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Catherine Larner previews the Felixstowe Book Festival

PUBLISHED: 12:36 16 June 2015 | UPDATED: 13:17 16 June 2015

Meg Reid, artistic director of the Felixstowe Book Festival.

Meg Reid, artistic director of the Felixstowe Book Festival.


Read all about it . . . Felixstowe Book Festival is over the weekend June 27-28. For more information, tickets and a complete festival programme go to

Patrick GalePatrick Gale

Have you ever picked up a book and found a previous reader’s comments jotted in the margins? Were you as intrigued and delighted by them as the text itself?

If so, you’ll understand something of what Meg Reid, director of Felixstowe Book Festival, is trying to achieve with this year’s event.

“The idea came about from discussing what distinguishes the town,” she says. “Felixstowe is joined to the edge of continental Europe by shipping and ferries. It sits between two rivers like the text on a page between two margins.

“What is seen as ‘in the margins’ or ‘on the edge’ can be rich and sometimes more exciting than what is central.”

Patrick Gale's book A Place Called WinterPatrick Gale's book A Place Called Winter

This year’s festival combines familiar and popular names such as Terry Waite, Patrick Gale, Jill Paton Walsh, Erica James, Adele Parks and Nicola Upson, as well as authors, artists and performers who have not yet achieved a mainstream profile or are celebrating stories of people at the periphery.

There is an art installation about the traveller community and a discussion between crime writers Eva Dolan and Anya Lipska, who both set their novels within the migrant communities of Peterborough and Essex.

This is the third year of the festival and Meg has been thrilled by the attention it is now receiving from publishers and authors.

“They’re much more aware of us, a lot more people are asking to be part of it,” she says, which has resulted in a more diverse programme of speakers and events. Children’s adventure books author Julia Jones will be talking about the process of turning her stories into audio books, and Bee Willey will discuss book illustration. Philippa Lewis, author of Everyman’s Castle will talk about the social meaning of house features. Creative writing lecturer Philip Terry will talk about the marginal images of the Bayeux Tapestry and how his translation of Dante’s Inferno was initiated by jottings in the margins.

“As always our emphasis is on books which are a good read and on writers who will entertain, inform and intrigue our audiences,” says Meg. “Visitors to the festival can just sit and enjoy hearing authors talk about how they write, enjoy being told stories.”

Exploring the past

Novelist, Patrick Gale had long been intrigued by the tales surrounding his great-grandfather. Huge bearskin mittens (with claws intact) in the family dressing-up box were said to belong to Cowboy Grandpa and prompted accounts of log cabins, fights with Indians and wild animals, and a life in the Canadian west.

But was grandpa really a cowboy? And why did he leave his wife and daughter behind in London?

A few years ago Patrick inherited a hoard of papers – correspondence between his mother and grandmother, and the beginning of a memoir. In his novel, A Place Called Winter, it is the threat of a scandal and imprisonment over a homosexual affair that causes Harry to flee England for Canada.

“As I was progressing the story, I found I was projecting myself into Harry more and more, trying to understand him,” said Patrick.

Patrick Gale will be speaking at Felixstowe Book Festival.


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