Norwich’s Hostry Festival will celebrate Norfolk authors

PUBLISHED: 11:19 31 August 2012

Elspeth Barker, one of the writers taking part in the Norfolk Authors Day for the Hostry Festival. Picture: Denise Bradley

Elspeth Barker, one of the writers taking part in the Norfolk Authors Day for the Hostry Festival. Picture: Denise Bradley


People can join in with a celebration of the written word during a special day focusing on Norfolk authors this autumn.

Other writers also taking part in Norfolk Authors in Profile

• Simon Gough, who lives in north Norfolk, has revelled in changes of career, from washing up to writing for the BBC, to acting, to selling the finest antiquarian books in London and Holt. This monthaug 2012 his book, The White Goddess; An Encounter, is being published. It concerns events surrounding his relationship with his great uncle, Robert Graves.

• Sarah Ridgard, who lives in Norwich with her husband and two children, spent some years travelling and then working with Amnesty International, Oxfam and Oxford University Press before graduating from the University of East Anglia with an MA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel, published this month, is called Seldom Seen.

• Doug Stroggins is writing a new book – called 180 Degrees Out –looking at why we have moved away from the life we are meant to live, and how to enjoy the life we desire and deserve.

• Hostry Festival founder and artistic director Stash Kirkbride and the event’s co-producer Peter Beck, wrote the headline show Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country. The play is edited by Peter Barrow.

Norfolk Authors in Profile is part of this year’s Hostry Festival which takes place at Norwich Cathedral from October 26 until November 4.

In the year that Norwich received the Unesco City of Literature status, the Hostry Festival organisers have teamed up with independent book store The Book Hive and Writers’ Centre Norwich to bring a selection of local authors to the stage to talk about their work on November 2.

Among the writers looking forward to taking part is Itteringham-based Elspeth Barker whose first acclaimed novel was O Caledonia, and who will be talking about her new book, Dog Days, a collection of selected writings, at the Hostry Festival event.

She said: “I am delighted to be involved in anything that furthers the written word. It is good for literature in general to be on display in festivals, it gets people to notice books and not just think they are something boring from the days before computers arrived – reading and hearing books aloud can inspire people to want to read more.

“Writing can also be very solitary and nothing beats being face to face with your readers.”

Her new book, published by Norwich-based Black Dog Books, is due out in October and is an eclectic mix of her writings over the last 20 years or so. It takes its title from a piece of writing looking at four-legged friends that have featured in Elspeth’s life.

Elspeth explained: “It is about dogs that really mark important parts in one’s life.

“I remember being 18 and the dog that had been there all my life – a golden retriever called Rab – died, and I remember that, far more than being allowed a gin and tonic or going to university, the death of that dog signalled the end of my childhood.”

Seventy-one-year-old Elspeth, a mother of five and grandmother of four, and whose children include novelist Raffaella Barker, shares other snapshots of her life through the book – everything from growing up in Drumtochty Castle in Scotland to her garden and her appreciation of the Norfolk landscape.

“I think the thing that everyone is struck by in Norfolk is the sky and the extraordinary coast and the birds, they are quite wonderful,” she said.

Elspeth, now married to the writer Bill Troop, also includes in her new book some writing about the loss of her first husband, the poet George Barker.

And as well as the memoirs and autobiographical work, readers are also offered some literary criticism and essays.

The book also includes introductions to East Anglian writers and painters and with reviews of the work of some of Elspeth’s contemporaries – Angela Carter, A S Byatt, Toni Morrison, Beryl Bainbridge and William Trevor among others.

Summing up the collection, Elspeth said: “I hope some of it is funny, some of it is quite dark. It is a very varied book, the sort of collection that is diverse enough to enjoy dipping in and out of.”

With Dog Days now finished, Elspeth is now turning her attentions to a novel which she has given the working title Some Hope.

“It is about trust and abuse of trust, and grief and ways of coping with a difficult and fractured way of life.

“It is set mainly in East Anglia with bits in Ireland and London,” she said.

Norfolk Authors in Profile is at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry on Friday, November 2, from 1.30pm. Tickets cost £10 (concessions £5). To book call the box office on 01603 218450.

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