10am – Myfanwy Alexander
Myfanwy Alexander was brought up in the hills of Montgomeryshire where she returned, not unlike a salmon but without fins, to raise her six daughters in a thatched farmhouse near Llanfair Caereinion. She is a Powys County Councillor and the Cabinet Member for Education.
As a writer and broadcaster, Myfanwy has numerous credits for comedy, drama and factual programmes, winning a Sony Comedy Award for her long-running satire show The LL Files. She is half of the Wales team on Radio 4’s gloriously obscure Round Britain Quiz.
Myfanwy’s debut novel ‘Bloody Eisteddfod’, published in both English and Welsh, has been a bestseller and garnered widespread critical acclaim. When Inspector Daf Dafis learns that the National Eisteddfod, the nation’s great cultural festival, is coming to his neck of the woods, his idea was to rent out his bungalow to those who were into that sort of thing and to make his way without delay to a Greek beach.
But life’s never quite that simple. What with family issues, romantic complications, the accident which befell the Virgin of the Vale and Dyfed Powys Police’s decision to cancel all leave for Welsh speakers, Daf has to stay. A darkly comic tale of lust, violence, revenge and strict metre poetry set in the heart of rural Wales.
11.15 am – Iolo Williams: Naturalist, TV Presenter, Speaker, Writer
Iolo Williams is a Welsh naturalist, broadcaster, public speaker and writer who’s worked in conservation for over 30 years. He is most widely known as a popular member of the Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch presenting team and for presenting series such as Wild Wales, Rugged Wales and Great Welsh Parks for BBC 2.
Iolo was born and brought up at Llanwddyn near Lake Vyrnwy in mid Wales and studied in London for a degree in ecology at North East London Polytechnic. After graduating he went on to work for the RSPB for almost 15 years as Species Officer for Wales, a job he loved as he worked with some of the country’s rarest breeding birds.
Eventually this brought him to the attention of the media and BBC 2’s Visions of Snowdonia and Birdman followed Iolo’s work as an RSPB officer.
In the late 1990s Iolo left the Society to work full-time in the media. His series, in both Welsh and English, concentrated on the wildlife of Wales and the world and he co-presented several network series such as Nature’s Top 40 and Countryfile. Iolo has written several books on Welsh wildlife in both English and Welsh and he is a regular contributor to several magazines, including ‘BBC Wildlife’. More can be seen about Iolo at http://iolowilliams.co.uk/
12.30 noon – Mavis Nicholson
Mavis Nicholson lives just outside Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in Montgomeryshire and spent her childhood in Briton Ferry. She became a student at Swansea University. There in 1949 she met the writer and journalist, Geoffrey Nicholson, whom she married in 1952, and with whom she had three sons. In 1951, at the end of her undergraduate career at Swansea University, Nicholson won a scholarship to train as an advertising copywriter and with this moved to London. There she and her husband were at the centre of a lively social circle, including the journalist and broadcaster John Morgan and the novelist Kingsley Amis.
Nicholson stopped her work as an advertising copywriter when she had her children, but her second career as a broadcaster began when, because of her probing and engaging conversational style at the dinner table, she was asked to host a programme on newly launched daytime television (British television had previously only started to broadcast in the late afternoon).
Her first presenting job was on the 1972 show Good Afternoon, after which her TV career spanned the next 25 years. She then presented British television programmes such as Afternoon, Afternoon Plus and Mavis On Four from the 1970s to 1990s, on which she interviewed celebrities of the stature of Elizabeth Taylor, Kenneth Williams, David Bowie, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Her February 1979 interview with David Bowie is widely regarded as one of the best interviews ever done with him.
Nicholson presented the Channel 4 programme A Plus 4, which ran from 1983 to 1987. Her last work for television was Oldie TV in 1997, a television version of The Oldie magazine. She still writes for The Oldie, and is currently its resident agony aunt. She has also presented several radio shows, including a history of the department store and a look back at her childhood.
1.30pm – Getting Published: a panel discussion for budding authors with Andrew Lownie, Andrew Johnston and Phillip Nanney Williams.
The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd, founded in 1988, is one of the UK’s leading boutique literary agencies with some two hundred non-fiction and fiction authors and is actively building its fiction list through new agent David Haviland. It prides itself on its personal attention to its clients and specialises both in launching new writers and taking established writers to a new level of recognition.
According to Publishers Marketplace, Andrew Lownie has been the top selling agent in the world for each of the last four years. He has three times been short-listed for ‘Agent of the Year’ at the British Bookseller Awards. More information about Andrew’s work as both Literary Agent and historical biographer can be seen at http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk/
Andrew Johnston founded Quiller Publishing as a specialist non-fiction publisher in 2001 after many years in bookselling and publishing both in the UK and Australia.
He is a past Chairman of the Independent Publishers Guild and Quiller has been shortlisted many times as Independent Publisher of the Year, again in 2018 for the IPG Awards and the forthcoming British Book Awards. Based in Shropshire, Quiller focussed originally on country pursuits subjects with a solid steady-selling backlist but now also publishes books of wider interest for the same market such as the 2017 best-seller The Enigma of Kidson, the champagne exposé Bursting Bubbles (shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason 2018 Awards) and Sir Steve Redgrave’s Book of Rowing.
Philip Nanney Williams is first and foremost and educationalist, with an extensive background in teaching and two postgraduate degrees in this area. In the field of education this former headteacher has written a range of best selling publications and rose to become a national authority on curriculum development and educational assessment, lecturing widely to teachers and inspectors for nearly a decade.
In 2000 he left his teaching post to run the family’s busy construction company with his younger brother, a business that has now risen to be one of Mid Wales’ largest private landlord, with an extensive portfolio of modern properties.
Seemingly driven to find new challenges he has spent the last decade researching the history of his family – The ‘Nanneys of Nannau’, one of the great families of North Wales, with a genealogy that spans more than Millennia and descent from the ancient princes of Wales.
‘Nannau – A Rich Tapestry of Welsh History’, marketed through his own Publishing Company, Llwyn Estates Publications has received widespread critical acclaim and is selling worldwide.
The publication of ‘Nannau’ represents the achievement of a long-held ambition by an individual passionate about his Welsh roots and has provided the catalyst for a subsequent book he is researching on North Wales’ history, and so the quest continues!
2.30pm – Matthew Dennison
Matthew Dennison is the author of seven works of non-fiction. He read English at Christ Church, Oxford, as Douglas Jerrold Scholar, and afterwards the History of Decorative Arts at the University of Glasgow. His thesis – on Sevres porcelain hyacinth pots – was subsequently published in abridged form by Country Life.
His first biography, THE LAST PRINCESS: THE DEVOTED LIFE OF QUEEN VICTORIA’S YOUNGEST DAUGHTER was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2007 and became a Hatchards number one bestseller; it has been published in nine UK editions to date. EMPRESS OF ROME: THE LIFE OF LIVIA was published by Quercus in 2010 and was followed in 2012 by THE TWELVE CAESARS, published by Atlantic, a Daily Mail Book of the Week, acclaimed by The Spectator as “magnificent”. In the summer of 2013, William Collins published his biography of Queen Victoria, QUEEN VICTORIA: A LIFE OF CONTRADICTIONS, described by Hugo Vickers in The Times as “a tremendous coup”.
Matthew’s biography of Vita Sackville-West, BEHIND THE MASK, was published by William Collins in October 2014 and became a ‘Book of the Year’ in The Times, The Independent, The Observer, and The Spectator. All five titles have been published by St Martin’s Press in the States. In October 2016, Head of Zeus published Matthew’s biography of Beatrix Potter, OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY, which was published in the States by Pegasus. His biography of George II’s wife, Caroline of Ansbach, THE FIRST IRON LADY, was published by William Collins in November 2017 and described as ‘scintillating’.
Matthew is also a regular contributor to a range of publications, including Country Life and the Daily Telegraph. He contributed to ‘Queen Victoria’s Children’ and ‘Royal Cousins at War’ for BBC 2 and ‘The Queen’s Longest Reign’ for BBC1. His biography of Kenneth Grahame, entitled ETERNAL BOY: THE LIFE OF KENNETH GRAHAME, will be published later this year.
3.45pm – Andrew Lownie – ‘Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess’
Andrew Lownie will speak about his highly acclaimed biography of Guy Burgess entitled ‘Stalin’s Englishman’. Andrew first became interested in the Cambridge Spy Ring when, as President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1984, he arranged an international seminar on the subject.
After graduating from Cambridge University, where he won the Dunster Prize for History, Lownie went on to take a postgraduate degree in history at Edinburgh University. He is now a successful literary agent, and has written or edited seven books, including a biography of John Buchan.
Guy Burgess was the most important, complex and fascinating of ‘The Cambridge Spies’ – Maclean, Philby, Blunt – all brilliant young men recruited in the 1930s to betray their country to the Soviet Union. An engaging and charming companion to many, an unappealing, utterly ruthless manipulator to others, Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers.
In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess’s chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service. Even when he was under suspicion, the fabled charm which had enabled many close personal relationships with influential Establishment figures (including Winston Churchill) prevented his exposure as a spy for many years.
Through interviews with more than a hundred people who knew Burgess personally, many of whom have never spoken about him before, and the discovery of hitherto secret files, Stalin’s Englishman brilliantly unravels the many lives of Guy Burgess in all their intriguing, chilling, colourful, tragi-comic wonder.
Andrew’s book was winner of the St Ermin’s Intelligence Book of the Year Award and described as ‘One of the great biographies of 2015’ by The Times. It was also a Guardian Book of the Year, The Times Best Biography of the Year, Mail on Sunday Biography of the Year, Daily Mail Biography of Year, Spectator Book of the Year and BBC History Book of the Year. ‘A remarkable and definitive portrait ‘ Frederick Forsyth and ‘Andrew Lownie’s biography of Guy Burgess, Stalin’s Englishman … shrewd, thorough, revelatory.’ William Boyd.
Andrew is currently writing a joint biography of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten. More can be read about Andrew as both author and Literary Agent at http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk/
5pm Grey Gowrie
Grey Gowrie has lived in Llanfechain for 33 years and is the author of three books of poetry. After graduating from Oxford, he lectured on English and American literature at Harvard and University College London. He then went into politics, having succeeded his grandfather as the Earl of Gowrie, and in 1983 entered the Cabinet as Minister for the Arts, which he remained until 1985.
After leaving government, Grey became Chairman of Sotheby’s (1985–1994) and later of the Arts Council of England – described as “the appointment of a Scot, born in Ireland and living in Wales” to a key English post. At the Arts Council, he secured the role as a distributor of funds from the National Lottery.
He was Provost of the Royal College of Art. He also made a number of television appearances, including in documentaries on Francis Bacon, artist and British folk revivalist and blues pioneer Rory McEwen, and the National Theatre, as well as multiple episodes of Question Time.
Together with Dr Rowan Williams and Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, Grey is a patron of the Wilfred Owen Association, formed in 1989 to commemorate the life and work of the renowned World War I poet Wilfred Owen who grew up in Oswestry.
Grey published one volume of poetry in his 20s, Postcard from Don Giovanni, after a period working as an assistant to American poet Robert Lowell, and later co-authored a book on British painting, The Genius of British Painting, published in 1975.
In the summer of 1999, having been diagnosed with a serious heart condition, Grey had a heart transplant at Harefield Hospital which inspired his second book of poetry “The Domino Hymn”. The title refers to the fact that he was a “domino patient,” i.e. one who received a heart from a fellow patient undergoing a heart-and-lung transplant. He later also published “Third Day” with a mix of new and collected poetry.
6.30pm – Botanical Gin Workshop with Adele Nozedar of Brecon Beacons Foraging
Fancy showing off with your very own unique signature botanical gin? Join author, forager and gin-lover Adele Nozedar to find out how! Included in the £20 ticket cost is;
- a short forage to find wild and cultivated plants in the wonderful gardens at Bodfach Hall (weather permitting!)
- a selection of interesting and unusual botanicals from Adele’s collection for you to play witha cocktail (or maybe two) as well as a more info than you believed possible about gin, presented as a highly competitive quiz
- AND a 300ml jar of your own unique blend to take home!
- Bonus – all funds raised at this special evening will go into the MontyLitFest pot
Numbers are limited and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Adele Nozedar has written about herself as follows: “I’m an author, a food writer, and a forager. My books include The Hedgerow Handbook and The Garden Forager. I had to spend the last few years foraging all over the UK in order to realise that, every single time, the best foraging was to be had on my own doorstep; I’m very lucky in that my particular doorstep is in the heart of the beautiful Brecon Beacons, in South Wales. And so I founded Brecon Beacons Foraging, which provides regular foraging courses designed to scintillate your senses and help you find and recognise the plants, fungi and wildlife that are all around us.
I have lived in this astonishing part of the world for 21 years. The landscape here is a perfect place to explore nature’s larder throughout the entire year. I can teach you how to identify a variety of delicious wild and cultivated plants and also how to use them in food, drinks and treats.
Foraging is a wonderful pastime, bringing you close to nature in a way that is easy, fun and safe…but which is also thought-provoking and a sensory experience which is guaranteed to make you feel delighted. So, grab those wellies and join me on an adventure which will last your entire lifetime!”
We are very grateful to Adele who is kindly offering her time free to Monty Lit Fest for this special event so we can raise funds for the Festival. Tickets are priced at £20 and are not included in the Afternoon or Day Tickets.
6.30pm –8.00pm Complimentary Live Music with Ruth and Ken Powell
Ruth and Ken Powell live close to Lake Vyrnwy in Llanwddyn in Montgomeryshire. Their music is an eclectic mixture of folk and acoustic, played by Ken on guitar and banjo and sung by Ruth’s strong lead vocals.
They have a knack of providing a great combination of songs from the 1930s to the traditional folk song and English/American contemporary music, giving concerts that appeal to every audience.
Those that have seen Ruth and Ken before will tell you how obvious it is they enjoy touring together and have done so in different guises over the last 20 years. They also founded the Llanwddyn Weekend of Folk and Acoustic Music which will this year be held from 31st August to 2nd September 2018.