collections. His academic texts include Young Readers and their Books, published by David Fulton, Touches of Beauty: Poetry in the Primary School and Reading Matters.

Gervase has also published collections of his own plays, poems, picture books and short stories, including his anthologies of verse Classroom Creatures, It Takes One to Know One, The Day Our Teacher Went Batty and Family Phantoms.

Gervase's books of stories for children, What's the Matter, Royston Knapper? and Royston Knapper: The Return of the Rogue were published by Child's Play and became best­sellers. His picture books Our Cat Cuddles, What I Like and What Am I? are popular additions to the book corner in the infant classrooms.

Television and radio appearances include Esther (BBC One), You and Yours (BBC Radio 4), Book at Bedtime (BBC Radio 4), Book of the Week (BBC Radio 4), The Politics Show (BBC One), The Alan Titchmarsh Show (BBC One), The Book Programme with Mariella Frostrup and Clive James (Sky) and Good Morning Sunday with Aled Jones (BBC Radio 2).


'A worthy successor to James Herriott, and every bit as endearing' (Alan Titchmarsh)

'One of the most accomplished public speakers of any kind. A natural storyteller, he combines the timing of the professional comedian with palpable warmth and the ability to deliver a message that is more than just a series of jokes' (The Times Educational Supplement)

'Gentle and warm with a wry sense of humour' (The Yorkshire Post)

'He tells a cracking good tale!' (The Times)

Listen to Gervase talks about the books he loves on BBC Radio 4 here.

Anthony Seldon

Anthony Seldon



WHEN: Friday, 2nd September | 8pm - 9pm

‘Explosive…authoritative yet uncompromisingly tough…a gripping and at times astonishing account of the people who rule us’ (Mail on Sunday on Cameron at 10)

Gladstone's Library's own Peter Francis talks history, politics and happiness with leading contemporary historian Sir Anthony Seldon, author of Cameron at 10: The Inside Story (2015) and Beyond Happiness (2015) as well as over 40 books on contemporary history, politics and education.


Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, is a leading contemporary historian, educationalist, commentator and political author. He was Master of Wellington College, one of Britain's leading independent schools, until 2015. He is author or editor of over 40 books on contemporary history, politics and education, was the co-founder and first director of the Centre for Contemporary British History, is co-founder of Action for Happiness, and is honorary historical adviser to 10 Downing Street. 

His many other activities include being Chair of the National Comment Awards, a member of the First World War Centenary Culture Committee, and a governor of The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Visit Anthony's website.


The Coalition Effect (with Dr Mike Finn), 2015

Cameron at 10: The Inside Story 2010-2015 (with Peter Snowdon), 2015

Beyond Happiness: The trap of happiness and how to find deeper meaning and joy, 2015

The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington (with Daniel Collings), 2014

Public Schools and the Great War (with David Walsh), 2013

Brown at 10, 2010

An End to Factory Schools: An Education Manifesto 2010-2020 (Centre for Policy Studies), 2010

Trust: How We Lost it and How to Get it Back, 2009

Blair Unbound: The Biography Part II, 2001-2007 (with Peter Snowdon), 2007

Blair's Britain, 1997-2007 (with Peter Snowdon), 2007


Praise for Cameron at 10:

'A formidable achievement…magisterial… If I were Mr Corbyn, I’d get busy reading’ (Evening Standard)

‘As comprehensive an account of the coalition years as anyone could write so soon after the events’ (Independent, Books of the Year)

‘A substantial piece of work – a blow-by-blow account, impeccably researched and carefully documented' (The Observer)

‘Measured and thoughtful… a fascinating book’ (Daily Beast)

Hear Sir Anthony Seldon's Desert Island Discs.

Guy Cuthbertson

Guy Cuthbertson - SOLD OUT



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 10am - 11am

'A compassionate and moving biography' (Daily Mail)

How do most of us know the First World War? Through its poetry, and the lives of the poets who wrote it. Released to effusive praise in 2014 and in paperback in 2015, Guy Cuthbertson's Wilfred Owen offers a new perspective on one of Britain's best-known poets


Guy Cuthbertson is Associate Professor of English Literature at Liverpool Hope University. He grew up in the midlands and studied at St Andrews University and The Queen’s College, Oxford University. He has held academic posts at the universities of Oxford, St Andrews, Swansea, Brighton and London, and was a research fellow at the National University of Ireland, Galway, during 2015-16. 

Guy’s research has mostly been focused on the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. He has published widely on Edward Thomas and he is a General Editor of the six-volume scholarly edition of Edward Thomas’s prose, published by Oxford University Press.  His edition of Edward Thomas’s Autobiographies was a ‘Book of the Year’ in The Times Literary Supplement. With Lucy Newlyn he edited England and Wales and the anthology Branch-Lines.

His biography of Wilfred Owen was published by Yale University Press in 2014 and in paperback in 2015. It was named as one of the Top Ten Biographies of the Year by Booklist in the USA, and in the UK it was a ‘Book of the Week’, a ‘Must Read’ and the subject of the lead review in several newspapers and magazines. 


Guy Cuthbertson, Wilfred Owen (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014; UK paperback 2015, US paperback 2016)

Edward Thomas, England and Wales, ed. Guy Cuthbertson and Lucy Newlyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Edward Thomas, Autobiographies, ed. Guy Cuthbertson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Guy Cuthbertson and Lucy Newlyn, eds, Branch-Lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry (London: Enitharmon, 2007; 2nd ed. 2014)


'Written with sincerity, diligence and empathy' (The Financial Times)

'A scintillating biography. For a long time Owen has been set in stone, his poetry ossifying into anti-war cliché. Cuthbertson has made him live again' (Times Higher Education Supplement)

'Rarely has a poet been better served than by Guy Cuthbertson's sensitive and beautifully-written account...Highly readable, using a wealth of fascinating detail' (Birmingham Post)

'Cuthbertson is an acute and perceptive critic...This book is a valuable addition to the huge library devoted to the war's remarkable literary legacy' (BBC History Magazine)

Watch a YouTube video of Guy Cuthbertson introducing Wilfred Owen.

Simon Grennan

Simon Grennan



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 10am - 11.30am

'I am trying to tease out something more - the ways in which stories are produced, written or drawn, and read' (Simon on drawing Dispossession, Times Higher Education)

A hit last year talking about his graphic novel Dispossession, Simon returns with a practical workshop: an easy and exciting hands-on introduction to visualising and making comics. No existing drawing skills required: this is about making comics, not Leonardos (although any Leonardos are welcome too)!


Simon trained as a fine artist, establishing an international studio with American artist Christopher Sperandio in 1990, which is still current. Grennan & Sperandio began producing comic books in 1995, sparking Simon's passionate interest in the ways in which this most nineteenth century of media continues to provide opportunities for scrutinising drawing, verbalisation, looking and reading. In 2008, Simon decided to pursue this interest seriously, resulting in a new endeavour that rationalisies relationships between research and studio practice and results in both scholarship and new narrative drawings, including the production of new graphic novels.

Visit Simon's website


Transforming Anthony Trollope: 'Dispossession', Victorianism and 19th century word and image (Leuven University Press, 2015)

Dispossession (Jonathan Cape, 2015)

Courir deux lièvres (Impressions Nouvelles, 2015)

A Theory of Narrative Drawing (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Marie Duval presents Ally Sloper: the female cartoonist and popular theatre in London 1869-1885 (Palgrave Macmillan 2017)

Dispossession was included in the Guardian's Best Graphic Books of 2015.

Read Simon's piece on graphic adaptation in Times Higher Education here.

Read an interview with Simon on Dispossession here.

Richard Holloway

Richard Holloway



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 11.30am - 12.30pm

'Unsparingly honest' (Spectator)

Back by popular demand, the theologian and former Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh returns to discuss his latest book with Peter Francis.

In an era of hardening religious attitudes and explosive religious violence, A Little History of Religion reaches far beyond the major world religions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, and examines where religious belief comes from. Writing for those with faith and those without, Richard encourages curiosity and tolerance, accentuates nuance and mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith. Exploring the search for meaning throughout history, today’s fascinations with Scientology and creationism, religiously motivated violence, hostilities between religious people and secularists, and more, Richard is an empathic yet discerning guide to the enduring significance of faith and its power from ancient times to our own.



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 8.30pm - 9.30pm

Religion, says Richard Holloway, is a uniquely human phenomenon. We are thinking creatures, and a capacity to think brings about the capacity to believe. Join what is sure to be a sell-out crowd to hear Richard's musings on religious experiences and expressions.


Richard Holloway is a former Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh and Gresham Professor of Divinity. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Richard has written for many newspapers in Britain, including The Times, Guardian, Observer, Herald and the Scotsman and is the author of over 20 books. Richard has also presented many series for BBC television and radio.


Beyond Belief (1981)

Paradoxes of Christian Faith and Life (1984)

The Way of the Cross (1986)

Crossfire: Faith and Doubt in an Age of Uncertainty (1988)

Who Needs Feminism? (1991)

Anger, Sex, Doubt and Death (1992)

Dancing On The Edge: Faith In A Post-Christian Age (1997)

Godless Morality: Keeping Religion out of Ethics (1999)

Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity (2001)

On Forgiveness: How can we Forgive the Unforgivable? (2002)

Looking in the Distance: The Human Search for Meaning (2004)

How To Read The Bible (2006)

Between the Monster and the Saint (2008)

Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt (2012)


'His memoirs are not a chronicle of achievement but rather a study of failure and frustration. Marked by a searing honesty and an almost morbid sense of introspection, they make for a disturbing and unsettling read which brought me close to tears more than once' (The Tablet)

Listen to Richard Holloway talk about leaving the church and living on the edge of a spiritual life here.

Francesca Haig

Francesca Haig



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 11.00am - 12.30pm

Are you nearing the end of a writing project and wondering whether it's as good as you can make it? Keen to send it out to agents and publishers but nervous about letting it go? This relaxed, hands-on session will help you turn a critical eye to your work and provide tips for sharpening your manuscript.



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 1pm - 2pm

'Like its predecessor, this is a book that forces us to consider what it means to be human, and how important it is to respect the humanity in others' (Starburst)

Francesca Haig's The Fire Sermon caused an international stir on its release in 2015. We were privileged to hear the first ever reading from it at Gladfest 2014; in 2016 we are delighted to welcome Francesca back, talking to Festival Director Louisa Yates about apocalypse and the challenges of writing the second novel in the trilogy, The Map of Bones.


Francesca Haig is an author and academic. Her novel The Fire Sermon (the first in a trilogy) was published in 2015 by Harper Voyager (UK) and Simon & Schuster (US), and translated into more than 20 languages. Her first poetry collection, Bodies of Water (Five Islands Press, 2006) was Highly Commended in the Anne Elder Award for the best first book of poetry in Australia. Her poetry has also been published in various national and international journals and anthologies, including Motherlode: Australian Women's Poetry, 1986-2008 (Puncher & Wattman, 2009). In 2010 Francesca was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship. She gained her PhD from the University of Melbourne and is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Chester. Her published articles address subjects ranging from pseudoscience to Shakespeare, but her principal research area is Holocaust fiction.

Visit Francesca's website.


The Fire Sermon (Harper Voyager, 2015)

Bodies of Water (Five Islands Press, 2006)


Praise for The Fire Sermon:

‘Set in a vividly realised world of elite Alphas and their ‘weaker’ Omega twins, it holds a mirror up to our obsession with perfection’ (Guardian)

‘This terrific set-up spools out into a high tension tale of mistrust and dependency, injustice and optimism, told with poetic intensity’ (Daily Mail)

‘With its well-built world, vivid characters and suspenseful plot, this book…is poised to become the next must-read hit’ (Kirkus)

Listen to Francesca Haig on BBC Radio 4's Open Book.

Michael Nobbs

Michael Nobbs - CANCELLED



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 12.30pm - 2pm

'As well as loving his artwork, I was impressed with the sense of calm, compassion and wisdom that he demonstrates' (Clear Minded Creative)

Join artist and author Michael Nobbs to discover how he defines Important Work, how you can work out what your own Important Work is and how you can commit to it in a sustainable way so you can begin to build the creative life you've always wanted.


Michael Nobbs is a writer, artist and blogger. He runs Sustainably Creative, a website that offers inspiration and encouragement to those struggling with creative projects. Michael’s first book, Drawing Your Life, was made one page at a time using his mantra of ‘one creative thing a day’.

Visit Michael's website.


Drawing Your Life: Learn to See, Record, and Appreciate Life's Small Joys (Penguin, 2013)

The Beany #3: In which Michael travels from Snowdon to Barcelona via Scotland, drinks plenty of tea and draws a bit... (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014)


'It was better to work on what was important to me regularly and in small pieces of time. Little and often can really build up a creative body of work' (CMC)

Listen to Michael's One Thing Today podcasts.

Loyd Grossman

Loyd Grossman



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 1pm - 2pm

'An engaging new study…provides fascinating new insights into West's painting' (NADFAS Review)

TV presenter and historian Loyd Grossman considers the Georgian craze for history as it was expressed in books, prints and paintings. Loyd explores 18th century Britain; a time of political, social and intellectual revolutions.


Loyd Grossman OBE is a broadcaster, historian and journalist. He has presented a wide range of TV programmes, from Through the Keyhole and MasterChef to Loyd on Location and History of British Sculpture. Born in Massachusetts, Grossman has been based in the UK since 1975. He is involved with many charities supporting the arts, heritage and education in the UK. He is Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust and President of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). He was appointed OBE in 2003 and was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 2007 by the University of Chester in recognition of his heritage work. In January 2011 the University of Lincoln awarded him an honorary Doctor of Arts degree in recognition of his contribution to the cultural heritage sector. Grossman has a particular interest in 18th century British art and architecture.


The Social History of Rock Music (1975)

Loyd Grossman's Italian Journey (1994)

The World on a Plate (1997)

Benjamin West and the Struggle to be Modern (2015)


'An admirable, up-to-date and wide-ranging account, making clear how important West was, not just as the first American artist to make a career in London, but also as an artist who first introduced ideas of the Enlightenment to history painting' (The Royal Academy of Arts, London)

'Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced' (Art Quarterly)
Listen to a podcast in which Loyd introduces Benjamin West.
Michel Faber

Michel Faber



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 2.30pm - 3.30pm

How can you say goodbye to the love of your life? 

After a memorable preview of his forthcoming, then-untitled collection of poetry at last year's Gladfest, Michel returns with an event devoted entirely to the collection, now titled Undying and published in July.

Bright, tragic, candid and true, these poems are an exceptional chronicle of what it means to find the love of your life, and what it is like to have to say goodbye. 

All I can do, in what remains of my brief time,
is mention, to whoever cares to listen,
that a woman once existed, who was kind
and beautiful and brave, and I will not forget
how the world was altered, beyond recognition,
when we met.


Michel Faber was born in The Hague, Netherlands. He and his parents emigrated to Australia in 1967. He attended primary and secondary school in the Melbourne suburbs of Boronia and Bayswater, then attended the University Of Melbourne, studying Dutch, Philosophy, Rhetoric, English Language (a course involving translation and criticism of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English texts) and English Literature. He graduated in 1980. He worked as a cleaner and at various other casual jobs, before training as a nurse at Marrickville and Western Suburbs hospitals in Sydney. He nursed until the mid-1990s. In 1993 he, his wife and family emigrated to Scotland. Michel's The Crimson Petal and the White (2002) was adapted for television by the BBC in 2011, and a film starring Scarlett Johansson and based upon Under the Skin was released in 2013.


Under the Skin (2000)

The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps (2001)

The Courage Consort (2002)

The Crimson Petal and the White (2002)

The Fire Gospel (2008)

The Book of Strange New Things (2014)


'Lucid, tender and wise...pulsing with this fine writer's intelligence' (Ian McEwan)

'Searing yet beautiful' (Richard Holloway)

'Devastating' (John Self)

'A painful little treasure' (Christopher Brookmyre)

Read an interview with Michel about Undying here.

Ian Parks

Ian Parks



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 3pm - 4.30pm

'The finest love poet of his generation' (Chiron Review)

In this poetry-writing workshop Ian Parks encourages participants to draw on their own experience of the passing of time to generate new and exciting poems. Called 'the finest love poet of his generation', we are delighted to offer a workshop from one of our first Writers in Residence.



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 10am - 11am

E. M. Forster wrote a memoir on him, T. S. Eliot was amongst the earliest promoters of his work and in 1966, David Hockney made a series of prints to illustrate a selection of his poems. C. P. Cavafy was one of the most important Greek poets of the twentieth century and yet his work is still relatively unknown outside that country.

Cavafy was instrumental in the revival and recognition of Greek poetry both at home and abroad and himself wrote historical, sensual and philosophical poems. Uncertainty about the future, psychology and the moral character, homosexuality, and an existential nostalgia are some of his defining themes.

Ian Parks' versions of Cavafy's poems aim to capture the 'unique tone of voice' that sets him apart. Talking about and reading from his forthcoming collection of Cavafy's poetry, Ian will provide an insight into this most fascinating of poets.


Ian Parks was one of the first Writers in Residence at Gladstone's Library in 2012. His collections of poems include Shell Island, The Landing Stage, Love Poems 1979-2009, and The Exile's House. He is the editor of Versions of the North: Contemporary Yorkshire Poetry and was Writing Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester from 2012-2014. He lives in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, where he is a driving force behind the Ted Hughes Poetry Festival. His last collection was a Poetry Book Society Choice. A further collection, Citizens is forthcoming in 2016 and Arc Publications will be publishing his If Possible: Fifty Cavafy Poems. A new pamphlet, Since, is available from Melos Press.


Gargoyles in Winter (1986)

A Climb Through Altered Landscapes (1998)

Shell Island (2016)

Love Poems 1979-2009 (2009)

The Landing Stage (2010)

The Exile's House (2012)

The Cavafy Variations (2013)

Since (2015)


'Reading a poem by Ian Parks is like hearing your name spoken in the din of a public place - you hear it regardless of the background noise' (Peter Dale)

'Ian Parks has an instantly recognisable voice: spare, lyrical, memorable and intense. Whatever subject he addresses - historical, political, romantic - he transforms through the sheer force of his poetic identity' (Donald Davie)

Rachel Holmes

Rachel Holmes - SOLD OUT



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 4pm - 5pm

'Gripping and vividly told' (Sunday Times)

Unrestrained by convention, lion-hearted and free, Eleanor Marx was an exceptional woman. Hers was the first English translation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary; she pioneered the theatre of Henrik Ibsen; she was the first woman to lead the British dock workers' and gas workers' trades unions; for years she worked tirelessly for her father, Karl Marx, as personal secretary and researcher and later she edited many of his key political works and laid the foundations for his biography. But foremost among Eleanor’s achievements was her pioneering feminism. For her, sexual equality was a necessary precondition for a just society.

Rachel Holmes's dazzling biography of Eleanor Marx won a place on every 'best of' list and was praised for its vigorous pace and rigorous scholarship. Join Rachel for tales this irrepressible, funny, passionate woman, and get a preview of Rachel's next subject, Sylvia Pankhurst.


In 2010 Rachel received an Arts Council cultural leadership award as one of Britain’s Fifty Women to Watch. She has worked with and for British Council literature festivals and international programmes since 2000. Since 2012 she has been the UK Chair of the Iraq Literature Festival. She was recently chosen to be one of the writers on the literary tour for the UK - Russia Year of Culture.  

As an academic, Rachel has held Lectureships at the University of London and the University of Sussex and was a visiting fellow at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. As an online entrepreneur, she was one of the founding launch team of amazon.co.uk in 1998. She was Director of Literature & Spoken Word at London's Southbank Centre where she pioneered the annual London Literature Festival. Rachel piloted the first Palestine Writing Workshop established by the Palestine Festival of Literature (PALFEST) in 2009 and was Writer in Residence and a regular tutor on the programme for four years. She has taught courses for the Arvon Foundation and was a tutor on the West Dean Creative Writing MA awarded by Sussex University. She serves and has served on various boards, including Oxfam GB and English PEN. 

Rachel writes regularly for the UK national press and international publications and regularly features across the cultural and political media. 


Rachel Holmes is the author of Eleanor Marx: A Life (Bloomsbury, May 2014), serialised on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and rated one of the best reads of 2014 by The Telegraph. She is also the author of The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman (Bloomsbury) and The Secret Life of Dr James Barry (Viking & Tempus Books). In 2013 Rachel co-edited, with Lisa Appignanesi and Susie Orbach, their much-discussed Fifty Shades of Feminism (Virago). She was co-commissioning editor of Sixty Six Books: 21st Century Writers Speak to the King James Bible (Oberon, 2011) with Josie Rourke and Chris Haydon. 


'The story of this remarkable life is so well told, with a rare combination of pace, verve and scholarship, that the reader is soon a daily visitor to the Marx household, with its soot, smoke, books, babies, dinner on the table via the pawnshop, three languages spoken in any combination, and the tiny Eleanor...I doubt the reader will close this brilliant biography unmoved by this extraordinary woman's life' (Daily Telegraph)

'Thanks to Holmes' fresh and vital style – not to mention her endearing partisanship – Eleanor Marx: A Life reads less like a biography than a 19th century novel. The life of one of Britain's most celebrated intellectuals and activists of the late 19th century came abruptly to an end, to be all but forgotten. Thankfully, however, Holmes has given back to us an unforgettable Eleanor Marx' (Financial Times)

Read the blog Rachel wrote on the Gladstones and the Pankhursts during her time as Writer in Residence at Gladstone's Library in November 2015.

Scarlett Thomas

Scarlett Thomas



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 5.30pm - 6.30pm

'You won’t read a livelier tale about sex, death and out-of-body experiences all year’ (Sunday Times on The Seed Collectors:)

Scarlett Thomas has published nine novels, many of which contain elements of magic or fantasy alongside a realistic world and literary themes. The End of Mr. Y tells of a student who finds a cursed book and then journeys to another world called the Troposphere, and Scarlett’s most recent novel, The Seed Collectors, about the secrets of a botanical family, includes a flying pop star and a talking robin. Scarlett will discuss her complex relationship with both realism and fantasy, and explain why she has decided to write her next book for children. She will read from old and new works and answer questions from the audience.


Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972. Her nine novels include Bright Young Things, PopCo, The Seed Collectors and The End of Mr. Y, which was longlisted for the Orange Broadband prize in 2007. She has also published a book about writing called Monkeys with Typewriters, and contributed reviews and essays to the Guardian, the New York Times and BBC radio. Scarlett’s work has been translated into 25 languages and sold over half a million copies worldwide. Her first novel for children, Dragon’s Green, will be published in 2017. She teaches at the University of Kent.

Visit Scarlett's website.


The Seed Collectors (2015)

Our Tragic Universe (2010)

The End of Mr. Y (2007)

PopCo (2004)

Going Out (2002)


Going Out does for provincial Britain what Frank Capra did for small-town America’ (Independent on Sunday)

PopCo is compulsive, the ideas - and they're big ideas - are seamlessly integrated and necessary to the plot. Frankly, this novel is a bewitching, dizzying triumph’ (Scotsman)

The End of Mr Y is a scintillating novel’ (TLS)

'Our Tragic Universe is a delight, not least for the quality of Scarlett Thomas’s writing’ (Philip Pullman)

Read the Independent's review of The Seed Collectors here.

Peter Moore

Peter Moore - SOLD OUT



WHEN: Saturday, 3rd September | 5.30pm - 7pm

‘Riveting…full of wisdom for modern times’ (The New York Times on The Weather Experiment)

Never have we written about the past so imaginatively. From Hillary Mantel’s novels to Helen Macdonald’s memoir, history is being explored through dreams, visions and imaginations as much as pure Gradgrindian facts. From dead poets and hot air balloon rides to village murders and TH White’s goshawk, this workshop will examine how today’s writers use imagination as a literary device and will teach you how to apply the same techniques to your own work. As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It's not even past”.


Peter Moore was born in Staffordshire in 1983. Educated at Durham University and City University in London, his journalism has appeared in the Guardian and The New York Times. His debut, Damn His Blood, an acclaimed history of a Georgian murder, was published in 2012 and was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. His second, The Weather Experiment, was a Sunday Times Bestseller and was chosen as one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2015.


The Weather Experiment (2015)

Damn His Blood (2012)


Praise for The Weather Experiment:

‘Richly researched, exciting…[The Weather Experiment] is both scientific and cultural history, of prize-winning potential, and as fresh and exhilarating throughout as a strong sea breeze’ (Sunday Times)

Praise for Damn His Blood:

‘A remarkable debut from a very canny storyteller who deftly takes us back to the scene of some sensational murders 200 years ago’ (the Guardian)

‘A gripping historical drama, beautifully told, and underpinned by meticulous research. The best historical crime books root a compelling narrative firmly in the context of their era, and Peter Moore has achieved this in great style’ (Jane Robins, author of The Magnificent Spilsbury)

Peter Moore talks creative non-fiction and the writing process in this YouTube video.

Andrew Tate

Andrew Tate



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 10am - 11am

'Tate's readings are subtle and invariably interesting...the reader is drawn engagingly into the exploration' (The Glass)

Contemporary culture has become highly skilled at imagining the downfall of humanity: civilization repeatedly comes to a spectacular end on the big screen and on the pages of bestselling fiction. This talk will explore a variety of novels set in alternative ‘ruined futures’ as Andrew Tate examines the work of, amongst others, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell. How do anxieties about environmental destruction inform the twenty-first-century novel? What does the popularity of dystopian fiction say about our current political situation? Why might these stories of catastrophe suggest hope for our shared future?


Dr Andrew Tate is Reader in Literature, Religion and Aesthetics in the Department of English & Creative Writing at Lancaster University. He has published widely in the field of contemporary literature, religion and culture.


Andrew's books include Douglas Coupland (Manchester University Press, 2007), Contemporary Fiction and Christianity (Continuum, 2008), The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy and Polemic After 9/11 (co-authored with Arthur Bradley) (2010) and Literature and the Bible: A Reader, co-edited with Jo Carruthers and Mark Knight (Routledge, 2013). His new book, Apocalyptic Fiction, is to be published by Bloomsbury in late 2017.

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 11.30am - 12.30pm

'Malcolm Guite knows exactly how to use the sonnet form to powerful effect. These pieces have the economy and pungency of all good sonnets, and again and again, offer deep resources for prayer and meditation to the reader' (Rowan Williams)

A reading from Malcolm's new collection of sonnets and other verse, including sequences on the O Antiphons and the Stations of the Cross - composed here at Gladstone's Library - and a meditation on Dante inspired by Gladstone's own approach to the medieval poet.


Malcolm Guite is a poet and priest, working as Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge. He also teaches for the Divinity Faculty and for the Cambridge Theological Federation, and lectures widely in England and North America on Theology and Literature. He works as a librettist for composer Kevin Flanagan and his Riprap Jazz Quartet, and has also worked in collaboration with American composer J.A.C. Redford, and Canadian singer-songwriter Steve Bell. He was the inaugural Artist in Residence at Duke Divinity School in the USA in September 2014, and ‘Visionary in Residence’ at Biola in Los Angeles in March 2015.

Visit Malcolm's website.


Faith Hope and Poetry (2010)

Sounding the Seasons; Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year (2012)

The Singing Bowl; Collected Poems (2013)

The Word in the Wilderness, and Waiting on the Word (2014)

Parable and Paradox (2016)


‘Finely written and deeply intelligent work...his work is both classical and yet immediate...Deeply thoughtful and humane, technically varied and adept, realistic and faithful' (The Church Times)

'No one with an interest in the history of poetry inspired by the Christian Faith can fail to be impressed with this book. Malcolm Guite has offered us an immensely rich work, ranging from the 8th Century Dream of the Rood, to Seamus Heaney via Shakespeare, John Davies, John Donne and George Herbert, in which the truth-telling available only in poetry is brought into the service of mature theological vision. It is quite simply both astounding and outstanding' (The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Sykes on Seasons, Saints and Sonnets)

'Malcolm Guite has the rare gift of being able to open up the depths of poetry and theology together. He is alert to form, content and context, and above all to the nuances of poetic visions of God, the complexities of faith, and spiritual transformations' (David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge)

Watch a YouTube video on Malcolm's poetry jamming the machine...

Peter Blair

Peter Blair



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 11.30am - 12.30pm

Flash fiction, or the short-short story, is more popular now than ever. Its brevity (typically under 500 words) makes it particularly suited to writing workshops, public performance, and on-screen reading, as well as to print magazines, anthologies, and collections. But brevity can have other advantages too: less is often more. As writer Ku Ling put it: ‘A good short-story is short but not small, light but not slight.’ This talk will introduce the meteoric rise of the contemporary flash, its many varieties, and the myriad names by which it is known. It will consider definitions of flash fiction, including identification by word count and formal characteristics. And it will explore humorous examples to illuminate how little stories can resonate long after their last words.


Peter Blair is Senior Lecturer in English Literature, and Programme Leader of the MA Modern and Contemporary Fiction, at the University of Chester. He is founding co-editor, with Ashley Chantler, of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, a biannual literary journal publishing quality stories, reviews, and essays of up to 360 words; and of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press, which publishes chapbooks of flash fiction. He is co-director of the International Flash Fiction Association (IFFA). He has been a judge for a number of literary competitions, including the Gladstone’s Library ‘Mystery Lady’ Flash Fiction Competition (2013) and the National Flash Fiction Youth Competition. His own stories and poems have been runners-up in the Bridport Prize, the Fish Prize, and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. His critical publications include essays, reviews, and interviews on South African literature and on flash fiction, including the ‘Flash Fiction’ article in the bestselling Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016 (Bloomsbury).


‘Flash Fiction’, in Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2016 (2015)

David Swann, Stronger Faster Shorter: Flash Fictions, ed. Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler (2015)

Meg Tuite, Lined Up Like Scars: Flash Fictions, ed. Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler (2015)

Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, ‘“As if on a magic carpet”: An Interview with Vanessa Gebbie’, in Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, 4.2 (2014)

Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, ‘“A pop star trapped in the body of a flasher”: An Interview with David Gaffney’, in Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, 4.1 (2014)

Read an interview with Peter on flash fiction.

Vanessa Gebbie

Vanessa Gebbie - SOLD OUT



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 1pm - 2.30pm

'An essential read. A goldmine' (The Bridport Prize on Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story)

Short fiction with BIG ideas! Join award-winning novelist, poet and short story writer Vanessa Gebbie for the chance to try your hand at writing flash fiction. Learn to capture ‘a moment in time’ with one of Britain’s finest flash fiction writers. 

Explore one of the fastest-growing forms of fiction. Ideal for reading on screen, flashes can be many things: fun, thought-provoking, beautiful, surprising, poignant. Cousin of poetry, prose poetry and short story, flash may be small but it can punch well above its weight. In this workshop you'll look at excellent published examples, teasing out the craft techniques, and have fun experimenting. You will create several examples of your own in tried and tested writing games and exercises. Finally, you will look at flash markets and competitions, and learn a few tips to maximise your chances of success in both.


Vanessa Gebbie is a Welsh writer of stories from 10 to 100,000 words, and author or editor of eight books. She has won awards for both prose and poetry, including The Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year and a Bridport Prize for prose in addition to The Troubadour International and Sussex and Kent Poetry prizes. She is a novelist, short and flash fiction writer, poet, and freelance writing tutor. She was commissioned by Salt Publishing to compile a text book on writing short fictions. The result, Short Circuit, with its craft chapters by 26 prizewinning writers, is now in its second edition, and is recommended reading on creative writing courses across the UK and beyond.

Vanessa teaches widely and acts as mentor for emerging writers through New Writing South, Creative Futures and The Word Factory. She volunteers for the Womentoring Project. Vanessa has been supported in her work by an Arts Council Grant for the Arts, a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Gladstone’s Library Residency. She is Trustee of New Writing South, the writing association based in Brighton, East Sussex.

Visit Vanessa's website.


Memorandum, Poems for the Fallen (2016)

Ed’s Wife and Other Creatures (2015)

The Half-life of Fathers (2014)

Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story (2013)

The Coward’s Tale (2011)

Read an interview with Vanessa by The Telegraph.

Simon Brett

Simon Brett



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 1.15pm - 2.15pm

‘One of the wittiest crime writers around’ (Antonia Fraser)

Award-winning crime writer Simon Brett takes a humorous look at his long and varied writing career. With crime, comedy, radio and television, there's something for everyone.


A former department store Father Christmas, BBC radio and ITV television producer, Simon Brett has been a full-time writer for over 30 years. He has published more than 80 books, including the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels. His stand-alone psychological thriller, A Shock to the System, was made into a feature film starring Michael Caine and Dead Romantic was filmed for BBC2.

Simon's humorous books include the best-selling How to be a Little Sod, which was adapted for television. He has edited Faber anthologies of Useful Verse, Parodies and Diaries. His work for radio has included Dear Diary, Smelling of Roses, No Commitments and After Henry, which was also successful on television. Charles Paris is having a new life on Radio 4, with Bill Nighy in the role of the actor/detective.

Visit Simon's website.


Charles Paris series (1975 - 2014)

Mrs Pargeter series (1986 - 2015)

Fethering series (2000 - 2015)

Blotto & Twinks series (2009 - 2015)


‘Simon Brett writes the kind of good whodunits that could have been written fifty years ago... and he has a sly sense of humour’ (The Times)

‘Simon Brett is one of British crime’s most assured craftsmen, with idiosyncratic characters proving winning creations...A feast of red herrings, broadly drawn characters, and gentle thrills and spills litter the witty plot. Crime writing just like in the good old days, and perfect entertainment’ (the Guardian)

Watch an extract from a talk Simon gave at Rainham Library here.

Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 2.30pm - 3.30pm

'One of the best historical novels of the past decade' - The Times

It's the 1890s and something distinctly serpentine is slithering through the Essex marshes, terrifying parishioners and enraging the local vicar, Will Ransome. Sarah Perry's hotly-anticipated second novel wreathes together faith, science, rationality and passion in a new kind of Victorian story.


Sarah Perry was born in Essex. She gained a PhD in Creative Writing & the Gothic from Royal Holloway in 2012, having been supervised by Andrew Motion. A winner of the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize & a Royal Holloway doctoral studentship, she was Writer in Residence at Gladstone's Library in January 2013 and the UNESCO City of Literature Writer in Residence in Prague in 2016. Sarah has written for a number of publications including the Guardian, the Independent, Slightly Foxed and the Spectator. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and RTE 1. Sarah's debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood, won the East Anglian Book of the Year award in 2014, and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014 and the Folio Prize 2015. 

Her second novel, The Essex Serpent, is published in June 2016.

Visit Sarah's website.


The Essex Serpent, 2016

After Me Comes the Flood, 2014


Praise for The Essex Serpent:

'A big, warm, generous novel that wears its considerable wisdom lightly, The Essex Serpent is an absolute pleasure from start to finish - I truly didn't want it to end' (Melissa Harrison) 

'A book to make you want to be a better person' (the Guardian)

Praise for After Me Comes the Flood:

'Extraordinary' - the Guardian 

'Dazzling' - The Daily Telegraph 

'Remarkable' - The Sunday Times

Read the fantastic reviews of The Essex Serpent from the Guardian and The Financial Times.

Val McDermid

Val McDermid - SOLD OUT



WHEN: Sunday, 4th September | 4pm - 5pm

'McDermid remains unrivalled' (Observer)

Award-winning crime writer and broadcaster Val McDermid (Splinter the Silence, The Skeleton Road) discusses what draws us to read and write about murder, its motives and its aftermath.


Val McDermid is an internationally best-selling and multiple award winning writer. Her books have sold more than 12m copies worldwide and have been translated into over 40 languages. Val grew up in a working-class community in Fife and read English at Oxford. She spent 15 years as a journalist before leaving to write full-time in 1991. Her first novel, Report for Murder, was published by the Women’s Press in 1987. Out of Bounds (2016) is her 30th novel. She has written three series, featuring journalist Lindsay Gordon, private eye Kate Brannigan and the partnership of psychologist Tony Hill and police officer Carol Jordan. The Hill/Jordan novels were adapted for TV as Wire in the Blood. She has also published eight standalone thrillers, a contemporary re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, two non-fiction books (A Suitable Job for a Woman and Forensics: the Anatomy of Crime) and My Granny is a Pirate, a picture book for young children. A regular broadcaster, she also writes radio drama, most recently an adaptation of John Wyngham’s classic novel The Kraken Wakes for BBC Radio 4. She divides her time between Edinburgh and Stockport.


Out of Bounds (2016)

Splinter the Silence (2015)

The Skeleton Road (2014)

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime (2014)

Northanger Abbey (2014) 


Praise for Splinter the Silence:

'The real mistress of psychological gripping thrillers; no one can plot or tell a story like she can' (Daily Express)

'With the deaths of PD James and Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid is the obvious successor as Britain's Queen of Crime. For me, she has already held that title for many years. Her latest novel, starring the socially awkward but clever criminal profiler Tony Hill and ace detective Carol Jordan, demonstrates her supremacy' (The Times)

'McDermid still writes with the telltale verve that's won her the accolade queen of psychological thrillers' (the Guardian)

Listen to Val McDermid on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.