A year of inspiring women

A year of inspiring women

Guest blog by Festival Director Torin Douglas

On the day Jane Austen appears on the new £10 note in September, marking 200 years since her death, the Chiswick Book Festival will open, presenting many inspiring women speakers on a wide range of subjects. Clare Balding, Jo Malone, Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Outen, Martine Wright and many others will be speaking, and there will also be timely sessions on Austen herself and Queen Victoria.

Images above: Jane Austen; Clare Balding; Jo Malone; Maggie O’Farrell; Sarah Outen; Martine Wright

The life and work of Jane Austen will be celebrated at the Festival’s opening event on Thursday September 14 in the glorious surroundings of Chiswick House & Gardens, with the House’s curator Dr Esme Whittaker of English Heritage, Paula Byrne (The Genius of Jane Austen) and Dr Helena Kelly (Jane Austen, The Secret Radical).

On Friday 15, Clare Balding, a tireless champion of women in sport, will introduce her new book, The Racehorse That Disappeared, the second brilliant adventure story about her inspiring young heroine Charlie Bass.

On Saturday 16, Martine Wright (Unbroken), who competed in the Paralympics after losing her legs in the 7/7 London bombings, tells her own inspiring story in an interview with sports journalist Sue Mott.

On Sunday 17, fragrance entrepreneur Jo Malone (My Story) and athlete and super-adventurer Sarah Outen (Dare To Do) will discuss what it takes to keep going when things don’t quite go to plan. And Somerset Maugham and Costa Prize winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell will talk about her writing and new memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am, with acclaimed author and journalist Cathy Rentzenbrink.

The role of women in war will be discussed by Anne Sebba (Les Parisiennes) and best-selling novelist Elizabeth Buchan (The New Mrs Clifton); and that of women in Ancient Greece by Radio 4 broadcaster and comedian Natalie Haynes, whose second novel is The Children of Jocasta.

And one of history’s most powerful women, Queen Victoria, will be the subject of ‘Victoria & Abdul – and a Game of Thrones’ as the new film opens starring Dame Judi Dench. Shrabani Basu is the author of the book which inspired the film – Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. Deborah Cadbury’s new book, Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, describes the Royal marriages that shaped Europe and how seven of Victoria’s grandchildren came to occupy Europe’s thrones.

Photographs above: Oz Clarke; Hunter Davies; Jeremy Vine

But there is no shortage of men at this year’s Chiswick Book Festival – and there is also a full Children’s Festival programme and a series of workshops for aspiring writers. Male authors speaking will include Oz Clarke, Hunter Davies, Peter Hennessy, Robin Lustig, Harry Mount, John O’Farrell, Craig Oliver, Laurence Rees, Marcel Theroux and Jeremy Vine.

2017 Chiswick Book Festival in pictures

2017 Chiswick Book Festival in pictures

Actor Imogen Stubbs was among the panel at the opening session of the 2017 Chiswick Book Festival, discussing the work of Jane Austen, in the year which commemorated the 200th anniversary of her death. A year of ‘inspiring women’ also included Somerset Maugham and Costa Prize winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell, broadcaster Clare Balding, perfumier Jo Malone, Martine Wright, who competed in the Paralympics after losing her legs in the 7/7 London bombings, and athlete and adventurer Sarah Outen.

Below also: broadcaster Jeremy Vine; journalist Hunter Davies; wine writer Oz Clarke and comedian and children’s author David Baddiel.

2017 Chiswick Book Festival video snapshot

2017 Chiswick Book Festival video snapshot

Chiswick Book Festival goes from strength, with more people going in 2017 than ever before. In fact Festival Director Torin Douglas says they had to turn people away from some sessions.

Here’s a quick impression of some of the sessions: Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Outen and Jo Malone, the Jane Austen evening at Chiswick House, Jeremy Vine, Oz Clarke, Elizabeth Buchan, Anne Sebba and Fanny Blake and Peter Hennessy and Robin Lustig. Oh, and some gorgeous cakes. Congratulations to Director Torin Douglas and the Programme Organiser Jo James.

Carol’s Picks – The New Mrs Clifton

Carol’s Picks – The New Mrs Clifton

Carol Douglas reviews Elizabeth Buchan’s novel

July 2017

Elizabeth Buchan appeared at the 2017 Chiswick Book Festival talking about her book The New Mrs Clifton. Set at the end of World War Two, an army officer shocks his community at home in Clapham, when after the war he brings back his new bride with him, and she’s a German. Carol Douglas reviews it here.

Carol is an avid book reader, a long term member of the St Michael & All Angels Church book club and wife of the Book Festival Director Torin Douglas.

Carol’s Picks – The Co-Op’s Got Bananas

The Co-Op’s Got Bananas

Carol Douglas reviews Hunter Davies’ biography

July 2017

Hunter Davies OBE was one of the guests at the 2017 Chiswick Book Festival. Known as an author, journalist and broadcaster, he has written many books, including the only authorised biography of the Beatles. His latest is his memoir The Co-Op’s Got Bananas! Watch the video to see Carol Douglas’ review.

Carol is an avid book reader, a long term member of the St Michael & All Angels Church book club and wife of the Book Festival Director Torin Douglas.

Jeremy Vine, journalist & broadcaster

Jeremy Vine, journalist & broadcaster

Interview with Bridget Osborne

September 2017

Jeremy Vine has presented Panorama and reported on the Today Programme, Newsnight and as a correspondent from South Africa. But it was only once he had his own show on BBC Radio 2, he says, that he really realised what there is to be learned from the audience.

He talked to me about his book What I Learnt ahead of the 2017 Chiswick Book Festival. As one of the BBC’s most highly paid presenters, he also gave his view on the BBC’s gender pay gap, which was hitting the headlines at the time.

Dr Helena Kelly discusses Jane Austen

Dr Helena Kelly discusses Jane Austen

Interview by Bridget Osborne

September 2017

2017 was the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. There were documentaries made, statues raised and her face was added to the new £10 note.

In Chiswick she was celebrated at the launch of that year’s Chiswick Book Festival, in a special event in the Burlington Pavilion, with authors including Paula Byrne (The Genius of Jane Austen), Dr Helena Kelly (Jane Austen, the Secret Radical) and Dr Esme Whittaker, curator of Chiswick House.

Bridget Osborne talked to Dr Helena Kelly about her book, in which she makes the case that Jane was far more subversive and radical than we perhaps have realised.