How to Build an Aircraft Carrier

At 65,000 tons and 280 metres long with a flight deck the size of 60 tennis courts, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the biggest ship in the Royal Navy’s history and one of the most ambitious and exacting engineering projects ever undertaken in the UK. But it’s her ship’s company of 700, alongside an air group of 900 air and ground crew that are Big Lizzie’s beating heart. How to Build an Aircraft Carrier tells their story.

From before the first steel of her hull was cut, Chris Terrill has enjoyed unprecedented access to Queen Elizabeth and the men and women who have brought her to life. From Jerry Kyd, the ship’s inspirational Captain to Lt Cdr Nathan Grey, the first pilot to land Britain’s new stealth jet fighter on her deck, Terrill has won the trust and confidence of the ship’s people.

A Conversation With Lynda La Plante

Legendary crime writer Lynda La Plante will discuss her career as an actor, screenwriter and novelist. La Plante broke through as a writer in 1983 when she created and wrote the six-part robbery series Widows for Thames Television. Her debut novel, The Legacy, was published in 1987. Prime Suspect, which introduced DCI Jane Tennison, was published 1991. The books formed the basis for the television series, Prime Suspect, which starred Helen Mirren and won multiple BAFTAs, Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. Dark Rooms is La Plante’s newest novel and the latest thriller in the Tennison series.

Following the success of Prime Suspect, La Plante formed her own television production company, La Plante Productions in 1993. Through this she wrote and produced high-rating series Thye Governor (ITV), Supply and Demand, Killer Net (Channel 4), Mind Games (ITV) and acclaimed series Trial and Retribution and The Commander (ITV).

La Plante was made a CBE (2008) for services to Literature, Drama and Charity. She is a member of The Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame and is the only lay person to be made a fellow of The Forensic Science Society.

Interviewer Susanna Dinnage





Prince Philip Revealed–cancelled

This event has been cancelled due to Ingrid Seward contracting Covid. Refunds will be made after the Festival or you can exchange your ticket at the Festival Box Office for the premium event– Tim Wonnacott: From Sotheby’s to Strictly: A Romp through an Eclectic Career in the Auction and Television World on Saturday at 17.00 of a ticket to two non-premium events of your choice (availability will be based on venue capacity).

Ingrid Seward shows how a man of action coped with having to spend the next 70 years of his life walking two steps behind his wife. His reaction was to create a role for himself, modernising the monarchy, campaigning to protect the environment, supporting the sciences and engineering, and inspiring the young through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. But, above all, he proved himself to be the Queen’s most valuable and loyal companion throughout her long reign.

The TV series The Crown has helped bring Prince Philip to the centre of attention, but Seward’s biography not only examines the major influences on his life, but is packed with revealing behind-the-scenes details and great insight. The first major biography of Prince Philip for almost 30 years shines new light on his complex character and extraordinary career.

The Lighthouse of Stalingrad

The Lighthouse of Stalingrad sheds new light on the iconic battle through the prism of the two units who fought for the very heart of the city itself. Iain MacGregor traveled to both German and Russian archives (now likely inaccessible Western historians for years to come) to unearth previously unpublished testimonies by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. MacGregor lays to rest the questions as to the identity of the real heroes of this epic battle for one of the city’s most famous buildings and provides authoritative answers as to how the battle finally ended and influenced the conclusion of the siege of Stalingrad.

Interviewer Bob Seely

Starlight Wood: Walking Back to the Romantic Countryside

But for the Romantics themselves, the countryside was a place where radical change was underway both within and around them. ‘Romanticism isn’t a cultural artefact; it’s a way for thought to move,’ writes highly acclaimed biographer and poet Fiona Sampson in this transporting and vividly evocative book, in which she spends a year walking in the Romantic’s footsteps. Setting out across ten landscapes, as the Romantics once did as they wrote, travelled, settled, or tried to define the rural environment, Sampson walks not with a sense of nostalgic cliche′, but radically alive to interaction between the human and the natural world.

Starlight Wood is part group biography, part cultural history, and part an essay about place. Sampson shows how Percy Bysshe Shelley and Elizabeth Barrett Browning used diet as a symbol of radicalism, and John Constable revealing the emptiness of post-Enclosure British countryside; while the young William Wordsworth follows the ideal of radical sensibility into the heart of Revolutionary France. Bringing it closer to home, Sampson shares her thoughts on Alfred, Lord Tennyson and her walk on Tennyson Down.



Billy No Mates: How I Realised Men Have a Friendship Problem

When Max Dickins started to think about proposing to his girlfriend, he realised there was no one he could call on to be his best man. This realisation sent him down a rabbit hole, examining the friendships he had had over the years, and where they had foundered.

Men are, on average, more isolated and lonelier than women. Countless studies have affirmed this peculiarity, and there is a staggering worldwide inequality consistently recorded between the sexes in respect to suicide rates. Dickins’ disarmingly honest and witty interrogation of traditional masculinity is a personal quest borne of inner crisis, providing a platform to intelligently explore the connection between widespread male loneliness and isolation and the recently christened social phenomenon of toxic masculinity.

Am I Made of Stardust?: Dr Maggie Answers the Big Questions for Young Scientists

Super star space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock is back with her second book, Am I Made of Stardust? and here to answer all your questions about the wonders of the universe for curious children (and adults) – from whether it’s raining gemstones on Jupiter, to what the astronauts are having for dinner on the International Space Station!

Tickets for children under the 16 must be purchased by an adult.

I Never Said I Loved You

Having struggled with depression for most of his life, on his 30th birthday Rhik Samadder had what can only be described as an epiphany following a powerful conversation with his mother in a Bangkok sex hotel. Samadder realised that his mother loved him, was proud of him despite his best efforts and, by dragging him on an Australian backpacking adventure was desperately trying to pluck him from the throes of a crippling depression that was powerfully undermining his ability to lead a fulfilling and happy life. I Never Said I Loved You is a chartered voyage through the seas of Samadder’s mental health as he unpicks the intricacies and hard truths of how he came to be where he was, how he could counter the darkness the pulled at him, and how his behaviour had affected those around him.

Love at War

Sandra Howard will be talking about the tensions and challenges facing Laura, the heroine of the story, who is determined to chase after Harry, a young man she has fallen for. It is 1940, the Second World War is well under way, and Harry, out in Uganda doing forestry, has joined up to play his part in the war. Laura boards a liner carrying troops and bound for Egypt, braving the torpedoed waters of the Mediterranean in her wistful hope of eventually reaching Uganda and seeing him again.

Based on a true story and Howard will talk of its provenance, her meeting with the son of her principal characters who was content for her to fictionalise his parents’ story and has since read and enjoyed the book.

She will speak of the heartbreaks and difficulties of women living in those times. It was a man’s world, a society that allowed young women, and certainly married women, little freedom and independence; it is a vanished world, the world of the colonial British living in Africa.

Laura has enlightened parents, is able to travel and has just spent two very sobering years in Germany immediately before the war, studying the theories of Rudolf Steiner. She is home in Edinburgh again when war is declared and with a degree in music, fluent German and French, manages to get a job with an American Mission School in Cairo as a stepping stone to Uganda. Laura is a beautiful innocent in a sophisticated city and soon falls in love, suffering deeply when her war correspondent lover goes home to join up. She carries on teaching, wise, sadder and with her eyes more open to the ways of the world.

When Harry eventually proposes. They marry knowing very little about each other and have only weeks together before he is sent North with his battalion. Laura is left pregnant and alone in Nairobi then for a year and a half. She struggles financially, has the hardships of war to face and a horrifying, emotionally scarring experience that she cannot divulge to a soul, such are the times. More sadness comes her way, although there is a twist of fate when the war is over and she finally returns home and the story ends on a note of hope. This book is about love and relationships in times of great hardship, spanning two continents and many lives.

Arnold Bennett: Lost Icon

During his 1920s heyday, Arnold Bennett was one of Britain’s most celebrated writers. As the author of The Old Wives’ Tale and Clayhanger he was household name, writing just as much for the common man as London’s literati. His face was plastered over theatre hoardings and the sides of West End omnibuses. His life represents the ultimate rags-to-riches story of a man who ‘banged on the door of Fortune like a weekly debt-collector’ as one of his obituaries so vividly put it. Yet for all his success, few were aware how cursed Bennett felt by his life-long stutter and other debilitating character traits. In the years running up to his death in 1931, his affairs were close to collapse as he fought a losing battle on three fronts: with his estranged wife; with his disenchanted mistress; and from a literary perspective with Virginia Woolf.

As the first full length biography of Bennett since 1974, Patrick Donovan’s work draws on a wealth of unpublished diaries and letters to shed new light on a personality who can be considered a ‘Lost Icon’ of early twentieth century Britain.

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