Posted by: billpurdue | July 1, 2010

A visit to Lowdham Book Festival

First of all, apologies for the “late arrival” of the interview with Gervase Phinn. There were some technical difficulties which were beyond my control which delayed the attachment of the recording to last week’s posting. Thanks to James Hoy at the Chad, the interview is up and running. The interview may take a little while to load, so please be patient. If there are still difficulties, please leave a comment.

Well, I had an enjoyable visit to the Lowdham Book Festival on the “last Saturday” when all events are free. It was a very busy scene inside and outside Lowdham Village Hall with several marquees in the grounds behind the building. Having browsed round the various stalls and amongst the second hand books on sale, we had a snack lunch from the excellent vegetarian caterers and caught two of the afternoon talks.

The first was by Clare Dudman whose new novel A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees [ Seren £8.99 978-1854115188] is set in Patagonia in the nineteenth century when  a group of Welsh people travelled across the Atlantic to set up a new colony to get away from Wales where people who spoke Welsh were regarded almost as criminals. They were promised a land of trees and fertile meadows, but what they found was quite different.

In her illustrated talk, she told us that nowadays the communities still thrive speaking Welsh and Spanish and still go to chapel and hold folk festivals. Ms Dudman told us that she was reminded of 1950s Britain when she visited the area – Patagonia – and showed a picture of some terraced houses that looked exactly like terraced houses from the Welsh valleys. We were fascinated by the talk and bought a copy of the book, which I hope to comment on in the near future.

The second talk was by Stephen Booth. In “Stephen Booth’s Derbyshire” , we were given a scenic tour of the Peak District with many shots of its most numerous population of sheep and the locations he chose for his ten novels. Like fans of the TV series “Emmerdale”who roam the Yorkshire Dales in search of the shooting locations, fans of Stephen Booth’s detective novels like to visit Derbyshire and search for the places he mentions in his detective novels.

I felt rather sorry for Clare Dudman and especially for Stephen Booth as they had to compete with a lot of noise from outside. To show their digital slide presentations, they brought their own equipment, but the white canvas of the marquee served as a screen. This was all very well as long as the sun stayed behind the clouds, but when the sun came out, the images were very feint. It seemed to be noisier outside during Stephen Booth’s talk when  ton-up motorcyclists sped noisily along the Lowdham by pass and a group of people from the Southwell Workhouse acted out the parts of inmates outside the tent making a bit of a racket. In spite of all that both talks were very enjoyable.

We had hoped to go to a talk by Helen Nall, author of The Courage of the Small Hours [published by the author at £10.99 978-0956550002] in which she tells the story of two Lancaster bombers which crashed in a field near Hoveringham, Notts in 1945. Unfortunately we were too late to get seats, so an ice cream seemed to be in order to round off the visit.

…. And finally a couple of books which are ideal to dip into whenever you feel like a good browse. Red Sky at Night: the book of lost country wisdom by Jane Struthers [ Ebury Press, £9.99 978-0091932442] is described as “an indispensable guide to countryside lore”. It’s full of old wives’ tales, ancient customs, instructions (like how to spot the different kinds of owls) and miscellaneous lists. Really Rural: Peculiar Country Ways and How to Embrace Them by Janey Wilks is a collection of “snippets, tips and short extracts drawn from amazing archive material”. Janey Wilks is a columnist at “Country Living” magazine.

Look out for these two titles in National Trust shops



  1. Thank for coming to my talk, Bill. I really enjoyed my time at the festival and was grateful for such a kind and receptive audience.

    Was it you who asked how many people speak Welsh in Patagonia? I guessed 10,000 people, but when I came home thought maybe this was an overestimate. In fact, looking on the British Council yesterday, I find it is an underestimate – the true figure is 25,000 – many more than I thought.

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