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On the bill for Penzance festival next month

Speakers at the Penzance Literary Festival (July 3-6) will include Horatio Clare, who will be discussing his “love-hate relationship” with borders with Philip Marsden, whose new book, The Summer Isles: A Sea Voyage, is due to be published by Granta in October. Clare will also be reading from Something of His Art, about his walk in the footsteps of JS Bach, his readings interspersed with music by other composers played on period instruments by the Heinichen Ensemble.

  Also on the bill are Nicholas Jubber, whose latest book, Epic Continent, is inspired by poems — from The Odyssey to the Kosovo Cycle — telling the story of Europe; Philip Hoare, author most recently of RisingTideFallingStar, about his obsession with the sea; and Anna Pincus, founder and co-editor of Refugee Tales, who will be discussing with the novelist Patrick Gale, a contributor to her latest volume, the project she began to tell the stories of people trapped in indefinite detention.

Travel and place at the festivals

Forthcoming festivals with events featuring writing on travel and place include the following:

Cuirt International Festival of Literature, Galway (April 8-14) 
In a session titled “Traversing Parallels: Literature of Place”, Malachy Tallack, author of Sixty Degrees North and, most recently, the novel The Valley at the Centre of the World, which has been long-listed for the 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize, will be in conversation with Manchán Magan, who has written books on his travels in Africa, India and South America and two novels.

Colonsay Book Festival (April 27-28), Southern Hebrides
The poet Jen Hadfield will read from new work and old (including Byssus and the TS Eliot Prize-winning Nigh-No-Place) that explores the natural world and ideas of home. Ann Cleeves will be in conversation about her series of Shetland novels (inspiration for the TV drama starring Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez), the eighth and last of which, Wild Fire, was published in 2018. 
  Robin A Crawford will be discussing and reading from Into the Peatlands: A Journey Through the Moorland Year; Sarah Maine will be in conversation about character and the power of place, with readings from The House Between Tides and Women of the Dunes; and James and Tom Morton will entertain with stories, readings and a few songs/poems about Shetland, “along with some father/son quarrelling/banter (and possibly a bit of cooking… )”.
  (Colonsay itself, incidentally, is the subject of The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee, recently republished in Britain by Daunt Books.)

Guernsey Literary Festival (May 1-6) 
Horatio Clare will be talking about his latest book, The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal and about Down to the Sea in Ships, which won him the 2015 Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award. Huw Lewis Jones, editor of The Writer’s Map, will be talking to Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Piers Torday about the maps that have inspired them.

Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye (May 23-June 2)
Isabella Tree talks about her latest book, Wilding (long-listed for the RSL Ondaatje Prize), the story of a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. 
  Kapka Kassabova, author of Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which was  Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year for 2017, talks to Misha Glenny, former Central Europe correspondent for the BBC (whose own books include The Balkans, The Fall of Yugoslavia and, more recently, McMafia).
  In a session billed as “Che Guevara to Juan Guaidó: Understanding Latin America”, Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker talks to Sophie Hughes to introduce the graphic version of his biography Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and explain what’s happening today in Venezuela.  
  Robert Macfarlane, whose latest book, Underland: A Deep Time Journey, will be published on May 2, will be interviewed by Horatio Clare (who will himself be speaking  later on — see below).  
  In a session titled “Woodlands Past and Future Forests”, the arborists George Peterkin and Archie Miles discuss the state of woodland with Natalie Buttress, director of Woodland Trust Wales, and Sandi Toksvig, ambassador for the Woodland Trust.
  Monisha Rajesh, author of Around the World in 80 Trains, talks about her 45,000-mile adventure on the rails.
  John Simpson, BBC world affairs editor, talks about his new thriller “and the way in which, in fact as in fiction, so many of the most improbable or extraordinary stories and trails all lead back to Moscow”. He will be interviewed by Oliver Bullough, whose own books include The Last Man in Russia and Moneyland.
  Drawing on the Literary Atlas project, academics from Cardiff University and the University of Wales — Jon Anderson, Mary-Ann Constantine and Damian Walford Davies — explore the relations between literature and landscape.
  Alice Morrison (presenter of the BBC Two series Morocco to Timbuktu), who went to Morocco to run the Marathon des Sables and stayed on, talks about her latest book, My 1001 Nights: Tales and Adventures from Morocco (due to be published by Simon and Schuster on April 18).
  Erling Kagge, the philosophical Norwegian adventurer and bestselling author of Silence in the Age of Noise, discusses his new book, Walking: One Step at a Time, with Dylan Moore.  In a separate session on the same theme, Kate Humble will be talking about her latest book, Thinking On My Feet.
  The travel writer Nicholas Jubber talks about his Epic Continent (which John Murray is due to publish on May 16), in which he explores the impact of poems, from The Odyssey to the Serbian Kosovo Cycle, on identity in Europe.
  Raynor Winn talks to Claire Armitstead about The Salt Path, the story of how Winn and her terminally ill husband, having lost their home and their livelihood, set off to walk the South West Coast Path.
  Peter Frankopan talks about The New Silk Roads, “a timely reminder that we live in a world that is profoundly interconnected”. 
  Horatio Clare, whose books include Something of His Art: Walking to Lübeck with JS Bach, The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal and Running for the Hills, will look at writers inspired by the Welsh border landscape, including Coleridge, the Wordsworths, Bruce Chatwin and David Jones, and explore what it means to walk in the footsteps of writers and walkers.

Place and travel at Faversham festival

This month’s Faversham Literary Festival, in Kent (February 21-24), will have contributions from writers touching on place and travel. Among them are Tim Dee, author most recently of Landfill; Iain Sinclair, who in Living With Buildings explores the relationship between our health and the built environment; Hugh Warwick, whose Linescapes offers a “hedgehog’s-eye view of the country’s ditches, dykes and railways”; Horatio Clare, who has recently recreated on radio and in print (Something of His Art) a walk taken by JS Bach across northern Germany in 1705; Melissa Harrison, whose acclaimed novel, Among the Barley, is set in a Suffolk farming community between the wars; and Nasrin Parvaz and Lucy Popescu, discussing the experiences of refugees and migrants.

Small wonders

Two books published late in the year (and, incidentally, beautifully produced) serve as powerful reminders that slim needn’t mean thin. One is Something of His Art (Little Toller, £12), in which, over 91 pages, Horatio Clare retraces a formative walk through Germany made by JS Bach at the age of 18. The other is The White Darkness (Simon & Schuster, £12.99) by David Grann (142 pages), which tells of the British Army officer Henry Worsley’s obsession with crossing Antarctica in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton. 

  Bach walked the 250 miles from Arnstadt to Lübeck in 1705 to seek out Dieterich Buxtehude, organist, musical director and the most exciting performer of his day, so that he could “comprehend one thing and another about his art”. He travelled alone, and didn’t keep a diary, so there’s no detail on his route and stops. Clare, whose book began life as Bach Walks, a documentary series on Radio 3, was joined on his journey by the producer Lindsay Kemp and the sound recordist Richard Andrews. His job was to walk ahead and, while they recorded the sounds of the modern-day landscape, muse on the place and the man, trying to summon something of what Bach would have seen and felt as he tramped the same paths in the 18th century. He succeeds brilliantly. 

  The book has both the rhythms of a good walk and the gathering power of a great piece of music. Tentative at the start, with guesses as to what Bach might have packed, questions over how he might have behaved on the road (“Did he fall into conversation, or hold himself apart?”), the account gains in confidence until, as he turns the handle on the door of the Marienkirche in Lübeck, Clare feels Bach is right beside him. So does the reader, who has learnt along the way how Bach’s music got Clare through a bad time. 

  David Grann hates the cold but has long been fascinated by polar explorers, so when he read in 2015 that Henry Worsley was intent on doing what Shackleton had failed to do, he was immediately drawn to the story. His book, which was first an article for The New Yorker, draws on Worsley’s own account and on interviews with the adventurer’s wife and children and his friends and colleagues. It has photographs both from the frozen south and the family album.

  Worsley died in 2016 after pulling out just 30 miles short in his quest to be the first person to cross the peninsula alone and unassisted. He was already the only person ever to have completed the two classic routes to the South Pole established by his Edwardian predecessors. He was distantly related to Frank Worsley, who had been a member of one of Shackleton’s expeditions, but it was Shackleton on whom he modelled himself. Whenever he was in a fix he would ask: “How would Shacks get out of this?”

    Most of us would ask another question: why did Worsley — a devoted family man — get into this? Grann, in attempting to answer it, has written a compelling story about compulsion.

Bookmark: travel at October’s festivals

Cheltenham is the festival to head for in October if you want to pack a lot of vicarious travelling into 10 days. These are some sessions from the programme touching on travel, place and nature…

Cheltenham Literature Festival (October 5-14) 

In “Reading Europe: A User’s Guide”, the novelist Sebastian Faulks assembles a crack team of translators, writers and publishers committed to getting us to read beyond our borders: the novelist and Man Booker International judge Elif Shafak, the acclaimed translator Daniel Hahn, the European literature specialist Rosie Goldsmith and the publisher Christopher MacLehose, who has introduced British readers to authors as diverse as Javier Marías and Stieg Larsson. 

   Guy Stagg (The Crossway), who walked 3,440 miles from Canterbury to Jerusalem in the hope of mending himself after mental illness, and Leon McCarron (The Land Beyond), who travelled 1,000 miles on foot through the Middle East, discuss with Julia Wheeler the transformative power of walking and what role pilgrimage and slow travel have in our contemporary turbulent world.

  Peter Moore, author of Endeavour: The Ship and Attitude That Changed the World, and Laura Walker, co-curator of the celebrated British Library exhibition James Cook: The Voyages, join Steven Gale to discuss Cook’s remarkable journeys.

  Malachy Tallack (The Valley at the Centre of the World) and Melissa Harrison (All Among the Barley) discuss with Julia Wheeler their much-praised renderings of the natural world.

  Sulaiman Addonia (Silence Is My Mother Tongue), a novelist who fled Eritrea as a refugee in childhood, and Olivier Kugler (Escaping War and Waves), a reportage illustrator who has worked with Médecins Sans Frontières, join Lliana Bird (radio presenter and co-founder of the charities Help Refugees and The Kindly Collective) to share their stories of encounters with refugees.

  In “Windrush Journeys: Mixtape Stories”, Anthony Joseph, Nick Makoha and Roger Robinson offer a night of poetry and prose, music and image. They tell public and private stories of the lives of those who have come from elsewhere but who have all, for better or worse, called Britain “home”.

  The television presenter Kate Humble talks about Thinking on My Feet, her  new celebration of the pleasures of walking.

  All roads used to lead to Rome. Today, we’re told, they lead to Beijing. Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads, brings the story of his 2015 global bestseller up to date, and reminds us that we live in a profoundly interconnected world. 

  The singer-songwriter Nick Harper presents “A Wiltshire Tale”, a journey through his home county’s history, landscape and wildlife in poetry, spoken word and acoustic music.

  The poet Helen Mort, editor of Waymaking, and some of her contributors share their crowd-funded anthology of prose, poetry and artwork created by women and inspired by wild places, and discuss how we can get more women both out in the wild and on to the page.

  Anna McNuff (The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000km Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand) and Phoebe Smith (Wilderness Weekends; Extreme Sleeps; and Wild Nights: Camping Britain’s Extremes) discuss breaking down the barriers facing women in the outdoors and offer practical tips for building an adventurous life.

  Jan Morris, who has been one of the great chroniclers of our world for well over half a century, looks back on a life of travel and words in a special pre-filmed interview complemented by live discussion from her son Twm Morys and the writer Paul Clements plus a musical performance by Tym and the Welsh singer Gwyneth Glyn. Chaired by Philip Collins.

  Julian Sayarer, whose Interstate: Hitchhiking Though the State of a Nation was 2016 Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, and Tim Moore, whose latest  book, Another Fine Mess: Across Trumpland in a Model T Ford, is due out in November, discuss with Georgina Godwin their unconventional journeys and taking the political temperature through encounters with everyday Americans.

   Other events featuring writing on travel, place and nature in October include the following:

Birmingham Literature Festival (October 4-14)

In a session on “The Call of the Wild”, Abi Andrews (author of The Word for Woman Is Wilderness), Katharine Norbury (author of The Fish Ladder and editor of a forthcoming anthology, Women on Nature) and the writer and gardener Alys Fowler (author most recently of Hidden Nature: A Voyage Of Discovery) discuss “the life-changing impact of travelling across lesser and greater spaces”. 

  Jasper Winn, author of Waterways, and Nancy Campbell, the current Canal Laureate (appointed by the Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust), share their passion for Britain’s canals. 

  David Lindo, author of How to Be an Urban Birder, and Kate Bradbury, author of The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, discuss “the new nature writing” and finding inspiration in urban settings.

  Hometown Tales, a new series from Weidenfeld & Nicolson, focuses on fiction and non-fiction from the regions, pairing in one volume a previously unpublished writer with an established one.  Maria Whatton, who has written Hometown Tales: Birmingham with Stewart Lee, and Kerry Young and Carolyn Sanderson, who share bylines on Hometown Tales: Midlands, will discuss their stories in a session chaired by the lecturer and author Anna Lawrence Peitroni. 

Yeovil Literary Festival (October 25-29)

Picture: © Shoot and Scribble

A talk by the globe-trotting adventurer Simon Reeve (left), whose memoir Step by Step: The Life in My Journeys has just been published, is sold out, but there are still tickets for the following:

  The illustrator Jackie Morris talks about The Lost Words, the book of “spells” she created with Robert Macfarlane, which has worked magic in encouraging children and their schools to reconnect with the natural world.

  The adventurer and explorer Benedict Allen tells “the whole unvarnished truth” of his expedition to Papua New Guinea, from which he was rescued by helicopter from a warzone, suffering both malaria and dengue fever.

  The film-maker David Parker presents “Laurie Lee: The Lost Recordings”, in which the writer, on his 80th birthday, shared memories of his early life; and “Flying Scotsman & The Golden Age of Steam”, with clips from Parker’s filming of a project to rebuild the locomotive.

Berwick upon Tweed Literary Festival (October 18-21) 

The journalist Neil Ansell talks about The Last Wilderness, based on a series of solitary walks in the Northwest Highlands in search of wildlife encounters, and explores the pleasures and pains of being isolated in the wilds.

Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film & Music (October 11-14) 

Adam Sisman talks about More Dashing: Further Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor, his second selection from the travel writer’s correspondence.

Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival (September 27 – October 7) 

Jim Crumley will talk about his new book, The Nature of Winter, and its predecessor, The Nature of Autumn, the first two volumes in a quartet based on thousands of hours of fieldwork. He will also present a workshop on nature writing, explaining “why it is literature’s problem child”, and why a healthy body of such work is essential in the 21st century.

  The writer and radio presenter Stuart Maconie will talk about Long Road from Jarrow, his account of the country he saw as he walked the 300 miles to London in 2016 in a retracing of the “Jarrow Crusade” of 1936.

  Graham Robb will talk about The Debatable Land, his story of a territory that once lay between Scotland and England, and of how contemporary nationalism and political turmoil threaten once again to unsettle the cross-border community.

Dorchester Literary Festival (October 17-21)

Jasper Winn will be talking about Waterways: A Thousand Miles on Britain’s Canals, and Tony Juniper  (campaigns director for the Worldwide Fund for Nature) about Rainforest: Dispatches from Earth’s Most Vital Frontlines.

Durham Book Festival (October 6-14)

Damian Le Bas discusses The Stopping Places, his account of what it means to be a Gypsy in Britain today.

Isle of Wight Literary Festival (October 11-14)

Robin Hanbury-Tenison talks about Finding Eden, his story of a year in the Borneo rainforest leading the team of scientists that launched the rainforest movement and his time with the Penan people, for whom he still campaigns as president of Survival International.

  Angus Roxburgh, who has been a foreign correspondent in Moscow for The Sunday Times and the BBC and a translator of Tolstoy, draws on his memoir  Moscow Calling to talk about Russia’s past and present.

  The writer and broadcaster Paul Heiney talks about One Wild Song, his account of the epic sailing trip he embarked on after his son’s suicide.

North Cornwall Book Festival (October 4-7)

Neil Ansell (see Berwick, above) talks to the historian Lisa Cooper about The Last Wilderness.

  Philip Hoare, who seems as much at home in water as on land, talks about RisingTideFallingStar, his compendium of human and animal stories of the sea, which was short-listed for last year’s Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award.

  Horatio Clare, who has travelled on container ships and in pursuit of swallows, talks about Icebreaker, his account of a voyage to the far North. (Next month, Little Toller is due to publish Clare’s latest book, Something of his Art: Walking to Lübeck with JS Bach, in which he recreates a journey across northern Germany that the composer took in the winter of 1705.)

  Laurence Rose, former head of the RSPB’s European programme, introduces The Long Spring, in which he tracks the season’s progress from southern Spain to the Arctic. 

Off the Shelf Festival of Words, Sheffield (October 6-27)

Iain Sinclair talks about The Last London, which is billed as the final chapter in his life-long odyssey through the streets of the Big Smoke. 

  John Harrison reads from his first collection of short fiction for more than 15 years, You Should Come With Me Now, a work that his publishers say crosses boundaries between horror, science-fiction, fantasy and travel writing — “weird stories for weird times”.

  Richard Morris, author of Yorkshire: A Lyrical History of England’s Greatest County, tells how the county took shape as a place and an identity. 

  Kate Humble (see Cheltenham, above) talks about Thinking on My Feet.

  Helen Moat, author of Slow Travel: Peak District, introduces a guide with an emphasis on car-free travel.

Wells Festival of Literature (October 19-27)

Harriet Sandys introduces Beyond That Last Blue Mountain, the story of how she “abandoned her comfortable life in the suburbs of Cumbria and travelled to the North-West Frontier of Pakistan to see the plight of the Afghan refugees who settled there after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan”.