Harrogate HistoryFest - early report


The Old Swan

A first-time event here at the Old Swan, treading a little in the footsteps of Theakston’s Crime Fest, the new history festival is going very well.

Friday evening, Rose Tremain gave the first, fascinating, talk about her new book, Merival, characterisation, writing from the inside out and how much she did, or didn’t, include of herself in her work.

Ground Floor, The Old Swan

Ground Floor, The Old Swan

Next, the room was packed to hear about the search for Richard III. Screenwriter Philippa Langley and historian Michael Jones outlined the exciting investigation which led to the archeological find of the century (I know we’re only thirteen years in, but as finds go, this is an impressive one!). There were many questions including where Richard was to be buried – a hot topic in Yorkshire.

Saturday kicked off on the theme of ‘Wives of Tyrants’, focusing on Katharine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII who was intelligent, political and a survivor (Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle) and Magda Goebbels, an enigmatic but dedicated Nazi but who wielded significant power as an influencer  (Black Roses by Jane Thynne).

Fay Weldon amused us with stories and a little gossip, explaining how she wanted to change to a less complicated and more tranquil age with her recent ‘Love and Inheritance’ historical novels.

‘Women, Sex and Power’ had a strong feminist flavour with Kate Worsley, Imogen Robertson, Stella Duffy and Lisa Hilton. By strategy, intelligence and strength of character as much as sexual allure, we heard how women made their mark on history, sometimes assuming male dress and identity, and found power in ‘his-story’.

Lindsey DavisThe incomparable Lindsey Davis was interviewed by M C Scott. I laughed all the way through. A born wit, but self-deprecating, Ms Davis cantered through her publishing career, focusing on the Falco detective stories and her Civil War writing. I heard her lastand the HNS2012 conference in London and she was equally entertaining. A real treat and I’ve bought her latest The Ides of April.

Following that came ‘Marching with the Legions’ with authors Simon Scarrow, Ben Kane, and Anthony Riches. Helmets, mail shirt, gladius and shield, hobnail boots and some laddish but inoffensive good humour added a touch of authenticity.

Simon Scarrow, PERFIDITAS and me!

Simon Scarrow, PERFIDITAS and me!

And best of all, Simon Scarrow, who endorsed PERFIDITAS, was kind enough to be photographed with me.

A terrific second day!


Read about the next part here.

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out early summer 2014.

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