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2014 programme

Festival weekend at a glance

Saturday 17th May

Time

Event

Venue (in Warwick Arts Centre)

12.15-1.15pm

Simon Thurley
Woods-Scawen Room

12.15-1.15pm

Stephen Cooper
Helen Martin Studio

1.30-2.30pm

Robert Colls
Woods-Scawen Room

3-4pm

Snowden: Traitor or Hero?
Theatre

4.15-5.15pm

Tim Butcher
Woods-Scawen Room

4.15-5.15pm

John Carey
Helen Martin Studio

5.30-6.30pm

Torture: a very British problem?
Woods-Scawen Room

5.30-6.30pm

Nicola Philips
Helen Martin Studio

6.45-8pm

Louis de Bernieres
Theatre


Sunday 18th May

Time Event Venue (in Warwick Arts Centre)
11-12pm
Writing History:
the Rise of Historical Fiction
Woods-Scawen Room
12.15-1.15pm
Jim Ring
Woods-Scawen Room
12.15-1.15pm
Christine Riding
Helen Martin Studio
1.30-2.30pm
Women, War and Secrecy
Theatre
3-4pm
Roderick Bailey
Woods-Scawen Room
3-4pm
Jennifer Clement
Helen Martin Studio
4.15-5.15pm
James Secord
Woods-Scawen Room
4.15-5.15pm
Mal Peet
Helen Martin Studio
5.30-6.30pm
Blake, Bugs and Berlin: Spies
and Surveillance in the Cold War
Woods-Scawen Room
5.30-6.30pm
Philip Durkin
Helen Martin Studio
6.45-8pm
Tony Mendez
Theatre



Simon Thurley: The Building of England

Saturday 17th May 12.15-1.15pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50 (£4.50)

The Building of England: How the History of England Has Shaped Our Buildings takes a fascinating journey through the history of English architecture. From the awe-inspiring castles, cathedrals and monasteries built by the Normans, to the steel frame buildings of the Industrial Revolution and the skyscrapers springing up today, Simon Thurley explores how this small island has come to be so distinctly different from its European neighbours, and its huge architectural impact on the globe. Thurley looks at how the architecture of England has evolved over a thousand years, uncovering the beliefs, ideas and aspirations of the people who commissioned them, built them and lived in them.

Simon Thurley is one of the UK’s leading architectural historians. He is Chief Executive of English Heritage and the government’s principle advisor on the historic environment. He is the author of Men from the Ministry: How Britain Saved its Heritage (2013), Lost Buildings of Britain (2004), and books on Whitehall Palace, Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House.

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Stephen Cooper: The Final Whistle

Saturday 17th May 12.15-1.15pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50 (£4.50)

The Final Whistle: the Great War in Fifteen Players is the story of fifteen members of Rosslyn Park Rugby Club during the Great War. All played rugby for one London club; none lived to hear the final whistle. They came from diverse backgrounds, with players from Australia, Ceylon, Wales and South Africa, but they were united by their love of the game and their courage in the face of war. From the mystery of a missing memorial, Cooper’s meticulous research has uncovered the story of these men and captured their lives, from their vanished Edwardian youth and vigour, to the war they fought and how they died.

Stephen Cooper was born in Birmingham, England. His first book combines two of his many passions: a lifelong fascination for the Great War, inspired by his grandfather who fought in the Somme, and rugby, which he has played and coached for longer than he can remember. The Final Whistle won Rugby Book of the Year in the 2013 Times British Sports Book Awards.

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Robert Colls: George Orwell: English Rebel

Saturday 17th May 1.30-2.30pm, Woods Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

An intellectual who did not like intellectuals, a socialist who did not trust the state, a writer of the left who found it easier to forgive writers of the right, a liberal who was against free markets, a Protestant who believed in religion but not in God, a fierce opponent of nationalism who defined Englishness for a generation. Orwell was a man of many fascinating contradictions, someone who liked to go against the grain because he believed that was where the truth usually lay. George Orwell: English Rebel travels through the many twists and turns of Orwell's life and thought, from the precocious public school satirist at Eton and the imperial policeman in Burma, through his early years as a rather dour documentary writer, down and out on the streets of Paris and London and on the road to Wigan pier, and his formative experiences as a volunteer soldier in the Spanish Civil War.

Robert Colls is Professor of Cultural History in the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University. He is the author of Identity of England (2004), and has written and broadcast for national press, radio and television, most recently From Our Own Correspondent (BBC Radio 4, 2012) and Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC 1, 2011).

  • Orwell in America - read Robert Colls's article on 1984 and Edward Snowden, which draws some indicative links with the next panel "Snowden: traitor or hero?"

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Snowden: Traitor or Hero?

Saturday 17th May, 3-4pm, Theatre

Tickets £8.50/£6.50

Edward Snowden’s release of classified US National Security Agency documents since June 2013 has sparked fierce controversy over his actions. Is Snowden a hero or villain? Intelligence expert Professor Sir David Omand, journalists Luke Harding and Ewen Macaskill, and consultant Ben Fenton will be chaired by Richard Aldrich, Professor of International Security at Warwick, to debate Snowden’s actions.

Edward Snowden is an American computer specialist, former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA). In June 2013 he came to international attention when he disclosed a large number of classified documents to several media outlets, including the Guardian, revealing operational details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the NSA and other members of the Five Eyes alliance, along with numerous commercial and international partners. The release of classified material has been called the most significant leak in US history, and by November 2013, the Guardian had published just one percent of the documents. Snowden is currently in an undisclosed location in Russia, having landed there for a one-night stopover in June 2013; he is considered a fugitive by American authorities who have charged him with espionage and theft of government property.

A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a traitor, and a patriot. Numerous media outlets and politicians issued calls for leniency in the form of clemency, amnesty or pardon, while others called for him to be imprisoned or killed. Snowden's "sole motive" for leaking the documents was, in his words, "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” The disclosures have fuelled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.

Professor Sir David Omand was the first UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator, responsible to the Prime Minister for the professional health of the intelligence community, national counter-terrorism strategy and “homeland security”. He served for seven years on the Joint Intelligence Committee, was Director of GCHQ, and then Permanent Secretary of the Home Office from 1997 to 2000. David Omand is author of Securing the State (2010) and Visiting Professor at King’s College London.

Ben Fenton was until recently the Financial Times’ chief media correspondent, prior to which he was chief reporter for The Daily Telegraph, including an episode as the paper’s Washington correspondent. During the last twenty-five years he has reported on some of the most notable news stories from around the globe, including leading the Financial Times’ coverage of the phone-hacking scandal and Leveson inquiry.

Luke Harding is an award-winning foreign correspondent with the Guardian. He has reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. His book Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia (2011) tells of how he became the first reported to be expelled from Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Ewen MacAskill is the Guardian's defence and intelligence correspondent and has written extensively about the Snowden case. He was Washington DC bureau chief from 2007-2013, diplomatic editor from 1999-2006, chief political correspondent from 1996-99 and political editor of the Scotsman from 1990-96.

Gordon Corera is Security Correspondent for the BBC, where he has worked since 1997 as reporter on programmes including Radio 4’s The World Tonight and BBC 2 Newsnight. He is the author of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service (2012) and Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network (2006).

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Tim Butcher: The Trigger

Saturday 17th May, 4.15-5.15pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

The Trigger: The Journey That Led the World to War in 1914 tells the story of the teenage assassin who fired not just the opening rounds of the First World War but the starting gun for modern history when he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on June 28 1914. So monumental were the events of the conflict triggered by the assassination that the story of Princip has been overshadowed by the weight of history, his motivations misunderstood, his intentions traduced. The Trigger fills in the most complete picture yet of the 19-year-old who changed the world, grounding his life story in the same valleys and mountains of Bosnia where the war of 1992-1995 (covered by Butcher as a war reporter) revealed the ongoing danger of militant nationalism. Part whodunit, part travelogue, part history, The Trigger uses Tim Butcher’s journey in the footsteps of Princip to tell a gripping, richly layered tale of cause and effect that will be published in 2014 for the centenary of the First World War.

Tim Butcher is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster and author. He is the author of Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart (2007), shortlisted for prizes including the Samuel Johnson Prize, and Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa’s Fighting Spirit (2010).

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John Carey: The Unexpected Professor

Saturday 17th May 4.15-5.15pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

In this warm and funny memoir, John Carey describes the events that formed him – an escape from the London blitz to an idyllic rural village, army service in Egypt, an open scholarship to Oxford and an academic career that saw him elected, age 40, to Oxford’s oldest English Literature professorship. He frankly portrays the snobberies and rituals of 1950s Oxford, but also his inspiring meetings with writers and poets – Auden, Graves, Larkin, Heaney – and his forty-year stint as a lead book-reviewer for the Sunday Times. This is a book about the joys of reading – in effect, an informal introduction to the great works of English literature. But it is also about war and family, and how an unexpected background can give you the insight and the courage to say the unexpected thing.

John Carey is an Emeritus Professor at Oxford University and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (1992), What Good Are the Arts? (2005), and studies of Donne, Dickens, Thackeray and Golding.

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Torture: a very British problem?

Saturday 17th May, 5.30-6.30pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

The official line is clear: the UK does not 'participate in, solicit, encourage or condone' torture. Yet the authors on this panel argue that the evidence against this is irrefutable: a sinister and unpalatable chain of complicity - going from the military right to the top of government – enables the on-going abuse of terror suspects by Britain. Andrew Williams and Ian Cobain discuss their research uncovering new evidence into Britain’s torture practices.

Andrew Williams is professor of law and co-director of the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick. In A Very British Killing, The Death of Baha Mousa, Williams examines the killing of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist who was killed by British Army troops in Iraq. He had been arrested the previous day in Basra and was taken to a military base for questioning; for forty-eight hours he and nine other innocent civilians had their heads encased in sandbags and their wrists bound by plastic handcuffs and had been kicked and punched with sustained cruelty. Williams tells the inside story of these crimes and their aftermath, examining the institutional brutality, the bureaucratic apathy, the flawed military police inquiry and the farcical court martial that attempted to hold people criminally responsible. A Very British Killing won the 2013 Orwell Book Prize for political writing.

Ian Cobain is a senior reporter for the Guardian. His inquiries into the UK's involvement in torture since 9/11 have won a number of major awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism. He has also won several Amnesty International media awards. His book Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture argues that it is time to re-examine the assumption that the British don't 'do' torture. Drawing on previously unseen official documents, and the accounts of witnesses, victims and experts, prize-winning investigative journalist Ian Cobain looks beyond the cover-ups and the attempts to dismiss brutality as the work of a few rogue interrogators, to reveal a secret and shocking record of torture. From WWII to the War on Terror, via Kenya and Northern Ireland, Cruel Britannia shows how the British have repeatedly and systematically resorted to torture, turning a blind eye where necessary, bending the law where they can, and issuing categorical denials all the while.

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Nicola Phillips: The Profligate Son

Saturday 17th May 5.30-6.30pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

In Regency England a profligate son was every parent’s worst nightmare: he symbolized the dangerous temptations of a new consumer society and the failure of parents to instil moral, sexual, and financial self-control in their sons. This book tells the dramatic and moving story of one ‘profligate son’: William Jackson, a charming teenage boy, whose embattled relationship with his father and frustrated attempts to keep up with his wealthy friends, resulted in personal and family tragedy. Diving beneath the polished elegance of Britain in Byron’s ‘age of surfaces’, the tragic tale of William Jackson reveals the murky underworld of debt, disease, crime, pornography, and prostitution that lay so close beneath the veneer of ‘polite society’. The Profligate Son combines a gripping tale with cutting-edge historical research into early nineteenth-century family conflict, attitudes towards sexuality, credit, and debt, and the brutal criminal justice system in Britain and Australia at the time.

Nicola Phillips is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Politics at Kingston University and is the author of Women in Business, 1700-1850 (2006). She is an advocate of public history and has contributed to radio and TV programmes on gender history, and is a co-founder of Kingston University's Centre for the Historical Record.

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Louis de Bernières: Imagining Alexandria

Saturday 17th May, 6.45-8pm, Theatre

Tickets £8.50/£6.50

Poetry was Louis de Bernières' first literary love and Imagining Alexandria is his debut poetry collection. Here the author of the much-loved Captain Corelli's Mandolin returns us to the vivid Mediterranean landscape of his fiction. De Bernières was introduced to Greek poetry while in Corfu in 1983, and since then he has always travelled with a book of Cavafy's poetry in his pocket. Not surprisingly, his own poems about the distant past, the erotic and the philosophical owe much to the influence of the great Alexandrian poet. Beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Donald Sammut, this is a collection rich in sensuality, nostalgia, and music.

Louis de Bernières published his first novel in 1990 and was selected by Granta magazine as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists in 1993. Since then he has become well known internationally as a writer and Captain Corelli's Mandolin (1994) won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Novel; it was adapted into a film directed by John Madden and starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz in 2001. A Partisan's Daughter (2008), was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and Notwithstanding: English Village Stories, was published in Autumn 2009.

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***

Writing History: the rise of historical fiction

with William Palmer, Andrew Crumey and Anita Mason


Sunday 18th May, 11-12pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

Historical fiction is currently one of the most popular genres of fiction in the UK, and in this panel three acclaimed writers of the genre will discuss the appeal of historical novels, and the challenges and rewards of writing history.

William Palmer’s first novel, The Good Republic, was published in 1990 and since then he has had eight books published; his latest novel, The Devil is White, was published in early 2013 and he has recently completed Under the Influence, a study of alcohol and its effect on writers' lives and work. His work has appeared in many journals and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. He reviews regularly for The Independent and Literary Review. In addition to his writing, he has done much teaching, including a position as Writing Fellow at the University of Warwick in 2005-2007.

Andrew Crumey has a PhD in theoretical physics and is former literary editor of Scotland on Sunday. His novels combine history, philosophy, science and humour, and have been praised and translated worldwide. His 1994 debut novel, Music, in a Foreign Language, won the Saltire First Book Award and was longlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize; other works include Pfitz (1994), D'Alembert's Principle (1996) and Mobius Dick (2005) which was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Anita Mason is the author of eight novels, including Bethany (1981), The Illusionist (1983), which was nominated for the 1983 Booker Prize, The Yellow Cathedral (Spinsters Ink, 2002), and Perfection (Spinsters Ink, 2003); her latest novel is The Right Hand of the Sun (2008). Anita Mason has taken up a number of fellowships at British academic institutions, including the University of Warwick from 2005-2009.

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Jim Ring: Storming the Eagle’s Nest

Sunday 18th May 12.15-1.15pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

In a mountain resort in the Bavarian Alps, Hitler built his Alpine headquarters - his ‘Eagle’s Nest’. It was here that he conceived and directed the war, as the surrounding territory fell to Fascism. The Alps as much as Berlin were the heart of the Third Reich: skiing resorts were turned into training centres for mountain warfare, Switzerland prepared to be invaded, and concentration camps were seeded in the alpine valleys. But the Alps were also cradles of resistance, home to US and British spies and double agents, to the French maquis and the Italian and Yugoslav partisans. There were tales of courage, heroism and self-sacrifice, of armed struggle and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Storming the Eagle’s Nest brings together these stories and more into the definitive account of this crucial arena of the Second World War.

Jim Ring is the author of books including Erskine Childers (1996) which won the Marsh Prize for biography, How the English Made the Alps (2000), and a collective biography of Britain’s leading Cold War submariners, We Come Unseen (2001), which won the Mountbatten Prize.

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Christine Riding: Turner and the Sea

Sunday 18th May, 12.15-1.15pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

Turner and the Sea reveals the full extent of the artist’s engagement with the sea, foregrounding important but rarely seen paintings and throwing new light on some of his iconic works. In an age of global naval warfare, rapid technological change, and increased travel, Turner’s ceaselessly creative response to contemporary maritime affairs helped to redefine Britain’s cultural relationship with the sea. This book examines the many ways in which Turner responded to the maritime art of the past while challenging his audience with new ways of representing the sea. The book reveals how Turner first established his credentials as a painter of the sea against a rich tradition of marine painting, exemplified during the previous two centuries. It examines the artist’s competitive response to the work of his contemporaries, including John Constable, and explores the complex legacy of his seascapes through the maritime subjects of later British, European, and American artists.

Christine Riding is Senior Curator and Head of Arts at the National Maritime Museum. She was previously Curator of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century British Art at Tate Britain, and was Deputy Editor of Art History (The Journal of the Association of Art Historians).

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Women, War and Secrecy

with Clare Mulley, Susan Ottaway and Noreen Riols

Sunday 18th May, 1.30-2.30pm, Theatre

Tickets £8.50/£6.50

Authors Clare Mulley and Susan Ottaway, whose books The Spy Who Loved and Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice reveal the thrilling stories of women secret agents in World War II, are joined by Noreen Riols, one of the only surviving SOE agents and author of memoir The Secret Ministry of Ag. and Fish, to delve into the amazing stories of women spies and their heroic work towards winning the war.

Clare Mulley is the award-winning author of two biographies, including The Woman Who Saved the Children (2009) and a contributor to The Arvon Book of Life Writing. She is a seasoned public speaker and occasionally writes for publications including History Today, The Spectator, The Express and The Church Times. In The Spy Who Loved, Clare Mulley tells the story of Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, who was the first and the longest serving female special agent working for Britain in the Second World War. A Polish countess and beauty queen, in 1939 Christine swapped the comfort and security of life as a diplomat's wife to make an extraordinary contribution to the Allied war effort in occupied Europe and beyond, where she became one of the most loved as well as one of the most successful female agents of the war.

Susan Ottaway is the author of several books including Dambuster: a Life of Guy Gibson VC (1994), (with Jackie George) She Who Dared: Covert Operations in Northern Ireland with the SAS (1999), Violette Szabo – The Life That I Have (2002) and Hitler’s Traitors (2003). Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice is the true story of sisters Eileen and Jaqueline Nearne, who worked for the Special Operations Executive. In 1944, Eileen Nearne flew into German-occupied France as a wireless operator for the SOE, attached to a circuit in the south of Paris, and was captured and incarcerated in Ravensbrück Concentration camp. Eileen Nearne not only survived the camp but managed to escape from a work party, eventually meeting up with the advancing Americans in the spring of 1945. Meanwhile her sister Jacqueline worked for a very large circuit for 15 months before being brought back to England suffering from exhaustion.

Noreen Riols is one of the only surviving members of SOE's F (France) Section, and The Secret Ministry of Ag. and Fish is her compelling memoir of her time as a member of Churchill’s ‘secret army’. In 1943, just before her eighteenth birthday, Noreen received her call-up papers and when one of her interviewers realized she spoke fluent French, she was directed to SOE headquarters. She was immediately recruited into F-Section, led by Colonel Maurice Buckmaster and until the end of the war Noreen worked with Buckmaster and her fellow operatives to support the French Resistance fighting for the Allied cause. Sworn to secrecy, Noreen told no one that she spent her days meeting agents returning from behind enemy lines, acting as a decoy, passing on messages in tea rooms and picking up codes in crossword puzzles.

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Roderick Bailey: Target Italy; the Secret War Against Mussolini 1940-1943

Sunday 18th May, 3-4pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

Target: Italy is the unknown story of the cloak and-dagger war fought by British secret agents against Mussolini’s Italy in the Second World War. Drawing on long-classified documents, this is the official history of the war waged by Britain’s Special Operations Executive on Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. It is a compelling tale of desperate daring and sacrifice, uncovering missions as remarkable as a plot to assassinate Mussolini and plans to arm the Mafia. It climaxes in one of the most extraordinary clandestine episodes of the war: the delicate and dramatic dealings between the Allies and the Italians that led to Italy’s surrender in 1943. This is the first full account of SOE’s clandestine efforts to strike at Fascist Italy and sever its alliance with Nazi Germany, which stands as a sobering study of the terrible dangers that foreign agencies can encounter when trying to encourage resistance to secure, if unpopular, authoritarian regimes.

Roderick Bailey is a historian at the University of Oxford and a specialist in the study of resistance and clandestine warfare. His first book, The Wildest Province was an acclaimed account of SOE exploits in the Axis-occupied Balkans. In 2012 he was appointed by the Prime Minister to write the official history of SOE’s war on Fascist Italy.

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Jennifer Clement: Prayers for the Stolen

Sunday 18th May, 3-4pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, Prayers for the Stolen is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.

Jennifer Clement is the author of the cult classic memoir Widow Basquiat, on the painter Jean Michel Basquiat, and three novels: Prayers for the Stolen, A True Story Based on Lies, which was a finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction, and The Poison That Fascinates. She is also the author of several books of poetry, including The Next Stranger (with an introduction by W.S. Merwin). Prayers for the Stolen was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Fellowship for Literature in 2012.

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James Secord: Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age

Sunday 18th May, 4.15-5.15pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

The early 1830s witnessed an extraordinary transformation in British political, literary, and intellectual life. New scientific disciplines begin to take shape, while new concepts of the natural world were hotly debated. In Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age, James Secord captures this unique moment of change by exploring key books, including Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, Mary Somerville's Connexion of the Physical Sciences, and Thomas Carlyle's satirical work, Sartor Resartus. Set in the context of electoral reform and debates about the extension of education to meet the demands of the coming age of empire and industry, Secord shows how the books were published, disseminated, admired, attacked and satirized.

James Secord is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project, and a fellow of Christ's College. His books include Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (Chicago, 2000), which won the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society and the best book in history from the Association of American Publishers' Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division.

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Mal Peet: Labels are Cages: Mal Peet Goes Off-Message

Sunday 18th May, 4.15-5.15pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

The subjects of Mal’s novels include secrecy, espionage, celebrity, love and sex and death, families and how to survive them, racism, religion, nuclear war, rain forest conservation and, er, football. He might talk about any, all or none of these. Or he might talk about the hellish pleasures of writing for a living or his rather eccentric way of working. He might even have advice for aspiring writers. He’ll almost certainly tell us why he thinks the phrase ‘Young Adult Fiction’ should be made illegal or, at very least, consigned to Room 101.

Mal is an entertaining and irreverent speaker (especially about his own books) and likes to have a dialogue with his audience. So come armed with questions and challenges.

Mal Peet has won several British and overseas awards, including the Carnegie Medal for Tamar (2005) and the Guardian Prize for Exposure (2008), the third of his Paul Faustino novels set in South America. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he also writes stories for younger readers. His most recent book is Life: An Exploded Diagram (2011).

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Blake, Bugs and Berlin: Spies and Surveillance in the Cold War

Sunday 18th May 5.30-6.30pm, Woods-Scawen Room

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

Few historical changes occur literally overnight, but on 13 August 1961 eighteen million East Germans awoke to find themselves walled in by an edifice which was to become synonymous with the Cold War: the Berlin Wall. Spies and acts of secrecy were crucial in shaping the course of events surrounding the building, and subsequent fall, of the War. One of the greatest examples is the story of George Blake, sentenced to an unprecedented forty-two years in jail for his work as a Soviet spy that to many positioned him as “the greatest traitor” of the Cold War. The authors on this panel reveal how his story, and many others, touch not only the depths of treachery but also the heights of heroism.

Roger Hermiston has worked as a print and broadcast journalist. He joined the BBC in the early 1990s where for many years he was Assistant Editor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Roger is now a full-time writer, and in The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake he reveals the compelling career of Blake, who performed sterling deeds for the British Intelligence service in World War II whilst, unbeknownst to SIS, assiduously gathering important documents that were passed on to the KGB. Drawing on hitherto unpublished records from his trial, new revelations about his dramatic jailbreak from Wormwood Scrubs, and original interviews with former spies, friends and the man himself, The Greatest Traitor sheds new light on this most complex of characters and presents a fascinating shadow history of the Cold War.

Patrick Major is Professor in History at the University of Reading. In Behind the Berlin Wall: East Germany and the Frontiers of Power, Major explores how the border closure affected ordinary East Germans, from workers and farmers to teenagers and even party members, 'caught out' by Sunday the Thirteenth. Party, police and Stasi reports reveal why one in six East Germans fled the country during the 1950s, undermining communist rule and forcing the eleventh-hour decision by Khrushchev and Ulbricht to build a wall along the Cold War's frontline. Exploring the reasons for the fall of the Wall and reconstructing the heady days of the autumn revolution, Major reflects on the fate of the Wall after 1989, as it moved from demolition into the realm of memory.

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Philip Durkin: Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English

Sunday 18th May 5.30-6.30pm, Helen Martin Studio

Tickets £5.50/£4.50

Philip Durkin's full and accessible history of the English language Borrowed Words reveals the how, when, and why of the rich variety and vast number of words it has taken from other languages. He shows how to discover the origins of loanwords, when and why they were adopted, and what happens to them once they have been. Philip Durkin describes historical inputs from the dissemination of Christian culture in Latin in Anglo-Saxon England, the interactions of French, Latin, Scandinavian, Celtic, and English during the Middle Ages, exposure to languages throughout the world during the colonial er and the effects of using English as an international language of science. This outstanding book is for everyone interested in English etymology and in loanwords more generally. It will appeal to a wide general public and at the same time offers a valuable reference for scholars and students of the history of English.

Philip Durkin is Principal Etymologist of the Oxford English Dictionary. His Oxford Guide to Etymology (2009; paperback edition 2011) has become the standard work in the field.


Tony Mendez: the real Argo

Sunday 18th May 6.45-8pm, Theatre

Tickets £8.50 (£6.50)

In November 1979, the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran, was seized and 52 embassy workers held hostage; 6 American diplomats escaped and were given sanctuary by the Canadian ambassador. The rescue operation of these 6 was led by CIA agent Tony Mendez, who conducted a plan to disguise the diplomats as members of a film crew on a location scouting trip to Iran. On Sunday 27th January, 1980, Mendez and the Americans successfully fled the country; Mendez was later decorated for his actions. In 2012, the dramatic story was made into the film Argo directed by and starring Ben Affleck as Mendez, which won 3 Academy Awards and 2 Golden Globes. In this talk, Tony Mendez will reflect on his work for the CIA and the dramatic events portrayed in Argo.

Tony Mendez worked for the CIA from 1965-1990. Since retiring he has written three books: Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (1999), a memoir of his time with the CIA; Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations that Helped Win the Cold War (2003, with Jonna Mendez and Bruce Henderson); and Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (2012, with Matt Baglio).

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