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Star author's surprise visit to Holt nature festival

PUBLISHED: 12:33 02 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:33 02 March 2015

Booker Prize-winning writer Margaret Atwood, who spoke at the Norfolk Festival of Nature, with, (from left), Ms Atwood's partner, fellow Canadian novelist Graeme Gibson, writer Mark Cocker and Gresham's head of English Dr Al Cormack. Photo: supplied

Booker Prize-winning writer Margaret Atwood, who spoke at the Norfolk Festival of Nature, with, (from left), Ms Atwood's partner, fellow Canadian novelist Graeme Gibson, writer Mark Cocker and Gresham's head of English Dr Al Cormack. Photo: supplied

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Visitors to a north Norfolk festival celebrating the arts in the natural world had a bonus when prize-winning writer Margaret Atwood made a surprise appearance.

The Norfolk Festival of Nature, hosted by Gresham’s School at Holt, featured talks and presentations by artists, writers, conservationists, poets and musicians.

The week-long event, organised for the third year running by the school’s head of English Al Cormack, culminated on Saturday with a poetry workshop held in the woods surrounding the school.

It was followed by a talk on man’s changing relationship with nature by David North, of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Booker prize winner Ms Atwood was invited to attend the festival by Norfolk-based nature writer Mark Cocker. In an impromptu speech she highlighted a campaign by 28 literary figures - from Andrew Motio, to Michael Morpurgo - to reinstate more than 50 words such as catkin, acorn and bluebell, which have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary to make way for modern day vocabulary.

The Handmaid’s Tale author also spoke about her own interest in nature and conservation, which has seen her take on the role of honorary president of the Rare Bird Club of Birdlife International.

Festival founder Dr Cormack gave an illustrated talk on a 43-mile walk from Sheringham to Great Yamouth he completed earlier this year with photographer Adam Shawyer.

He said the event, which was launched three years ago purely as a celebration of nature-writing, had grown year on year.

“The idea behind the first festival was that nature writing was an important form of writing that wasn’t getting the attention it perhaps deserved.

“This time we wanted to open it up with a wider programme and try to re-engage people with nature,” he explained.

A number of talks and presentations were sell-outs, with more outside organisations getting involved and Ms Atwood offering to become festival patron.

“It has got more successful year on year and we see this as a first step in what we hope will become a county-wide festival,” Dr Cormack added.

For more information about the Norfolk Festival of Nature, visit www.greshams.com/norfolknaturefestival

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