A historically festive weekend in Harrogate - Part One

IMG_0155Conferences can be stimulating, fun or exhausting, or possibly all three. It’s wise to prepare beforehand, not just your travel tickets and hotel bookings, but which sessions you want to go to. Then you find out you want to go to all of them. Then you discover the conference clashes with a promised speaking engagement.

Okay, let’s do both.

Harrogate History Festival started dramatically enough with a Viking invasion last Thursday evening,  The Ormsheim Vikings, a Dark Ages reenactment group brought fire and presence to The Old Swan Hotel.

This was followed by Bernard Cornwell presenting the Historical Fiction Writers’ Association debut fiction award to Kate Worsley for She Rises. At the party afterwards, I was really brave and spoke to some of the Vikings…

Bernard Cornwell and Mark Lawson

“So is this book any good, then?”


Bernard Cornwell’s interview with arts broadcaster Mark Lawson jump-started Saturday morning. Nobody tells politically incorrect, but riveting stories like Bernard Cornwell does.



John Jackson and Alison Morton

With John Jackson


During the interval, I was grabbing a cup of coffee, when I heard a voice say, ‘Hello Alison.’ It was John Jackson, Romantic Novelists’ Association friend and reader and Twitter friend. Living locally, he’d popped in to hear Bernard Cornwell.

Elizabeth Chadwick and Vanora Bennett

Elizabeth Chadwick and Vanora Bennett


Writing friend Elizabeth Chadwick was up next, interviewed by Vanora Bennett and talked about her writing life, methods, research and next book in her Eleanor of Aquitaine series. Approachable and friendly in her manner, Elizabeth gave us insights in both an entertaining and informative way. You can find her research photos, sample book sentences and reading choices on her  daily Facebook posts – she loves social media!

Manda (MC) Scott introducing the shortlistees

Manda (MC) Scott introducing the shortlistees

Dipping out at this stage to chat to a couple of friends and mooch around the bookshop, I went back after lunch to hear from the debut award shortlistees about how they started, their research, themes and the experience of the first novel. Interesting there was nothing before the 18th century…

Alison Weir and Sarah Gristwood picked up the thorny and well as evergreen(!) subject of Richard III and the princes in the Tower, but from the point of view of the women involved – Elizabeth Woodville, Cecily Neville, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth of York. The answer still isn’t as clear as it could be…




At dinner Elizabeth Chadwick and I compared notes on the day’s events, books, publishing and how to solve the world’s problems.

Sandi Toksvig and Manda Scott

Sandi Toksvig and Manda Scott





Friday ended on a comedy high as Sandi Toksvig was interviewed by festival organising chair, Manda Scott. Sandi had to choose  eight books she would take to the fictional desert island.

 Now read the second part of my histfest report.


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

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