Portsmouth Bookfest - events on offer

Bookfest founder Marie Gray outside Hayling Island Bookshop

Bookfest founder Marie Gray outside Hayling Island Bookshop - Credit: Archant

From 24th October to 9th November, bookworms from across the south will be heading to Portsmouth Bookfest. Claire Pitcher finds out what’s in store…

Bookfest founder Marie Gray bought Hayling Island Bookshop in September 2004 after it had been trading for 12 years as a small general village bookstore. She wanted a job that allowed her to meet a variety of people and be an integral part of the local community. As her reputation developed, so did the idea for Portsmouth Bookfest. She explains: “I had been working with Portsmouth Library Service on putting together school events and events in libraries. Between us we decided to try and put together a programme of events which would be more appealing to a wider audience, rather than just a traditional literary festival.”

With the decline of book purchases, shop owners like Marie have had to think outside the box when it comes to promoting themselves and also reading in general. She says: “Over the years we have received lots of positive comments about the need to link authors to readers. Library Services and independent bookshops around the country are under threat, so it helps justify people’s support for us when we run festivals like this. They see it as added value.

With so many fantastic events on throughout the two-week long festival, we asked Marie what she can recommend: “There are too many highlights to mention. CSI Portsmouth will again be a great crime event and for history fans we will have three authors Angus Donald, James Burge and Michael Jecks talking about Sex, Love and Violence in the Middle Ages which sounds intriguing! BBC Gardening columnist Martyn Cox will be giving hints and tips for successful City Gardening and the Portsmouth Writers Hub will again be occupying The Square Tower for their Day Of The Dead event, where they will be presenting ghostly and grisly stories. There are lots of other events to be announced and a strong programme of author visits to schools run by the School Library Service.”

Clare Forsyth has been organising Bookfest alongside Marie for the past ten years. As Service Development Manager at Portsmouth City Council, she has ensured that The Library Service has always been central to the festival and “finds it enormously rewarding” to be involved. She continues: “It’s wonderful to see how popular the events are and to read the positive feedback we receive afterwards.” As the festival has grown and become more well know, it has attracted more and more popular authors. “Over the years we have welcomed Mark Billingham, James Herbert, Andy McNab, Michael Morpurgo, Adele Parks and Jacqueline Wilson, to name but a few.” says Clare.

Once you have met your favourite author, there’s still a long list of events visitors can get involved in. Clare shares her top suggestions: “The Gruffalo tea parties at North End, Southsea and Cosham Libraries should be great fun for small children - the Gruffalo himself will be appearing and there will be stories and a special Gruffalo cake. Or, if you enjoy crime novels or crime series then CSI will enthrall with its mixture of authors and experts.”

Portsmouth-based crime writer Pauline Rowson has published 13 novels and is the creator of this ever-popular event. This year’s investigations take place on the 8th November, and crime fans are expected from not just Hampshire, but also London, the Midlands, the West Country, Sussex and beyond.

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Pauline gives many talks around the UK about her own crime novels and crime writing: “I’m always asked how I research my novels and if I have contacts with the police and forensic experts. I discovered that people are fascinated by not only how and where crime authors get their ideas and facts, but also the factual side of a criminal investigation. Then there is the ‘CSI effect’ with a plethora of crime programmes on the television, which are very popular. So I thought why not bring crime fiction and fact together and that’s how CSI Portsmouth was born.”

This is the fifth year that Pauline has organised the event, and because she has such a close connection to the subject matter, it is, of course, her highlight of Bookfest.

“I’m looking forward to once again being on the CSI Portsmouth panel and acting as moderator at CSI Portsmouth. I’m also looking forward to meeting the regulars who attend every year, and getting to know some new people, chatting to my fellow crime authors and gaining lots of new and interesting information from Hampshire Police and the forensic experts.”

If all that sounds like enough to keep you glued to the page, then don’t miss the rest of our top tips for this year’s Portsmouth Bookfest.


The Big City Read

This year’s Big City Read is being launched at Portsmouth BookFest. As many people in Portsmouth as possible are encouraged to read the book - When the guns fall silent on Saturday, 25th October. James Riordan’s heart-rending tale of a Portsmouth battalion in the First World War will be available in all Portsmouth libraries to pick up and keep.

There are 2,000 free copies of the book available in the city, which have been produced in partnership with Pompey in the Community, Affinion International, University of Portsmouth and New Theatre Royal.


Something for...

...the children - With a special guest appearance by the dinosaur himself, on October 29, there will be plenty of dinosaur-themed activities surrounding the book ‘The Dinosaur that Pooped the Past!’ by McFly members Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter. Starting at 2pm, it’s a free event but you need to reserve tickets at Central Library.

...the gardeners - Would you like tips and ideas for successful city gardening? Martyn Cox is here to help on November 1, 7pm at Milton Village Hall. Garden writer Martyn recently moved to Southsea from London and has written and co-authored many books on the subject, many of which will be available to buy at the event. Tickets cost £5.

...the historians - ‘Sex, Love and Violence in the Middle Ages’ is the theme of the talk, taking place at Menuhin Theatre on November 7. Starting at 7pm, Angus Donald, James Burge and Michael Jecks (pictured) will share their insights into these timeless aspects of life as they were experienced 900 years ago. The discussion afterwards is guaranteed to be a lively one.


Find out more

• Website: www.portsmouthbookfest.co.uk• Tickets: portsmouthbookfest.eventbrite.co.uk or 023 92688037

• Facebook: Portsmouth Libraries

• Join the conversation on Twitter: @PompeyBookFest and @CSIPortsmouth--------------------------------------------------

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