What’s On


Diana Evans

Diana Evans is the author of Ordinary People, which won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Her previous novels are The Wonder and her bestselling debut 26a, which won the inaugural Orange Award for New Writers. Her journalism, essays and criticism appear in Time Magazine, the Guardian, Vogue and Financial Times among others. She is an associate lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Photo credit: © Charlie Hopkinson


Ruth Brandt

Where to Begin with Your Book.

Do you think you would enjoy creative writing but are not sure where to start? Or do you have an idea for a novel or want to write about your life but don’t know how to go about it? This course will touch on the importance of reading for a writer, of being prepared to make mistakes  and the necessity of redrafting, and it will introduce you to techniques used to bring characters, real and fictional, to life on paper.

The course will be set in a relaxed, workshop atmosphere where you will be encouraged to write your own creative piece. No previous experience is necessary.

About Ruth

Ruth Brandt is a creative writing tutor and writer. Her short stories and flash fiction have been widely published. She won the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing Prize, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Write Well Award and Best Small Fictions Award. Her short story collection No One has any Intention of Building a Wall will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in 2021. She lives in Surrey with her husband and has two delightful sons.

Michael Donkor

Presenting Friendships on the Page.

In this lively workshop, drawing inspiration from literary and other texts, we’ll explore ways of bringing complexity and humanity to the friendships within our fiction. We’ll experiment with exercises that encourage us to write dialogue which convincingly captures the humour and intimacy of conversation between old pals. We’ll also think about how depictions of the shifting power dynamics of friendships can drive plot in thrilling and unexpected ways.

About Michael

Michael Donkor studied English at Wadham College, Oxford, undertook a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and now teaches English Literature at St Paul’s Girls’ School in London. The Observer named him as one of 2018’s best debut authors for his first novel Hold (4th Estate). In 2019, he was longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and named by Scottish Poet Laureate Jackie Kay as one of the UK’s best BAME novelists. He is a literary critic for the Guardian, and has also written for BBC Radio 3, the TLS and the LARB.

Taster Sessions

Gillian Best

Teaching Your Character to Talk.

In this 45 minute session we’ll explore how dialogue works, and how it can work for you. We’ll discuss how phatic talk often falls flat in fiction, examine subtext and how you can do it well in dialogue, and finally we’ll do a couple of brief writing exercises together to get you started.  If you have specific questions, please bring them along!

This session would be most appropriate for those writers who have tried writing dialogue before and find it’s falling flat.

About Gillian

Gillian Best is a writer, swimmer, and seaside enthusiast. Her debut novel, The Last Wave, is published in Canada and the USA by House of Anansi Press, in AUS, NZ, and UK by Text Publishing, and in Germany as Martha und Das Meer by Dromer Knaur.

Gillian was chosen by CBC Books as one of 17 Writers to Watch in 2017. She was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize (2018), Wasafiri’s New Writing Prize (2015), was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize International Creative Writing Competition (short story, 2013), and won the Bronwen Wallace Award for Short Fiction (2003).

She was awarded her PhD in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Glasgow. Originally from Waterloo, Canada, she lives, works, and swims in Bristol.

Gillian will also be treating us to a reading of her work during our ‘Novelist Readings’ session.

Robert Kiely

Poetic Compaction: An Introduction to Short-Form Poetry

Poetry is frequently bound up with ideas around economy of words and compactness. In this workshop, we will discuss short-form poetry by looking at sample poems, how they demonstrate urgency, exactness and rigour. Equally, we will discuss the dangers of glibness and the too-well-rounded close, and how to let imperfection and error into our short poetry and our writing life more generally. Like the world of miniatures, short poems are a space where fine details and miniscule blunders scream. We will discuss how to experiment with the linebreak and the “swerve,” where an unexpected detail emerges, and hopefully these tools can bring some excitement and adventure to your writing.

[The session will be opened by Sharron Green and run by Robert Kiely.]

About Robert

Robert Kiely is the author of simmering of a declarative void (2020) and Incomparable Poetry, an essay on the financial crisis of 2007-8 and Irish literature (2020).


Nikita Gill

Instagram Poetry Talk

Nikita is a poet and playwright. She has more than 600,000 followers on Instagram and has been described as one of the most successful “Instapoets”. She has also written and curated six poetry books and one novel in verse. Her latest collection, Where Hope Comes From: Healing poetry for the heart, mind and soul, will be published on 18 February.

Nikita will read some of her work before we open the floor to your burning questions. More information on the session will be coming soon!

Roz Morris


Ghostwriting is a shadowy corner of the publishing world. How much of it goes on? Who does it? How does it work? Is it respectable? If you’re a writer, how do you gain entry? Most of all, would it suit you? Roz Morris is a novelist, memoirist and writing coach. She’s taught masterclasses at international events and for The Guardian in London. She’s acclaimed for her own novels, My Memories of a Future Life and Lifeform Three, and she’s also the secret hand behind ghostwritten books that have sold more than 4 million copies. In this one-hour session, she gives a glimpse behind closed doors.

About Roz

Roz Morris is an author, editor, writing coach and ghost-writer. She is the author of My Memories of a Future Life, Lifeform Three, Ever Rest (coming out on the 3rd June), Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction and the Nail Your Novel series for writers. Roz has a full online self-study ghostwriting course on Jane Friedman’s website.

Novelist Readings

Alex Reeve

Novelist Reading

Alex’s debut novel, The House on Half Moon Street, was published in May 2018 and introduced us to Leo Stanhope, an assistant to a ‘surgeon of the dead’ in London in 1880, who sets out to solve a crime while hiding a very big secret of his own. The novel received positive reviews from the Guardian, The Sunday Times, the ‘i’ newspaper and others. It was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick in 2019 and was short-listed for three prizes: The Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize, the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger and the Polari First Novel Prize.

The second in the series, The Anarchists’ Club was published in May 2019 and also received positive reviews. It was short-listed for The Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger.

The Butcher of Berner Street is the third in the series, published in November 2020. It received positive reviews from the Guardian, The Sunday Times, the ‘i’ newspaper, Living magazine and others. The Guardian described it as: ‘Intriguing and vivid, with an original and very likable protagonist, this is an excellent addition to a wonderful series.’

The fourth in the series will follow in Spring 2022. The series is published by Bloomsbury in the UK, Canada and Commonwealth countries, and by other publishers in the US, France, Germany, Netherlands and Japan.

Alex will be reading from his work during a novelist reading session at this year’s festival.

Children’s Literature Panel

Ally Sherrick

Ally Sherrick loves exploring ruined castles and decaying mansions and imagining what it must have been like to live in them without electricity and hot and cold running water – although she’s quite glad she doesn’t have to herself! She has a BA in medieval history and French from Newcastle University and an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. She is married and lives with her husband and assorted garden wildlife in Surrey. Black Powder was her debut novel which won the 2017 Historical Association’s Young Quills Award and the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award 2017.

To read more about Ally go to our ‘Meet Our Guests’ page.

A. M. Dassu

A. M. Dassu is a writer of fiction and non-fiction including the highly acclaimed MG novel Boy, Everywhere which is one of The Guardian’s Best Children’s Books of 2020. She is Deputy Editor of SCBWI-BI’s magazine, Words & Pictures, and a Director of Inclusive Minds, a unique organisation for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children’s literature. She is also one of The Literacy Trust’s Connecting Stories campaign authors which aims to help inspire a love of reading and writing in children and young people.

To read more about A. M. Dassu go to our ‘Meet Our Guests’ page.

Ben Dixon

Ben Dixon is the author behind the world of Neil Peel. He grew up in Yorkshire, grew up a bit more in Leicestershire before moving to settle in Surrey. He studied Linguistics, Children’s Literature and French at the University of York. The Heroic Truths of Neil Peel is his first novel in a proposed series and is aimed at following on from middle-grade, with a target audience of around ages 11-15 years old. He lives in Guildford with his wife, Sarah, and four children, Sophie, Isabelle, Max and Kiera.

To read more about Ben go to our ‘Meet Our Guests’ page.

Magical Realism Panel

Julia Armfield

Julia is a fiction writer with a Master’s in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. She lives and works in London.

Her work has been published in Granta, Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and Best British Short Stories 2019. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Prize 2018 and was the winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award. Her debut collection, salt slow, was published by Picador in May 2019, and by Flatiron in the US. salt slow was longlisted for the Polari Prize 2020 and the Edge Hill Prize 2020 and was shortlisted for the London Magazine Prize for Debut Fiction 2020. Her story ‘Longshore Drift’ won a Pushcart Prize in 2020.

Inua Ellams

Born in Nigeria, Inua is a poet, playwright & performer, graphic artist & designer and founder of: The Midnight Run (an arts-filled, night-time, urban walking experience.), The Rhythm and Poetry Party (The R.A.P Party) which celebrates poetry & hip hop, and Poetry + Film / Hack (P+F/H) which celebrates Poetry and Film. Identity, Displacement & Destiny are reoccurring themes in his work, where he tries to mix the old with the new: traditional African oral storytelling with contemporary poetics, paint with pixel, texture with vector. His books are published by Flipped Eye, Akashic, Nine Arches, Penned In The Margins, Oberon & Methuen.

His awards include: Edinburgh Fringe First Award 2009, The Liberty Human Rights Award, The Live Canon International Poetry Prize, The Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition, Magma Poetry Competition, Winchester Poetry Prize, A Black British Theatre Award and The Hay Festival Medal for Poetry.

To read more information on Inua, go to our ‘Meet Our Guests‘ page.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Lucy is the author of three works of nonfiction, including The Pike – Gabiele d’Annunzio which won the Costa Biography of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Samuel Johnson Prize. The Sunday Times called it ‘the biography of the decade’. After that success she turned to fiction, writing a novel and a collection of short stories.

The novel, Peculiar Ground, is set partly in the 1660s and partly in the mid 20th century. In it two largely realist narratives are bound together by hauntings, by eerie coincidences and by enigmatic fables.

In her collection, Fabulous, ancient stories – biblical, pagan or folkloric, are relocated to modern Britain. Orpheus becomes an elderly opera singer bewildered by dementia, Joseph is an immigrant from eastern Europe making a precarious living as a window cleaner, the Pied Piper works as a pest controller in a small Suffolk town.

Creative Collaborations Talk

This talk will take place with two pairs who work in creative collaboration through different methods: husband & wife writing team Paul Vlitos and Collette Lyons, and a pair of writer / artist friends who will be announced later today.

Paul and Collette will be talking about the challenges and benefits of working as part of a creative partnership (and/or co-writing a novel with your partner and/or during lockdown). They’re also happy to offer some do’s and don’ts!

Paul Vlitos & Collette Lyons

Collette Lyons is a journalist and editor, the former content director of Elle, features editor of Stylist, and editorial director at Soho House. She has written for the Guardian and the Telegraph among others.

Paul Vlitos is the author of two novels and the programme leader for English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Surrey. As half (with Collette Lyons) of Ellery Lloyd he is the author of People Like Her, a new novel from Mantle (UK) and HarperCollins (US). ‘Sharp, knowing and all too believable,’ according to Harriet Walker (author of The New Girl), ‘People Like Her is a gripping take on the murkiness of those who make social media their metier.

Martha Cook & Liz Bahs

Liz Bahs and Martha Cook met during a residency at Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences (USA) in 2018. They discovered there was a curiosity about each other’s work and sought to explore this in a series of collaborations: one on a return to Hambidge as Fellows (2019) and the other via the virtual realm (2020). Their mutual interest in working with texture, for Martha via her pottery and for Liz via language, has grounded their individual and joint processes. They will be talking about their collaborations and are very happy to take questions about all aspects of working together as artist and writer.

To read more information about Liz and Martha, go to our ‘Meet Our Guests‘ page.