Travels in Southern England – The Penzance Literary Festival Revisited: continued.

July 12, 2015

There have been so many interesting events for me to visit at this year’s festival that I have hardly had time to keep up with my blog.

Last night I visited the Acorn Theatre where I listened to comedian and writer, Tony Hawks, talk about the frustration he has felt on numerous occasions when he has received misdirected messages meant for his American skateboarding namesake. He went on to talk about his adventures when cycling across Devon in the company of a miniature pig which is recounted in his latest book, “Once Upon a Time in the West Country”, and being an ex-employee of Defra myself, I was heartened to see that he obeyed this Government department’s animal movement regulations religiously.

Tony Hawks bookOnce Upon a Time in the West Country by Tony Hawks
is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardback, paperback and as an ebook.

Later I saw a production of a black comedy play called “Sweetness and Light” performed by a company called Blabbermouth Theatre in the Acorn bar. Apparently it goes to the Edinburgh Fringe in August but I must admit that I did not fully understand it.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on how to read a short story out loud run by the excellent Diana Cambridge. It was attended by fifteen very talented writers who had each submitted a piece of work for comment. I read from my short story, “The Lie,” which is available for free for a limited period on the Peatmore Press website and my reading seemed to go down well. Diana also supplied us with worksheets giving tips and also a copy of her book about writing for magazines. She is based in Bath and runs other workshops there which I would highly recommend for anyone wishing to specialise in this tricky form of fiction writing. Diana has a website at

That evening I listened to an enthralling talk by Tim Hannigan based on his latest book, A Brief History of Indonesia. Readers may remember that I attended his travel writing workshop last year and bought a copy of his book about Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, which I later reviewed on this blog earlier in the year. This latest book looked just as entertaining and I managed to by a pre-publication copy which Tim signed for me as it is not due out until September. I have to confess that I have more than a passing interest in that country as my daughter is there at the moment with her boyfriend.

Later on in the evening the festival organisers held their traditional literary quiz. I was able to reacquaint myself with the very charming team I participated with last year. However, this time I was part of another group. We did not do too badly but there so many more knowledgeable other teams taking part that we failed to gain any prizes.

The night ended with a party in the Acorn bar with live music performed by an energetic local band known as Gwenellin. It was a perfect ending to a fine festival.

Keith Jahans
Peatmore Press.


Travels in Southern England – The Penzance Literary Festival Revisited: continued

July 10, 2015

I relaxed for most of the festival’s second day and spent the major part of my time watching the second day of the Ashes test match between Australia and England on my ipad. But I did visit the Acorn Theatre again in the evening to listen to novelists Patrick Gale, Cassandra Parkin and Edward Wilson discuss the tricky subject of writing sex scenes. All three appeared to be extremely well read and, as well as reading from their own works, they devoted a considerable part of their conversation to the writings of classical novelists such as Chaucer, Emily Brontë and Jane Austin, and modern writers such as Jilly Cooper and E L James.

The next morning I met Edward Wilson at breakfast as he was also staying at the Queens Hotel and I met him later again in the morning in the Hotel Reading Room. He writes political thrillers and is extremely knowledgeable about the politics of post war Britain and of the Wilson era in particular. We had a most enjoyable conversation covering the politics of that time and even the fate of Nelson’s body following his death at Trafalgar. His books look to be well worth a read. He invited me to his latest book launch on 29th July in London. Unfortunately, I am not sure whether my travels will be taking me back to England’s southeast at that time.

Towards midday I visited the Penlee Coach House to hear veteran local journalist, Des Hannigan, give a lively talk about his life creating both local and national news stories. He is an engaging conversationalist and it was an extremely entertaining session.

Keith Jahans

Travels in Southern England – The Penzance Literary Festival Revisited

July 9, 2015

It is July and I am back in Cornwall at this most hospital of literature festivals. Followers may remember that I visited here last year. However, instead of camping this time I opted for a measure of luxury and I am staying in the magnificent Queens Hotel overlooking the promenade.

 Queens Hotel Penzance

My room is on the second floor and has a panoramic dormer window (the third one up in this picture & right under the roof) and I am lucky in that it has two windows offering outstanding views of Mounts Bay.

View from Queens Hotel Bedroom Window

Yesterday I participated in the opening workshop in the Morrab Library exploring writing for performance with Paul Dodgson. Paul is an experienced drama writer, having written and produced plays for stage, television and radio. He shared a few of his radio scripts with us some of which were acted out by the group. The plays offered excellent examples of what can be achieved by collaborative writing and also illustrated a few of the pitfalls by showing what could happen when works go wrong.

Later that evening I visited the Acorn Theatre, where I listened to Philip Marsden talk to Tim Hanigan about his book “Rising Ground” which explores the idea of place and the mythology associated with them. The legends surrounding Cornwall, Bodmin Moor, its Neolithic sites and the legends, such as those surrounding King Arthur, associated with them made a most interesting discussion.

For photographs of the Morrab Library and the Acorn Theatre I refer you back to my earlier visit to the festival at The festival continues until the end of Saturday.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Southern England

July 21, 2014

20 July 2014

This was the last day of the Festival. At 11 am I took part in a travel writing workshop led by award-winning Cornish travel writer, Tim Hannigan. It was expertly run and I received some excellent tips on how to sell articles to travel magazines.

The workshop was held in a rather grand room in the Union Hotel. It was from the balcony in this room that Nelson’s victory and death at the battle of Trafalgar was first announced. A rather ghoulish face which we were told was Nelson’s death mask is suspended below the balcony. Thus we discussed our views on how to make the best use of our travel adventures as an exceedingly unhappy Nelson looked down on us from above.

Balcony in Union Hotel from where Nelson's victory was announcedThe balcony in Union Hotel from where Nelson’s victory and death was first announced

Nelson's Death Mask
A closer view of Nelson’s death mask suspended below the balcony

I returned to the Acorn Theatre that evening to witness a script in hand reading by ‘The Wireless Ensemble’ of Penzance writer Stephen Saunter’s comedy radio play, “It’s What he would have wanted,” about along overdue burial. Given that I have recently witnessed two very sad funerals I should not have found it funny. But I did.

After the performance finished I was honoured to be allowed to take part in Shout Kernow: the tradition of Cornish pub singing in the theatre bar. It was hosted by two ladies, Hilary Coleman and Sally Burley, who had succeeded in obtaining funding to travel to all the pubs in Cornwall to write down traditional songs they might hear there on condition that they would write a book of there experiences (some in the audience thought it an enterprising way of financing a pub crawl). The book has yet to appear but I added my email address to the long list of people who wished to be notified when it finally materialized. However, they did produce some song sheets and we set about them with great gusto with the aid of the Red River Singers. It was a perfect end to a great festival. Long may it continue.


Travels in Southern England

July 20, 2014

19 July 2014

 Although I had been in Penzance for three days I had not ventured far from the literary venues except to visit the odd pub for lunch so I decided that I must see more of the town. I wended my way down to the sea front and strolled along the promenade. I saw the Jubilee Pool and St Michael’s Mount. The Jubilee Pool (or Lido) had been damaged by the winter storms and closed for repair. If the required money is not forth coming then it is in danger of closing. I stopped to buy lunch at the Pirates Fish and Chip Shop and ate it while sat on a bench on the promenade overlooking the sea. Then I strolled round the harbour before returning to the town centre where the festival venues are held. Penzance is not among the most picturesque of Cornish towns but I enjoyed what I saw. There are many intriguing shops and pubs to explore. One shop was inhabited by a Darlek. I knew it must live there as a sign said that it was not for sale.

Jubilee Pool with St Michael's Mount in the diistanceJubilee Pool with St Michael’s Mount in the distance

Pirates Fish and Chip Shop
Pirates Fish and Chip Shop

Penzance Swing Bridge and Harbour
Penzance Harbour and Swing Bridge

Penzance Darlek
Penzance Darlek

That afternoon I took part in an “open mic” poetry session at the Penlee Coach House run by the delightful Dina Dixon. A wide range of poems were read by both young and old. Adrian Rodda gave a rendition of a Cornish folk tale, ‘The Changeling of Chapel Carn Brea’. There were some excellent recitals from the works of Dylan Thomas. Two of the younger participants, Roxy from New York and Sebastian who was local, performed some thought provoking social commentary renditions. I read my Dulux colour poem and the Joe Thropp eulogy from “Cogrill’s Mill”. Both seemed to go down well but one lady in the audience thought that the Thropp poem might be directed at one of her forbears as Throp was her family name. I assured her that it was not as my Thropp was a totally fictitious character and his name had a different spelling anyway. But it was a close shave.

The Penlee Coach HousePenlee Coach House


Travels in Southern England

July 19, 2014

18 July 2014

I visited The Morrab Library once more for a talk on Cornish Naval History given by J D Davies whose book I won the night before. Cornish seamen have been stereotyped as pirates and wreckers but there have been many courageous naval commanders (eg Richard Grenville and Admiral Hawke) serving the UK throughout history. Most sailors in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Royal Navy were volunteers. Less than 16% were press ganged.

That evening I returned to The Acorn to witness a brilliant performance by the Bookshop Band. They were formed in Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath to set stories and plays to songs and music. They are well worth a listen.

The Bookshop BandThe Bookshop Band

Travels in Southern England

July 19, 2014

17 July 2014 (evening)

I went back into Penzance in the evening to take part in a literary quiz at The Acorn. I joined a team of four called “The Last Train” as they had to catch the 9.45 to Birmingham that evening. At half time we tied in equal first first place and won a signed book, “Gentleman Captain”, by J D Davies. But by then my four companions had to leave for the train. I then joined another team of four who were coming last as they had only got six correct questions. They were amazing people. One of the two couples (Chris and Melinda James) were originally from Texas but had been living in Penzance for five years. They claimed to be truly Cornish and had persuaded a professional artist, Jason Walker, to paint their portraits as “The Old Cornish Couple”, complete with Cornwall’s flag in the background. They claimed that the picture was hung in the Portrait Gallery in The Mall, London. That night there was a violent thunderstorm but the 1 Minute Tent survived.

The AcornThe Acorn