12 Mar 2014

The fifth Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature fulfilled its promise to satisfy all the senses, with a wonderful week of words, pictures, music and spice culminating in a truly memorable finale filled with awe and wonder. Author-illustrator JAMES MAYHEW wove stories and painted pictures to music played by the Bishop’s Stortford College Orchestra. Watching his images take shape and meaning as the music ebbed and flowed was utterly mesmerising and magical. Sixth Form pupil Halima Edozie-Akinlade said: “I was utterly transfixed by his performance and would heartily recommend seeing him live if you get the chance!”

Commenting about the experience on his blog (http://www.jamesmayhew.co.uk/2014/02/all-about-the-bishops-stortford-illustrated-concert.html), James said: “The orchestra, with their conductor Andrew Bruce, gave charming performances of Vaughan-Williams (The English Folk Song Suite; Rhosymedre; Greensleeves), Elgar (Chansons du Matin et Nuit; Pomp and Circumstance) and other works by Walton and Warlock. A challenging and long programme for any orchestra, and a huge achievement for a college orchestra. They were terrific and I was honoured to work with them.”

A triple treat was dished up on the opening day of the feast, with MasterChef 2013 semi-finalist SAIRA HAMILTONtempting the taste buds between broadcaster and One Show food reporter, JAY RAYNER and former Cabinet Minister turned writer and broadcaster MICHAEL PORTILLO.

ROBERT WINSTON pursued the truth and performance poet PAUL COOKSON delivered unforgettable performances of poetry and comedy, whilst a dose of MARK GRAHAM and a dash of JONATHAN STROUD produced a spine-chilling evening of ghostly tales.

Illustrator and political cartoonist CHRIS RIDDELL and editor of The New Statesman JASON COWLEYentertained with their conversation about politics, the media and their own varied careers. Biographer and historian JULIE SUMMERS gave a fascinating talk about the formidable women behind the WI and the important role it played during the war years, whilst debut novelist JOANNA ROSSITER, in conversation with Jason Cowley, described the extraordinary journey of ‘The Sea Change’ to becoming a bestselling novel.

Phenomenal storyteller DEBS NEWBOLD returned for a second year to captivate her Festival audience with a powerful telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Meanwhile, eight different primary schools and five secondary schools visited the seven open school events during the Festival of Literature, many of these for more than one event. The programme featured 2013 Carnegie Medal winnerSALLY GARDNER introducing her most daring novel yet, ‘Maggot Moon’ and Puffin’s King of Comedy, JEREMY STRONGdescribing his writing process.

Festival co-ordinator Rosie Pike said: “Each year sees a unique line up, but the aim of the Festival of Literature remains the same: to inspire and celebrate a love of literature, fostering a lasting passion for reading, in young and old alike. From the enthusiastic feedback we’ve received, the fifth Festival certainly seems to have achieved this!”