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Month: April 2017

Reconquista at Crystal Palace Overground Festival

17th June is the date for south Londoners determined to have a good day out at the FREE Crystal Palace Overground Festival.

In Crystal Palace Park, the Festival gates open at eleven in the morning and the music goes on until nine o’clock at night. But Overground is about much, much more than music. There’s the Vintage Zone, stalls, music and dancing ( lindy hop or twist anyone ), the Family Zone with a Performance tent, Arts and Crafts and, for the first time this year, tents celebrating The Spoken Word and Storytelling ( and there’s a book tent with book signings by authors who speak at the Festival ).

Julie Anderson, author of Reconquista, is organising the Storytelling tent. This is very much performance based. So we have Twice Shy Theatre, winners of the Best Alternative Act, London Cabaret Awards 2015, who create impromptu stories using suggestions from and the experiences of members of the audience. Zoie weaves her wordy magic, while Des creates an underpinning sound scape.At midday Twice Shy take over the tent ( I’m hoping for a real Mongolian yurt, if it’s owner will lend it to us ) to develop some tales with the audience (they will be back to develop some more at 2.30).

Jo Clayton, the StoryCycler, formerly Practitioner in Residence at the Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside, begins in Storytelling at 1.15 in the afternoon, with her South London Fairy Tales, suitable for ages from 9 to 90.

Then we have Story Places, the stories devised by local story tellers specifically set in or about Crystal Palace Park ( working with folk from Southampton University ).  The Uni has developed a special app for mobile phones which allows users to be ‘in’ a story set in a specific place. A specially commissioned story from writer and actress Katie Lyons ( who, it is hoped, will perform it ) will start things off. Listeners can leave the tent and load the app on to their phones in order to ‘walk the stories’ in the park.

At some point in the afternoon we hope to be starting another walk from the tent, the Adventure Maze procession, for any younger folk who will enter the Maze with their story books in hand, to meet magical characters, the spirits of the trees and places in the Park, as well as people who have lived there or been associated with it. An analogue version of the Story Places app, but with ‘real’ characters within the maze.

Then, at five o’clock it’s Reconquista time. I am hopeful of acquiring a set and some props as well as a few helpers, rather better readers than yours truly, to re-create scenes from the story. I will, however, be signing copies of the book in the Book Tent earlier in the day.

Storytelling closes with the Beckenham Storytellers at 6.15 p.m. creating their Story Circle, telling tales about south London life.

So, if you enjoyed reading Reconquista and live in London come along to the Storytelling tent at the Crystal Palace Overground Festival on 17th June to meet the author and listen to some fabulous tales.  See you there!

If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy  Ask the Author       Reconquista at the Clapham Book Festival 2017

Hawk

Has a strange co-incidence ever happened to you? Something which made you feel a bit uncertain.

That happened to me recently. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you will have read my piece about hunting with hawks, called Hunting with Birds. I’m interested in that right now because the sequel to ‘Reconquista‘ includes a new character who is a falconer. So I have to learn about hawks.

Well, I was in Spain and I happened to be writing a chapter in which two of my main characters are up in the Sierra El Endrinal. They take shelter on a mountain ledge which, they discover, is also home to a pair of birds of prey. It was a lovely sunny day, with the temperature in the twenties so I went out with a friend to her place at the beach. Another friend joined us and, after giving the dogs a run around and buying food to make a good picnic, we headed out to his house in the campo or countryside. This gave me some useful background for my book and made the three dogs who accompanied us very happy indeed.

While out walking in the countryside one of the dogs began behaving strangely. She wouldn’t leave a particular patch of ground and was sniffing around. We soon found out why. Half hidden in a pile of fallen leaves there was a bird, its beady eye almost the only element which distinguished it from the mound of leaves and sticks around it.

Taking great care, we brushed away the leaves to reveal a wonderful creature, a young hawk. It had a rounded head and a vicious, hooked yellow beak, but also bright yellow-ringed black eyes and feathers which ranged from pale fawn to deep brown and black. It’s plumage wasn’t fluffy, so we new that it had fledged a while before, but it wasn’t the size of a fully mature bird. It also, quite clearly, had a broken wing.

The dogs were put in the car and we set about persuading the bird from its hiding place. It couldn’t fly and, if Wendy the dog could find it, so could other creatures which might be less innocently curious. If we left it where it was it would probably die or be killed.

Eventually we got the bird out and my friend placed it, cradling it delicately in her hands and ignoring it’s beak and talons, into a large cardboard box lined with old clothes . Off we set to find a refuge or rescue centre. But the sun was already setting in a blaze of red on the horizon. By the time we got to any habitation it would be much too late to find anywhere that was open.

So it came to stay with me. A wild hawk was my house guest.

It was a lovely and beautiful creature, with a fierce, quick-moving eye. When it was startled its feathers bristled and it seemed to glower at me for bringing it to my home. I provided it with water, but I didn’t have any dead rodents to hand, so I tried raw bacon, the only other meat product I had available.

Hawk was unimpressed. We stared at each other for a while.

It was warm in the room and the hawk, not to mention me, grew drowsy. I cut extra air-holes in the top flaps of the box and weighted the lid down, so as to prevent the bird from escaping and damaging itself trying to fly. After a few minutes I heard it settle down, presumably to sleep, and I went off to do the same.

When morning came Hawk was restless and emitted little whistling sounds, followed by one hair-raising shriek.  It probably scared my neighbours. They must have wondered what the sound was, coming from my flat on a Sunday morning. But I took it as a good sign. Hawk was alive and kicking. My friend, having finished her shift at the local hospital, came to collect it and took it to a bird recuperation centre.

Just yesterday, she contacted me to say that Hawk was doing well and the rescue people thought it would make a full recovery! This was my co-incidence.

Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photographs of my hawk – the flash on my camera would have frightened it, So the pics here are of other birds.

Reconquista at the Clapham Book Festival 2017

This year’s Clapham Book Festival takes place on May 6th at Omnibus in Clapham, South London.  And at half past three in the afternoon, J.J.Anderson, the author of Reconquista, will be leading a discussion on writing history, both fictional historical novels and non-fiction history books. The session is called The Past is Another Country.

She will be talking with Elizabeth Fremantle, author of The Girl in the Glass Tower, a Times Book of the Year 2016, about her novels set in Tudor and Stuart England. The Girl follows the tragic story of Arbella Stuart, the Queen England never had.

Julie Anderson will also be talking with Robin Blake, whose North Country coroner Titus Cragg solves all manner of mysteries in 18th century, pre-industrial Preston, with the aide of his trusty colleague and local doctor Luke Fidelis. His latest novel featuring the crime-busting duo is Skin and Bone.

The fourth member of the discussion is Simon Bershon, award-winning TV documentary film maker, whose history book Warlords was made into a series for Channel 4. Simon has just started to write historical fiction and his book, Woman of State, is published in the Summer.

There are other events on the Programme, beginning at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with ‘Death in the Afternoon’  This is a panel discussion chaired by Natasha Cooper, crime writer and former Chair of the British Crime Writers Association.  Authors taking part are Sabine Durrant, whose bestselling ‘Lie with Me‘ is a Richard and Judy Book Club Choice; J.P.Delaney whose new book ‘The Girl Before‘ is already winning praise. The fourth writer is Clapham-based Annemarie Neary, whose new novel ‘The Orphans‘ comes out in July and is set in and around Clapham.

The third panel discussion of the afternoon is at 5.00 entitled Spies Under the Bed. This is chaired by novelist Elizabeth Buchan, whose latest novel The New Mrs Clifton‘ is set in post-WWII Clapham and whose previous book ‘I Can’t Begin to Tell You‘ told the story of Danish Resistance fighters and the SOE. On this panel are Andrew Lownie, Chair of the Biographers Club and author of a new biography of Guy Burgess ‘Stalin’s Englishman‘, Jane Thynne, creator of Clara Vine, British spy in 1930s Germany, who features most recently in ‘Solitaire‘ set in war-time Berlin and Rick Stroud, historian and author of ‘Kidnap from Crete; the true story of the abduction of a Nazi general‘ and ‘The Phantom Army of Alamein; the men who hoodwinked Rommel‘ .

From 6.30 until 7.30 there is a general open session in the Omnibus Bar attended by a number of Clapham writers, including the author of Reconquista, and then at 7.30 broadcaster and author Kate Adie in conversation with Simon Berthon.

You can find out more about the Festival and its Programme of events on the Clapham Book Festival web-site. Tickets are on sale for The Past is Another Country on the Omnibus web-site. They cost £10 ( £8 concessions ). Or you can follow the Festival on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

If you want to find out about the 2016 edition of the Festival take a look at Clapham Writers web-site.

 

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