Romancing the Word

Romancing the Word flyerDoing anything on Saturday June 11th 2016? Why not join us celebrate the wonderful world of romance with a selection of authors handpicked by LitFest. The event includes author talks and readings, a workshop and an informal ‘meet the authors’ event where you can have a chat and get your hands on signed books.

Entrance to the meet the authors event at Tamworth library is FREE. The author talks, readings and workshop – taking place in St Editha’s – are ticketed, priced at £3 each. Alternatively you can opt for the whole day ticket of £8.

Tickets are available from Tamworth Tourist Information Centre, Corporation Street, Tamworth (tel: 01827 709581). Or you can contact us directly (see Keep In Touch for email link).

Additional information on Facebook and the Facebook Event page.

Maids, Wives, Widows

Sara Read May 11thTamworth resident and lecturer in the Department of English and Drama at Loughborough University Sara Read will be appearing at Tamworth Town Hall to talk about her book Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women’s Lives 1540-1740.

Sara’s appearance on Wednesday 11th May 2016 from 7pm will be an opportunity for anybody who has an interest in the stories of everyday people, to hear tales of daily life as seen through the eyes of women during over two hundred years of history.

Tickets cost £3 and can be bought on the door on the night, in advance from Tamworth Information Centre, Corporation Street, Tamworth or by emailing LitFest directly (see ‘Keep in touch’ elsewhere on this website).

Meet The Author: Julia Ibbotson

Have you booked your tickets for our What’s Cooking event yet?

If not here’s a little encouragement in the form of some background to one of the fabulous authors who will be on hand to talk about her book The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen and some of the recipes it contains.

The Old Rectory:  Escape to a Country Kitchen - Julia Ibbotson
The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen

Julia Ibbotson lives with her second husband in the heart of England in a renovated Victorian rectory. With their four children having grown up, she is now suffering from empty nest syndrome.

Julia read English and Sociology at Keele University after a turbulent but exciting gap year in Ghana. She wrote her first novel at 10 years of age, but life (and the need to earn a living as a single mother) intruded and she became a school teacher. On gaining her PhD as a (very) mature student, Julia moved on to be a university lecturer.

Apart from academic research texts, Julia has written a memoir The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen (with recipes) and a children’s book S.C.A.R.S, before embarking on her Drumbeats trilogy.

Julia is currently completing a new novel, A Shape on the Air, a historical/romance time-slip story. Apart from insatiable reading, she loves travelling the world, singing in a community choir and a rock choir, swimming, yoga, Pilates, and walking in the English countryside.


What’s Cooking?

Flyer - click to download
Flyer – click here to download

Are you a fan of BBC’s MasterChef? Do you love The Great British Bake Off? Then you’ll really enjoy our next LitFest event.

What’s Cooking is a culinary themed day of demonstrations, tastings, author meets and book-signing opportunities.

Taking place on Thursday 14th April at two locations in Tamworth, we’re sure you’ll find something to entertain you.

Authors include Julia Ibbotson author of ‘The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen‘ and Vivian Khan author of ‘Khan’s Curry Kitchen’.

Both Julia and Vivian will be offering you the chance to taste their recipes and will be available for book signings.

All tickets available from Tamworth Information Centre: The Philip Dix Centre, Corporation Street, Tamworth, B79 7DN (see map below).

Here’s a run-down of the day’s activities:

South Staffordshire College – Tamworth Campus – Croft Street, Tamworth, B79 8AE

9.30am – 10.30am: DaQuino Ristorante Italiano – Demo and Taster – Spaghetti and Prawns

11am – 12 noon: Vivian Khan (author of Khan’s Curry Kitchen) – Demo and Taster – Chicken Curry

2pm – 3pmChristopher’s Restaurant chef Ian – Demo and Taster – Wild Sea Bass

Tickets: £3 each (max. 20 spaces) for morning or afternoon. Alternatively, £5 for both sessions.

The Tudor House – 111 Lichfield Street, Tamworth, B79 7QB

5pm – 8pm: The Tudor House will host a number of authors as well as providing a culinary demonstration, including:

  • Julia Ibbotson (book signing and tasters)
  • Vivian Khan (book signing)
  • Waterstones book stand (book sales)
  • …and others.

No tickets required, but tickets purchased for daytime events can be redeemed for refreshments.

Morning and afternoon sessions in association with South Staffordshire College, Tamworth campus.

Evening session in association with The Tudor House, Lichfield Street. Supported by Waterstones booksellers (Sutton Coldfield branch)

Thanks to all concerned.

Penguinpig Creators: The Interview

PENGUINPIG is the number one best-selling story about a little girl who reads of an exciting creature known as a Penguinpig on the Internet. Filled with delight and intrigue, she decides that she must go and find one.

However, her parents are far too busy to take her and so she decides that she will sneak out and find the adorable Penguinpig all on her own. Carefully, she follows the instructions from the website – but does she find her delightful Penguinpig?

Penguinpig Cover
Cover of Penguinpig book

Well! You’ll have to read the book to find out.

In the meantime, if you want find out more about Penguinpig, then you’re in luck, because, firstly, Amy Bradley – the book’s illustrator – will be reading from Penguinpig at our upcoming Festive Story Fun event on Saturday 12th December. Children will also be given the opportunity to have a go at drawing their own Penguinpig (make sure you don’t miss it!).

And secondly, we had the privilege recently of interviewing Amy and Stuart Spendlow – the author – about the book and what they have planned next.

So, without further ado, here’s the interview:

We are delighted to welcome Stuart and Amy so that we can quiz them on the book and their plans for the future.

Thank you Amy and Stuart for taking time out of your busy schedules to answer our questions about Penguinpig. Unless stated otherwise the questions are aimed at both of you as we are very interested in how you collaborated to produce such an entertaining and informative story.

Q1: Would you both like to tell us a little about yourselves?

Stuart: I’m a teacher based in Lincolnshire. I love my job and keeping myself busy trying out all different ventures in life such as producing shows, writing music, acting, keeping up to date with all technological advances in the world and eating pasta. And biscuits. I love biscuits.

Amy: I’m an illustrator based in the little market town of Uttoxeter. How I spend my days…..drawing!! And I absolutely love it! To me it’s the best job in the world and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Apart from drawing I often spend my time eating cake (and chocolate and ice cream and sweets, oh and I can’t forget biscuits!), talking (my sister often suggests ‘I should glue my mouth together’!), reading, socialising with friends and family or singing (FYI…I can’t sing, I’m often caught out in my studio pretending I’m Swifty!).

Q2: Stuart, where did the idea of writing the book come from and how did you decide on such an intriguing character as Penguinpig? To what extent did you have a clear idea on what the character would look like and to what extent did you benefit from Amy’s illustrative skills?

S: The story behind the penguinpig itself is a great one! It just so happened that, for some bizarre reason, I ended up in the situation where I had to show my class how to draw a quick cartoon penguin. Unfortunately, my illustrative skills are terrible and the class decided that it looked like a mix between a penguin and a pig. To add to the hilarity, they tried persuading another teacher that it was a newly-discovered animal!

Q3: Amy, what guidance, if any, did Stuart give you on what he thought Penguinpig and the other characters should look like?

A: Stuart is very creative and came up with lots ideas of what the characters should look like. When he sent over the manuscript he included a description of how he saw the characters. It also helped that Penguinpig is described in the book, so with a little imagination and some ‘Amy magic’…..Penguinpig was born! Hip Hip, Hooray!

Q4: Did you already know each other before you began working together on it?

S: Not at all – but what a perfect combination we turned out to be. I hope Amy agrees with that…

A: Stuart was a total stranger, but luckily we clicked straight away. It’s a great relationship we have, bouncing ideas of one another, having full trust in one another and allowing each other to do our ‘creative thing’! I do have one slight issue though….he is yet to call me Amy! In Stuart’s eyes I go by: Brads, Bradmondo, Bradriella, Bradders or BRADMONDICLES! I imagine his next child will be called Brad!

Q5: Would you like to share with us your tips on how you ensured such a fruitful author/illustrator partnership?

S: I think the main thing is to trust one another as the experts in our particular fields. We bounced ideas off one-another and threw challenges at each other, but we knew to trust one another and let each other crack on with it! We’re both highly efficient people and tend to want everything doing ‘yesterday’ which, rather impressively, worked out alright!

A: Firstly you’ve got to allow the other person to do exactly what they do. It’s so important to trust them and be honest. Keeping in touch is key; we always e-mail, chat over the phone, Skype and have some bants over social media! Having fun is also one of our top priorities; we always know how to make one another smile :-)!

Q6: Why do you think fictional stories are so important in getting the serious message of internet safety across to young children? How important is it to use the right kind of illustrations?

S: Young children have simply got to understand the potential dangers with using the Internet so that they can keep themselves safe. Children as young as four are using the Internet (especially in school) and, as a result, they’ve got to know that you can’t always trust what you read. From my perspective, the illustrations were key as they had to capture the interest of youngsters to make them stick with the story. They also need to stay in their memory to support the message, so the illustrations had to be super-catchy!

A: I think the illustrations are really important, to me it was crucial they caused intrigue and excitement to get the reader coming back for more and in turn reinforcing the serious message of internet safety.

Q7: How long did it take to produce the book from the original idea to printing and how did you find a publisher?

S: Writing the story started one summer in a hotel on a rainy day. I started writing after being frustrated by the lack of resources available for young children and soon got into it. After several drafts, I put it away in a draw and decided to see if I still liked it after two weeks. As it turned out, I really didn’t like it after two weeks so continued to redraft! Eventually, I got there and then let Amy work her magic on it.

A: From receiving the manuscript to completion it took approx. 4/5 weeks. I promised Stuart it would be done by the end of the month and true to my word I delivered the finished book on the very last day of the month. Phew!

Q8: I understand that book 2 of the Penguinpig story is on its way. Do you have plans for any future books in the series or plans for other books you are able to share with us?

S: That really would be telling…! We won’t be seeing a penguinpig for a while, but keep your eyes peeled for other characters appearing! Also, we’ve just had The Art Of Being A Brilliant Primary Teacher released (Crown House Publishing) which was a co-write from me and Andy Cope. Amy illustrated that too – what a superstar!

A: We’re catching up in a few weeks to discuss future Penguinpig plans and the possibility of new books!! #topsecret #watchthisspace

Q9: The theatre production of Penguinpig (more information below), which incorporates puppets, sounds really exciting! How did this come about?

S: I’m extremely excited about – especially since seeing the preview performance. TRAUM Theatre (led by Jane Crawshaw ) have done an awesome job of bringing the story of PENGUINPIG to 3D life and even have developed some gorgeous songs for it too. The whole thing started with an initial meeting to discuss how the story would work on a stage and it all developed so naturally from there. Jane and her team really have worked some magic on it.

A: The preview was amazzzzin!! It was surreal to see all our little characters in 3D, with voices, dance moves and gorgeous songs. A dream come true!

Q10: Amy, how long have you been working as a children’s illustrator and what special training did you have? What would you say to anyone considering a career as an illustrator?

A: Unofficially I’ve been working as illustrator my whole life – drawing has always been my favourite thing. Initially I did a degree in Surface Pattern Design and I didn’t believe I was good enough to be an illustrator so I started A PGCE in Art & Design but didn’t feel it was right to encourage students to follow there dreams before having a go at following my own. Luckily at my degree show I had a lot of industry experts suggest I go into children’s illustration, which made me believe in myself and gave me the confidence to progress. It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys, in the early days I had a couple of part time jobs to help support my illustration business but only a few years later I gained my own studio and not long later I managed to make a full time living from it. If you’re considering a career in illustration my advice would be to keep going. If you really love it, work hard and give it your all – you’ll get there. Never give up!!

Q11: Stuart, what do the pupils at your school think about one of their teachers becoming an author?

S: I’m not really sure to be honest. I guess to them I’m first and foremost a teacher – which is where my heart lies. It’s quite nice to recommend PENGUINPIG to staff as a resource to use – but I’m not entirely convinced they take me very seriously!

Q12: Would you like to share anything else with us about Penguinpig?

S: Whilst there isn’t too much to share (honestly!) I believe it has a huge future ahead of it. It’s been an unbelievable 18 months and I’m very proud of all the success and incredibly honoured by all of the support.

A: Penguinpig has already been on such an incredible journey in its short existence, I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings…the possibilities are endless!! #excitingtimes

Thank you Stuart and Amy for taking the time out of your busy schedules and we look forward to welcoming Penguinpig to Tamworth on the 12th December!

Finally, as mentioned above, here’s some information about Penguinpig The Play!

Told by TRAUM Theatre, with beautiful puppetry, catchy songs and accompanied by an original music score, PENGUINPIG is a fun-filled, magical, theatrical experience for 4-7 year olds. It is ideal for schools to host as part of delivering the National Curriculum.

PENGUINPIG previewed this year at the prestigious Little Angel Theatre in London, and later this month will travel to Lincolnshire’s Wolds Words Festival. The show received fantastic audience feedback in London from children and parents alike, who described the show as “magical”, “imaginative”, “funny” and “clever”, with “great music and puppetry” and an “important but subtle message about safety” (audience feedback from the showing at Little Angel Theatre).

PENGUINPIG has been created in line with the National Curriculum’s aim for safer Internet practice for KS1 and from 2nd April – 15th May 2016, PENGUINPIG will embark on a tour, visiting venues and schools in the North of England.

For schools interested in booking a visit, please email Jane Crawshaw at, or call on 0785714503.

More information on the show and TRAUM Theatre can be found at:

Festive Story Fun 2015

Festive Story Fun

Do your kids get over-excited in the run-up to Christmas? Do they need to let off some steam?

Let their creative sides loose and bring them along to our Festive Story Fun Day on Saturday 12th December between 11am and 3pm at St. Editha’s Church, Tamworth town centre.

The event – in collaboration with our friends at Dig-iT – will feature Children’s authors and illustrator, story workshops, Christmas crafts, storytelling, raffle and lots, lots more. Oh and it’s completely free to attend!

Here’s what we’ve got planned:

Comictopia Logo

11:00am – Comictopia: Tamworth’s only Comic Book store – based in Lower Gungate, Tamworth – will be running a ‘Create a Festive Superhero’ workshop.

Penguinpig Cover

Midday – Amy Bradley: Illustrator of the bestselling children’s book Penguinpig will be doing a story workshop.

1:00pm – Margaret Clarke: local author and well-known Tamworth figure, Margaret will be leading an interactive story-telling workshop where the children will produce a story together.

2:00pm – Wanda Pierpoint-Jones: another local author and poet will be reading from her collection.

Between the sessions, we will have other fun activities and things to do and see:

  • second-hand book sale
  • Christmas card making
  • crafts
  • raffle (see details below)
  • refreshments

Our raffle tickets cost 50p each or five for £2 and the excellent prizes are:

Other prizes (no order): £10 Planters voucher; book of Literary Walks; tobogganing for 2 at the Snowdome; set of six Staffordshire/Tamworth books from the History Press; fruit basket from Bodnetts Farm, Plantation Lane; meat pack from K R Evans Butchers of Lichfield; Desperate Housewives Board Game.

Huge thanks to all who kindly donated prizes!

So, why not drop in for some light relief, fun and entertainment. We’d really love to see you!

Download our flyer here.

Peel Society Event Success

On Tuesday 13th October Dr Richard Gaunt, from Nottingham University, delivered a lively presentation on his publication ‘Peel in Caricature: The ‘Political Sketches’ of John Doyle (‘HB’),’ at Tamworth Town Hall.

The presentation, well received by an audience which included the Mayor of Tamworth Cllr Maureen Gant and her consort Mr Ken Gant, put the artist’s work in the context of both the artistic and technical developments in caricature which occurred throughout the nineteenth century. This period encapsulated a move from the hard edged etchings of earlier satirists such as Gillray, to the softer lines made possible by lithography.

The combination of the gentle humour and scurrilous undertones characteristic of John Doyle’s work was celebrated. Dr Gaunt presented a number of examples from the artist’s portfolio featuring Peel, which passed satirical judgement on the major political events of the time. These included caricatures featuring the role of Peel (and his contemporaries) in Catholic emancipation, free trade and the introduction of the police force. Excerpts from correspondence between the artist and Peel, when the latter was Prime Minister, were also shared with the audience.

Dr Gaunt highlighted how caricature became increasingly commercialised as an art form which (notwithstanding the scurrilous window displays enjoyed by all classes) had previously been marketed primarily at the metropolitan elite.

Following the presentation and questions from the audience, refreshments were served and Dr Gaunt participated in a book signing.

Peel Society Showcases ‘Peel In Caricature’ – Author Book Signing

LitFest is pleased to announce that we’ve been invited to co-host an event with The Peel Society and author Dr Richard Gaunt at Tamworth’s historic Town Hall.

Tamworth Town Hall
Tamworth Town Hall – copyright TMC Photographs –

The event, on Tuesday 13th October between 7:00 and 9:00pm, will showcase the book “Peel in Caricature: The ‘Political Sketches’ of John Doyle” – edited by Dr Gaunt – which contains 149 hand coloured prints by the 19th century caricaturist ‘HB’ (John Doyle), 147 of them with an image of Sir Robert Peel.

Dr Gaunt, Associate Professor of Modern History at Nottingham University, will make a presentation on the caricatures and his interpretation of them, after which the event will be opened up to questions from the audience. Hopefully, there will be some lively debate around the political and social issues raised, not to mention the characters of Peel, the caricaturist John Doyle and their contemporaries.

Entrance to the event at the Town Hall, outside which stands a statue of Peel, is priced at £3 and tickets are available on the door. Refreshments will be provided and hardback copies of the book, priced at £40, will be available to purchase.

Member of LitFest and the Peel Society will be available at the event should you wish to find out about future events and information for either organisation.

About the Book

Book: Peel In Caricature ‘The Political Sketches of John Doyle'
Peel In Caricature ‘The Political Sketches of John Doyle’

Edited by Dr Richard Gaunt, it gives an illuminating introduction to the sketches and their place in the political history and art history in the first half of the C19th. Each sketch is accompanied by text which identifies the figures in each plate and gives a background to the politics at play behind each image. Alongside the caricatures of Peel we find other major political figures such as Wellington, Grey, Brougham, Melbourne, Palmerston and Russell.

What reviewers are saying:

…while the focus is on Peel, the brilliant conservative politician who dominated the politics of these decades, the other leading figures of the age – Wellington, Grey, Brougham, Melbourne, Palmerston and Russell – make numerous and memorable appearances. This is a book to be enjoyed and savoured by anyone with even a passing knowledge of British politics of the 1830s and 40s, and we will never look at the period in quite the same way again.

Catching the spirit of past ages can be difficult, but this book, with its high production standards, delightful images, and thoughtful text offers a fine view of high politics in the 1830s and 1840s.

Map of venue and nearest car park

How To Kill A Minority Shareholder And Get Away With It – Rob Watkins

Book review by Tina Williams

I am drawn to tales of where the underdog fights back and triumphs, and this gripping read fits the bill! It dramatizes how Bob, after witnessing how his wife’s business associates deliberately destroy her credibility and career, avenges her by making them pay with the ultimate price, their lives.

The first third of the novel illustrates how easy it can be for those in the corporate world to destroy the life and reputation of another human being. Bob’s wife, Deborah, a brilliant and successful businesswoman, has dragged herself up from her humble beginnings to reach top management.

How To Kill A Minority Shareholder

If Deb has a fault it is that she is too trusting of others. She is secretly resented by all around her, who use her to further their own careers, at the same time despising her for her competence and intellect. This hatred and jealousy goes so deep that one woman, the villain of the piece, Summer Ponsenbury actively sets out to destroy her, urging others to wield the knife on her behalf or sit passively on the side-lines.

In many regards, the reader is presented with a very negative version of the human condition, delving deep into greed, jealousy, bullying, mental cruelty, violence and revenge. Yet the read is not devoid of humour, albeit much of it dark! Bob’s metamorphosis, as he goes from supportive and angry husband to avenger extraordinaire is at the heart of the final two thirds of the novel and the author executes the narrative with flair.

It is up to the reader to decide whether or not the central character, Bob, is the hero or the villain of the piece. Many of the descriptions are very visual and this aspect coupled with the personal drama and humour make the book ideal for  TV adaptation.

The read will appeal to thriller readers who are looking for a satisfying read which delves deep into the psyche of its characters, is peppered with dark humour and which contains a serious message on human nature for us all.

Please note, a copy of the book was given to me by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Find the author on goodreads, Amazon and FaceBook.

Tina also interviewed Rob for LitFest. You can read the interview here.