Typically eclectic mix for literature festival

Bestselling authors, broadcasters, biographers, historians, scientists and one of the nation’s favourite globetrotters visit Scarborough for Books by the Beach, from 11-14 April.

As ever, history plays a strong part in the festival, which will be launched by TV Egyptologist and local resident Professor Joann Fletcher (11 Apr). Jo, advisor to many museums and author of nine books, will explore the beginnings of the written word in ancient Egypt.

Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, it will crumble to dust and great harm will befall the kingdom. The man responsible for ensuring this disaster never comes to pass, yeoman warder Christopher Skaife, will talk about his book, The Ravenmaster (11).

Dr Jon Copley, scientific advisor to BBC’s Blue Planet series and the first British aquanaut to dive to a depth of five kilometres, will talk about his work (11).

Bestselling novelists Jenny Colgan and Lucy Diamond will chat with host Peter Guttridge as guests savour their free Crofts chocolate hearts (13). Peter will discuss time and place in fiction with novelists Tessa Hadley and Sadie Jones (11). Sadie will also be a lunch guest at Wykeham Abbey.

Festival patron Helen Boaden, former head of BBC radio, will host several events. They include one with TV scriptwriter Gwyneth Hughes, who will speak about her popular Vanity Fair adaptation, focusing on its cast of colourful characters (13).

Sport comes in the shape of former England cricket captain Mike Brearley, which is a coup for our cricketing town (13).

Festival favourite Alan Johnson returns to the festival with his new music memoir, In My Life. Alan, whose life has always had a soundtrack, will transport his audience back to a world of coffee shops and dance halls, with jukeboxes playing lingering love songs and heartbreak ballads (13). Alan will also appear on the papers panel on the Sunday morning.

Another author returning to the festival is world-famous heart surgeon Professor Steve Westaby, whose second memoir The Knife’s Edge, will be published at about the same time (12).

Festival director Heather French says: “I can’t wait to meet such an eclectic mix of people. I’m particularly interested to meet Professor Angela Gallop whose contribution to pioneering forensic science has been phenomenal” (14).

“I’ve just finished reading Jim Buttress’s book about his life in horticulture and his time at the royal parks, which made me laugh out loud. As a judge on TV’s The Big Allotment Challenge, he was a big hit” (14).

On 12 April, crime critic Barry Forshaw will host talks with prizewinning crime writer Belinda Bauer and acclaimed biographer Claire Harman; and Lynne Truss, who will introduce her new crime novel A Shot in the Dark.

Most talks will be at the library, although many will be held elsewhere. Professor Kate Williams, a historian and broadcaster, will share gems from her new book, Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots, in between lunch courses at the Palm Court Hotel (13).


Historian Simon Heffer, a Fleet Street journalist for 30 years, will talk about his latest work, The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880 to 1914, at a new festival venue, St Martin’s Church (14).

At least two events have already sold out: globetrotter Michael Palin’s talk about his book Erebus, a powerful tale of polar exploration, at the Spa Theatre; and a talk at the lighthouse by building conservationist Tom Nancollas.

Brochures and tickets are available at Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Website: www.booksbythebeach.co.uk.

* A book sale timed to coincide with Books by the Beach will raise funds for the Scarborough branch of Amnesty International. It will be held at Woodend on 13 April, from 10am-5pm. Many of the books will come from Amnesty supporter Leslie Stones’ shop Bookshelf, which is turning into an art gallery.