The very first Stanfords Travel Writers Festival gets underway at Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show, at Olympia in London THIS THURSDAY! Here’s a quick run down of what you can expect from each day’s events.
Thursday 29th January
To kick things off, Monisha Rajesh, author of Around India in 80 Trains, and Julian Holland, author of Railway Days Out will be talking trains – comparing their top three rail journeys in the UK and India. Bring your own coal for added authenticity.
Our auditorium seats 200 – so we were initially a bit concerned how we were going to fit Simon Barnes and his Ten Million Aliens in for the day’s second event. Turns out it was a hilarious misunderstanding on our part. You can catch Simon as he celebrates the diverse marvels of this incredible planet we live on – and the wondrous things that unite us all – at midday.
Simon Reeve is spoiling us with no less than four appearances at Stanfords Travel Writers Festival. That’s one a day for the numerically challenged amongst you. The TV presenter and New York Times Bestselling Author will be in conversation alternately with Paul Goldstein and Paul Blezard. We mean alternately as in one day with Paul Goldstein, next with Paul Blezard and so on. We weren’t explaining how conversations work. Anyway – don’t miss Mr Reeve!
Fresh (we hope) from his adventures Walking The Nile, which concluded on Channel 4 this Sunday, Levison Wood will be entertaining audiences with tales of the extreme conditions he battled against to become the first person to walk the length of the Nile. Lev is one of a handful of writers appearing at the festival who are described on promotional material as simply “(Name), Explorer” – which we think is quite possibly the coolest job title in the world, with the exception of perhaps “Party King”. Though Lev was greeted in the final episode of the TV show as “The Great Traveller”, which may well win.
From Channel 4 to Radio 4 at 3pm as Stephen Moss, producer and author, shares a tweet or two from the popular series Tweet of the Day, and lets us in on a few secrets he and the team learned about the songs, calls and habits of some of our favourite birds.
Day one closes in style with poet Simon Armitage on his time as a modern travelling troubadour, Walking Home along the- 256-mile route from Kirk Yetholm, over the Scottish border, to Edale in the Peak District. Experienced walkers amongst you will note that this opposite of the direction most tackle it; as Simon discovers, there’s a reason for this consensus…
Friday 30th January
Historical novelist Ben Kane opens up Thursday’s proceedings with a talk about his walk from Capua to Rome – in full Roman uniform – for the charities Combat Stress and Médecins Sans Frontières. Will he choose to dress up for the occasion? We’ll have to wait and see.
Despite his name and being born in Cardiff, Griff Rhys Jones is worried he’s Insufficiently Welsh, having grown up in the home counties. Join him at midday as he takes us on a journey through “the land of my aunties” on a mission to rediscover his Welshness. Bring your own cockles.
After Simon Reeve talks to Paul Blezard about his latest adventures, Kenton Cool will ascend the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival Stage to talk about his (presumably far more difficult) ascent of Everest. Although he’s climbed it eleven times, so for him it’s pretty easy. Actually Kenton will be speaking about his next big adventure – The Himalayan Trilogy – of which Everest is just the jumping off point. Not literally.
Merde is a dirty word, and Stephen Clarke knows it. Well, all French people and most GCSE French students know it. But Clarke has emerged from the merde a bestselling author and graduated to 1000 Years of Annoying the French. He’ll be talking about his books, including his latest one Dirty Bertie, and his life in France. He promises to keep it (mostly) clean.
When we booked Hilary Bradt, founder of the much loved publisher of Bradt guides, we thought we’d got ourselves a safe and reliable pair of hands for the last slot on Friday. Then we hear that she and Bradt MD Adrian Phillips plan to discuss being irresponsible travellers. Surely there must be some mistake? Join them as they share true stories from The Irresponsible Traveller: Tales of Scrapes & Narrow Escapes and Hilary’s own travel tales which are apparently “too entertainingly shameful to put into print.” What have we let ourselves in for?
Saturday 31st January
Pioneer of the renascent natural navigation movement, Tristan Gooley will be on hand at 11am to show us how keeping your head when all others are losing theirs in maps can help you find the clues and signs to get you back on track. Be sure to follow the actual signs for Stanfords Travel Writers Festival to get a seat in the auditorium in the first place.
Frank Gardner and Kate Adie are united not only by their illustrious careers as two of the BBC’s top journalists, but also by their love of travel and the Middle East in particular. Don’t miss this rare chance to hear them discuss their careers, current affairs and travel stories.
Guess who’s back at 1pm? Yes, it’s Simon Reeve – are we good to you or what? – who will be in conversation with Paul Goldstein about his latest series Sacred Rivers and lots more.
Next, our long distance pedal panel take to the stage. Oli Broom, Tim Moore, Hannah Reynolds and William Fotheringham have between them cycled the distance from Earth to Mars. Probably. Come along to find out why getting saddle sore is worth it.
Times journalist Tom Chesshyre chairs what promises to be a lively conversation between Harry Bucknall, Like a Tramp, Like a Pilgrim, and Nick Hunt, Walking the Woods & Water. Bucknall and Hunt will regale all with tales from their respective roads on foot to St Peter’s Basilica and Istanbul, and perhaps do a little slapstick routine to end. Sorry – Bucknall and Hunt puts us in mind of a Victorian music hall act, or even a pair of notorious outlaws. There won’t be any slapstick, still less any outlawing, but we’re sure there’ll be lots of laughs and passionate travel story telling.
Tristram Hunt MP will round off our Saturday by taking a look at the Ten Cities That Made an Empire. The empire in question being the British Empire which Hunt brings to life with vivid stories of the most important cities which shaped its influence, and legacy.
Sunday 1st February
Our Slow Travel Panel is the perfect way to start a lazy Sunday morning. Grab a cuppa, and perhaps a bacon sarnie or equivalent, and settle in to watch Tom Chesshyre, Ed Gillespie and David Reynolds, with Bradt MD Adrian Phillips, as they explain how all the best journeys are to be slowly savoured.
Next up is the inspirational story of Rob and Paul Forkan – the founders of Gandys and the Orphans for Orphans movement. After losing their parents in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, Rob and Paul decided to make a change – using sales of their uniquely designed flip flops to fund aid and education projects for fellow orphans. Don’t miss this event.
Simon Reeve sits down with Paul Blezard for the last time at midday. If you’ve missed out on previous days make sure you’re first in line on Sunday to hear Simon talk about his travels in more than 110 countries.
Not content with being a former Welsh international rugby player, Richard Parks has proven himself to be one of the most remarkable extreme adventurers in the world – always looking for a new record breaking challenge to tackle. If you’ve seen any of his Channel 5 show, or read his book Beyond the Horizon, you’ll know the kind of thing we mean. The man is almost certainly super human.
Chris Stewart – founder of the rock band Genesis – is on hand at 3pm not to talk music but rather his life on a remote mountain farm in Andalucia, as told in his latest book Last Days of the Bus Club. Think more “tapas” than “tempo”.
And finally – as all good things must come to an end – Tom Chesshyre will lift the curtain on the real Maldives. Tom’s book – Gatecrashing Paradise – sees him going off the beaten, or indeed even existing, track in search of the truth behind the tourist brochure facade.
We’ll be blogging and posting recordings of all the events live each day – so check back for more.
There’s still time to get your FREE tickets – using code SCB here