Jo Brand

Book In Early

23rd August 2019

Jill Glenn talks to Sheryl Shurville of Chorleywood Bookshop about some of the treats in store at this autumn’s festival of books, reading and people

‘Litfest isn't just for readers,’ says Sheryl Shurville, owner of the bookshops in Chorleywood and Gerrards Cross, and the driving force behind the annual Chorleywood literary festival – now in its impressive 14th year. LitFest has grown from just a few dates over a week or so in its early incarnation to a substantial series of events taking place over the next three months at a variety of venues across the local area. ‘It’s all about shining a light on fascinating authors with wonderful stories to tell,’ she explains. ‘We’re bringing books and people together… and all on your doorstep.’

Over the years Sheryl has developed excellent relationships with most of the major publishers, so she’s always able to secure top names to make the journey out to Chorleywood. This year the first week alone includes Sir Tim Waterstone, for example, on Thursday 5 September, and Jo Brand on Tuesday 10th. Waterstone will be talking about his memoir The Face Pressed Against A Window, in which he looks back to his early years growing up in a Sussex town at the end of World War II, his troubled relationship with his father, and the ‘epiphany’ he had as a student at Cambridge that eventually led him to build the Waterstones bookselling business. Now 80, he could perhaps be called the father of British bookselling; he is, like Sheryl herself, passionate about the transformative power of books, and both are inspired advocates for new and interesting authors. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear a private chat between the two.

Jo Brand will be a real contrast. Here to promote Born Lippy, with its intriguing subtitle How To Do Female, she’ll be bringing her distinctive viewpoint to bear on topics such as such as coping with bullies and surviving dysfunctional families. Serious stuff – but she’ll make you laugh, too.

One of the real attractions of LitFest for me, though, is the variety. Lesser-known authors jostle for position with the great and the good, and connect with their audiences in an entirely different way. The Festival’s first two events are more low key: on Tuesday 3 September fiction writers Anna Hope and Mary Beth Keane come to share an evening celebrating strong female characters and compelling stories, and on the following day cloudspotter Gavin Pretor-Pinney will be telling his audience how to keep their own heads in the clouds, with his beautifully illustrated book, A Cloud a Day.

Looking further ahead, towards the end of September, Thursday 19th brings military historian Max Hastings with a brand new history of the Dambusters raid and all the stories that go with it; it’s the stuff of legend. The following day offers another contrast – Gyles Brandreth, with the wonderfully titled Dancing by the Light of the Moon: a passionate and rousing manifesto on the power and pleasure of learning poetry by heart. There’s new scientific research that proves its value at every stage of life – even the tiniest of babies benefits from having poems read to them.

And these are just the tip of the LitFest iceberg. Sheryl’s in the process of confirming a couple more big names for later in the autumn. You’ll like them. But you’ll have to watch for announcements. I’m sworn to secrecy at the moment…

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