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It’s the first-ever Morpeth Book Festival this weekend – here’s what to expect

Award-winning crime author and creator of Vera, Ann Cleeves, will lead a star-studded line up at Morpeth’s inaugural Book Festival this weekend.

Written by High Life North
Published 06.04.2022

By Helen Bridgett

The very first Morpeth Book Festival takes place this weekend, Saturday 9th – Sunday 10th April.

Kicking things off will be award-winning author Ann Cleeves, who is best known as the creator of some of our favourite fictional detectives, such as Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez and, more recently, Matthew Venn.

The weekend is jam-packed with events for those of you who love the written word. From readings with celebrity authors like Chuck Hogan, Mari Hannah and Trevor Wood to award-winning local writers and poets, the inaugural Morpeth Book Festival will cover many different genres of writing, including poetry and children’s storytelling, and will have something to interest all literary interests and age ranges.

Organised in partnership by Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) and Northumberland Libraries, the Festival will take place either at the recently-opened function suites in Pleased to Meet You or Morpeth Library.

Over two days, the Festival timetable is being divided into a number of categories, including the following:

  • Conversations with authors
  • The memoirs of local writers
  • Murder and mayhem stories
  • Historical novels
  • Dystopian fiction
  • Personal readings of their works by local and regional poets
  • Story-time for children
  • Craft-making sessions
  • Children’s workshops

The Festival begins with Ann Cleeves: In Conversation – a chance to get to know the brilliant author who is best known for her Vera, Shetland and Two Rivers books – all of which have all been adapted into hugely successful television series. Later on the Saturday evening, the multi-award winning author Mari Hannah will also be discussing her work, which features DCI Kate Daniels, DS Matthew Ryan and DI David Stone. Her bestselling books are based around Northumberland – where she lives – and Tyneside, and are written with the help and the expert knowledge of her partner: an ex-murder detective, who was the inspiration for the Kate Daniels character.

Also making an appearance at the Festival (via a recorded zoom link) will be American novelist, screenwriter and television producer, Chuck Hogan, who is best known for writing The Strain series, The Killing Moon and The Devil in Exile.

Over the weekend, other writers – some nationally known, others with a very strong local connection – will be talking about their work. After the conversation with Ann Cleeves, the festival moves on to a ‘Memoirs’ section featuring Bridget Gubbins, now our Inside Morpeth columnist, who has written a series of books about different aspects of life in the region over 1,000 years. Ashington vicar’s daughter Barbara Fox will be joining Bridget, talking about how she remembers growing up in the vicarage, as well as writing with shepherdess and television personality Emma Gray. While Morpeth’s Miles Hewitt will share the adventures he enjoyed travelling the world, which he has written about in two fascinating and humorous books.

On Saturday afternoon, in a ‘Murder and Mayhem’ session, four authors combine to give visitors an unrivalled insight into the genre. Trevor Wood, whose debut novel The Man on the Street won him a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger; Robert Scragg, who won the 2021 Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Writing for his first novel, What Falls Between The Cracks; Fiona Veitch Smith, who wrote about the adventures and exploits of Morpeth-born Poppy Denby; and Fiona Erskine, who created the Jacqueline Silver series of books. ‘I’m really looking forward to finding out what inspired each of these writers to turn to crime and find out about their writing process,’ says Helen Bridget, local author and friend of HLN, who will be leading the session.

An historical section featuring Lorna Windham – best known for her novel, The Jacobite’s Daughter – supported by biographer Greg Christie, will open the programme on Sunday afternoon, followed by Chuck Hogan beginning another session on dystopian fiction with Amy Lord, Mark Iveson and Sarah Elliott, all local authors, columnists and playwrights.

Poetry will figure strongly in the Festival over its two days, with a series of sessions – managed by Barbara Ross – where a whole host of poets will talk about and read from their works. Taking part will be Catherine Ayres, Eileen Beers, Roy Heath, Barbara Pringle, Ellen Phethean, Catherine Graham, Elaine Cusack, David Roe, Harry Gallagher, Jan Clark, Pippa Little, Gene Groves, Jean Laurie and Verna Gorman.

Children and young people have not been forgotten about either, with busy programmes on both afternoons in Morpeth Library. Miles Hudson will lead two fabulous workshops creating postcards from space, as well as showing children how to build a telescope to explore the solar system. On Sunday, there will be an appearance from Borrowbox with their range of eAudiobooks and eBooks, in addition to the RNIB explaining the services they provide for booklovers with vision problems, while children’s author Ashleigh Dale and Adventure Babies will have stories to tell to infants and toddlers.

‘This is the first of what we hope will become an annual event, and we’re looking forward to a very successful weekend,’ says Frank Rescigno, Greater Morpeth Development Trust’s Director of Culture & Arts, who is leading on the Festival’s organisation with Sarah Jayne Kennedy Robson from Morpeth Library.

‘We are delighted to have noted authors, such as Ann Cleeves, Mari Hannah and Chuck Hogan, personally supporting the event, alongside so many local writers and poets. It should be a great weekend!’



To find out more about the different events during the festival and to book your tickets, visit Greater Morpeth Development Trust’s Eventbrite page.

Tickets are also available from Morpeth Library and the Morpeth Chantry

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