Places Archive

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”.

Travel writing at September’s festivals

Events featuring writing on travel and place over the next couple of months include the following:

Cardiff Book Festival (September 7-9), where Angus Roxburgh and Trevor Fishlock, who have reported from Moscow for, respectively, the BBC and The Daily Telegraph, discuss modern Russia and “the good, the bad and the ugly side of being a foreign correspondent”. With Wales celebrating its coastline in 2018 with a “Year of the Sea”, Ifor ap Glyn, the National Poet, joins Dafydd Elis Thomas, the Culture Minister, and Lleucu Siencyn, chief executive of Literature Wales, to discuss what words and waves mean to the nation.

Wigtown Book Festival (September 21-30), where Aida Edemariam will tell how she immersed herself in the landscape of Ethiopia to write The Wife’s Tale, a biography of her grandmother, Yetemegnu, who was born in the northern city of Gondar and died five years ago aged nearly 100; Damian Le Bas tells of his journey through Gypsy Britain for The Stopping Places; Guy Stagg recalls his 10-month pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem, recounted in The Crossway; Nicholas Blincoe talks about the small but historic place he called home for 20 years, and whose history he has written in Bethlehem: Biography of a Town; Cameron McNeish, “who embodies Scotland’s love affair with the outdoors”, talks about a life in the mountains as recalled in There’s Always the Hills; and Tristan Gooley, “the Natural Navigator”, introduces his latest book, Wild Signs and Star Paths.

Marlborough Literature Festival (September 27-30), where Tim Dee will be talking about Ground Work: Writings on Places and People; Lois Pryce, author of Revolutionary Ride, will recall her adventures on a motorbike in Iran; and Aida Edemariam (see above) will be talking about The Wife’s Tale.

Ilkley Literature Festival (September 28-October 14), where William Atkins reports on his journeys in desert places for The Immeasurable World; Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin introduce their primer on a new geological age: The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene; Paul Scraton (born in Lancashire but based in Berlin) reports on his journeys along the German Baltic coast for Ghosts on the Shore; Joshua Jelly-Schapiro talks about his book Island People: The Caribbean and the World; and Richard Morris argues that Yorkshire, as the subtitle of his new book has it, is “England’s Greatest County”.

Deserts, and what the mind makes of them

My review of The Immeasurable World (Faber & Faber), in which William Atkins explores deserts and what the human mind has made of them, appeared in the print edition of The Daily Telegraph today. You can read it here on Deskbound Traveller.

Atkins swaps the damp for the dry

For his first book, The Moor, which was short-listed for the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize, William Atkins travelled along the wet backbone of England. For his latest, The Immeasurable World  (Faber), he heads into deserts — including the Sonoran, between Mexico and the United States, where the Trump administration has been following its “zero-tolerance” policy against undocumented migrants. There he spent time both with a group that is helping migrants and with a border patrol officer.

  Atkins was on Start the Week  with Andrew Marr on Radio 4 on Monday, and he will be speaking at the Wealden Literary Festival, in Biddenden, Kent, on June 30.  You can read a brief (600 words or so) extract from his new book on the website of one of my favourite London bookshops, Foyles, and a longer piece he wrote, while working on the book, on the website of Granta magazine.

Travelling the world in Edinburgh

It’s a while since I’ve been to Edinburgh. This year’s bill for the Book Festival (August 11-27), which is now online, is making me think I should be booking for the duration. Writing on travel and place is particularly well represented. Tickets will be on sale from June 26.

  Rory MacLean will be talking about In North Korea, a book with which he and the photographer Nick Danziger aim “to catch a glimpse of life away from the performance, as it is lived in the world’s most secretive nation, at a turning point in its history”.

  Richard Lloyd Parry will discuss Ghosts of the Tsunami, his account, told through the stories of survivors, of the 2011 earthquake in north-east Japan (a book that recently won him the £20,000 Rathbones Folio Prize).

  Tim Dee (author of The Running Sky and Four Fields), will talk about Ground Work, the collection he has edited of writing on connections between place and people.

  Rose George (author of Deep Sea and Foreign Going), Maya Jasanoff (author of The Dawn Watch, about Joseph Conrad and globalisation) and the Brazilian philosopher Djamila Ribeiro, a major figure in the Afro-Brazilian women’s rights movement, will discuss the seas as a space for trading.

   James Campbell of the TLS and Rosemary Goring, literary editor of The Herald, will consider the city of bedsits, bachelors and bombed-out buildings that is “Muriel Spark’s London”.

  Graham Robb will talk about The Debatable Land, a territory that once lay between Scotland and England but belonged to neither.

  Alastair McIntosh (author of Poacher’s Pilgrimage, a journey through the Outer Hebrides) will compare notes with Guy Stagg (author of The Crossway, about a walk from Canterbury to Jerusalem, due to be published by Picador on June 14).

  Suzy Hansen (who writes for The New York Times Magazine from Turkey and is author of  Notes on a Foreign Country) and Sarah Rainsford (witness for the BBC to the end of Cuba’s Castro era and author of Our Woman in Havana) will offer “portraits of countries that American influence can barely reach and… discuss the issue of America’s place on the global stage”.

  Ian Buruma, editor of The New York Review of Books, will discuss his memoir of 1970s Japan, A Tokyo Romance.

  Abir Mukherjee, Sandip Roy, Nalini Paul and Sampurna Chattarji will mark 70 years of Indian independence by mapping the connections, ancient and contemporary, between Scotland and India.

  Bruno Maçães, who was Portugal’s Europe Minister from 2013 to 2015, will present The Dawn of Eurasia, which “weaves together history, diplomacy and vivid reports of a six-month journey from Baku to Samarkand, Vladivostok to Beijing… in an effort to persuade us that our future lies in developing a supercontinent called Eurasia”.

  The Canadian-born artist and poet JR Carpenter and the Catalan writer Alicia Kopf will discuss polar explorations. The former’s collection An Ocean of Static “is generated from ship logs and code language”; the latter has written a hybrid novel, Brother in Ice, “from research notes, a fictionalised diary and a travelogue of polar exploration”.

  Claudio Magris (author of Danube and, most recently, a collection of essays, Journeying) and Francis Spufford (whose novel Golden Hill won last year’s RSL Ondaatje Prize and whose latest work is True Stories & Other Essays), will talk on the theme that “Life is a journey”.

Woods, reservoirs and radio

Publishers had to submit entries by the end of last week for the £5,000 Wainwright Prize, which is named after the great fell walker and is for the best book of travel, nature or outdoors writing focused on the United Kingdom. I’m assuming Doubleday has entered the latest from the writer and farmer John Lewis-Stempel, The Wood, which came out earlier this month and in which he records the natural daily life and historical times of a wood in Herefordshire. Or perhaps it has entered Lewis-Stempel’s The Secret Life of the Owl, which came out last October. Or maybe it has entered both. That wouldn’t be a first. Lewis-Stempel is prolific as well as talented. Having won the Wainwright Prize in 2015 for Meadowland, he not only took it again in 2017 with Where Poppies Blow (a study of the relationship between soldiers and nature in the First World War) but also had a second book on the short list: The Running Hare. The Wood is currently Book of the Week on Radio 4.

  Also starting on Radio 4 tonight, in the Book at Bedtime slot, is Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13.