Once upon a time, far, far away and long, long ago …


‘Once upon a time, far, far away and long, long ago,’ Kate Forsyth opened a wonderfully thought-provoking panel on ‘The Unexplained’ at the Historical Novel Society 2014 Conference in London this weekend. The conference included Conn Iggulden’s very funny and inspiring keynote presentation on filling in the gaps in histories, a thoughtful panel on the big issues of Freedom, Independence and Equality in the historical novel, and an hilarious panel entitled ‘My Era is Better Than Yours’ where Vikings’ big axes competed against Tudors’ big women, Romans contended with Medieval courtly love, and the contest was won by a dark horse that came up on the outside: the Georgian Era, championed by Antonia Hodgson, author of The Devil in The Marshalsea. There were workshops on topics such as ‘The Allure of the Outcast’ and ‘Feisty Heroines and Dutiful Wives’, pitching to agents, a panel on the market, social events, a conversation with Lindsey Davis, and a Quiz run by The Historical Fictionist, pitting The Horde: the audience’s collective knowledge of historical fiction, against The Spartans (three steadfast authors).

Aspects of the discussions that particularly interested me concerned tensions and synergies between historians and fiction writers, and issues of gender in historical fiction writing, with Kate Forsyth seeing her work as rescuing women such as Dortchen Wild – who inspired and married one of the Grimm Brothers – ‘from the oubliette of history written by men’. David Starkey’s recent dismissive remarks about Philippa Gregory’s novels as chick-lit and ‘Good Mills and Boon’ came up, along with challenges to the seriousness of historical fiction from historians and the academy in general, despite Booker Prize Winners such as A.S. Byatt and Hilary Mantel. Deborah Harkness who is both a History Professor and the author of the All Souls series of novels, brought some useful perspective to the issue, saying that she found herself confronted every day with the limits of history and felt the common ground between history and historical fiction lay in historical empathy.

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Parisot Literary Festival, 10th, 11th & 12th October 2014


The second year of the Parisot Literary Festival in the south of France runs 10th, 11th and 12th October.

On Sunday 12 October 4.30-6.00pm I will be talking about my medieval novels Almodis: The Peaceweaver and The Viking Hostage (due to be published on 1st September) which are both substantially set in southern France.

The mix of French and English authors presenting at the festival includes Robin Ellis, Patrick Caujolle, Piu Marie Eatwell, Claude Mamier and Clive Ponting. Other festival highlights are a Life Writing Masterclass, a Calligraphy Workshop, Book Sales and Supper with the Authors. All events (except supper) are free. The Masterclass, Workshops, and Supper need to be booked. Full details:


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REMOTE PERFORMANCES – Radio Broadcasts from the Scottish Highlands

Sarah Kenchington, Remote Performances at Loch Ailort

Sarah Kenchington, Remote Performances at Loch Ailort. Photo: London Fieldworks.

The last two days of the Remote Performances broadcasts are today and tomorrow 12-4.30pm on:


Twenty artists have been working in Glen Nevis in the Scottish Highlands, making new work and presenting live radio broadcasts every afternoon. The project is documented at:


And my daily blogs are at:


So far the broadcasts have included daily Sounds of Lochaber from Mark Vernon and London Fieldworks including local agriculture and industry, Highland Games, Nevis climbers, walkers and other tourists; Taking Four Sentences For A Walk – A Writers’ Workshop by me in collaboration with seven other writers*; Kirsteen Davidson Kelly playing piano in the woods; Ruth Barker retelling ancient myths; Sarah Kenchington’s sound performance in collaboration with the sea; weather music from Lisa O’Brien; sounds and lyrics of the Glen from Geoff Sample; two stories set in the Highlands and Islands from Tony White, accompanied by Peter Lanceley and Johny Brown; Clair Chinnery building a nest and dressing in feathers; Bram Thomas Arnold’s series of absurb interactions with nature; The Cèilidh Trailers, an eight-piece band in a a space big enough for four people (how was that possible?); Sarah Henderson playing the clàrsach – the Gaelic harp; John Ireland talking about wood ants; Alex Gillespie and Willie Anderson, veterans of the Nevis Mountain Rescue Team; local radio broadcaster Isobel Campbell in conversation with sheepfarmer Ian McColl; historian Alex Du Toit on The Clearances, the Jacobite Risings, the Scottish Diaspora and filming Harry Potter. If you haven’t listened yet, aren’t you wishing you had? Programmes are repeated and will be available online from next week.

And still to come over the next two days are Lee Patterson’s sound work from field recordings in this spectacular environment rich with wild life, Benedict Drew, Alec Finlay and Ken Cockburn’s The Road North, two performances from Johny Brown, Ed Baxter using the Glen as an acoustic space, Emma Nicholson from Atlas Arts on the Isle of Skye, Michael Pederson and Ziggy Campbell, Goodiepal, The Band of Holy Joy, and Tam Dean Burn in dialogue with John Hutchinson from the John Muir Trust and more. Listening in is nearly as good as being in the Scottish Highlands.

* The seven writers were Gay Anderson, Carol Brock, Anne Claydon-Wallace, Alison Lloyd, Gillian Ness, Lorna Finlayson and Nuno Sacramento.

Ingrid Henderson playing clarsach in Outlandia for the Remote Performances radio broadcasts with Resonance 104.4fm

Ingrid Henderson playing clarsach in Outlandia for the Remote Performances radio broadcasts with Resonance 104.4fm, hosted by Johny Brown. Photo: Inga Tillere.


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REMOTE PERFORMANCES Radio Broadcasts from the Scottish Highlands this week daily 12-4pm

Read the Blog and Listen In:


Twenty artists are working in Glen Nevis in the Scottish Highlands all this week and presenting live radio broadcasts every afternoon. 

With writers from Lochaber and beyond, I will be presenting a live slot on Thursday 7 August between 1pm and 1.30pm. We are examining the relationship between writing and maps, writing and walking.

There will be daily blog posts on the site above and on Live Art Development Agency’s site:


Direct radio link:


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Launch of New Welsh Writing Award

The New Welsh Review has launched a new writing award – open to all UK writers and anyone educated in Wales. 8,000-30,000 words non-fiction on nature and the environment. Deadline 1 November 2014. First prize £1000 and more. See the website for full details:


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Radio Broadcasts

Remote Performances is a series of radio broadcasts in early August from the Outlandia treehouse in Glen Nevis. I am running a workshop with local writers and we will broadcast on Thursday 7 August. I will also be blogging on the project during that week. Check the Remote Performances website for further details and listen in.

Remote Performances-project

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Pushing the Boundaries in Brighton

Presented a paper on my collaborations with London Fieldworks and Urbonas Studio at University of Brighton Research Festival, Pushing the Boundaries, this week. Amongst the many highlights of the day for me were: participating in a discussion with Mikhail Karikis on his new film, Children of Unquiet, Damon Taylor’s presentation on design as systemics and systems design, and Simon Sandys’ photographs of dust.


Urbonas Studio, River Runs, Oxford 2012. Photo: James A. Hudson.

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