It’s October and that means many things. Pumpkins won’t just find their way into soups and stews but out onto window ledges and doorsteps. Questionable American traditions will be imported to the UK for the last night of the month. (Okay, okay, that’s just me being a bit bah-humbug about it all but honestly I’ve never truly understood this Trick or Treat malarkey.) But most importantly, to my bookish mind at least, October means Wimbledon BookFest returns once more to the common!
This annual charitable event, which has been going since 2006 starts off on the 3rd October with Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat) talking to Jennifer Cox about her new novel in the Chocolat series: The Strawberry Thief. The festival closes ten days later with the equally sweet Nadiya Hussein (our Bake Off hero), with fewer strawberries but more self-reflection as she discusses her new and very personal book: Finding My Voice.
From Politics to Poetry
Sandwiched between these two delights (I think I’m done with the food analogy now) is a plethora of diverse and interesting events. We have politics with speakers such as James O’Brien, Gavin Esler, Emily Maitlis and Lord David Owen. (Mmm, I wonder if Lord Owen is pleased that the satirical puppet show Spitting Image is making a comeback? Who remembers the two Davids of the 80s: David Owen pushing David Steel around in a shopping trolley?) There’s a host of topical environmental talks such as Climate Change Poetry and Performance and Mike Berners Lee tackling the hot green issues of the day: should we all become vegetarian? How can we fly without leaving a giant carbon footprint on the face of the earth? There are workshops and walks and even a gin tasting event (though I shall be pouring it rather than tasting it on that particular night, unfortunately). The organisers have lined up sports-themed events with the hugely popular Brian Moore (Rugby) and Alistair Cook (Cricket) in conversation with Mike Atherton, as well as cramming in live music and various children’s events. (The Moomins make an appearance and are a favourite of mine. I even have a Moomin cookbook, with recipes for such fancy Finnish delights as Snufkin’s Thinking Bouillon, Moomintroll’s Chanterelle Temptation and Little My’s Peppery Spaghetti.) There are also two comedy nights featuring the likes of Adam Kaye and Rachel Parris, amongst others.
With close to a hundred events to choose from, you are definitely spoiled for choice. If your interest is the Middle East, say, you have Hannah Lucinda Smith’s Battle for the Soul of Turkey, Levison Wood’s Journey Through Arabia and Ed Hussain’s The House of Islam to pick from. History buffs can gorge on William Dalrymple’s The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, Sir Max Hastings’ The Dambusters Story and Natalie Haynes’ Troy Story to mention just three. There’s poetry from Ben Okri and Simon Armitage, a celebration of African voices in the New Daughters of Africa event and a chance to hear from literary crowd-pleasers such as Patricia Cornwell, Tracy Chevalier and Alexander McCall Smith.
Getting Better All The Time
Personally, I’ve always had a bit of a girl-crush on gravel-voiced Mariella Frostrup but I would also love to hear from the creator of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson. I could go on, but you get the point: there’s loads to choose from, which is probably why the festival has gone from 1,000 visitors in its first year to over 15,000, with any money that is raised being ploughed back into the festival and its education work with local schools. With that in mind, you can enjoy yourself and feel morally good about it too.
So check out the full listings at https://www.wimbledonbookfest.org/Events/EventsCalendar2019.aspx
And get yourself up on the Common!
See you there.