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Sherborne Travel Writing Festival

Jay Griffiths, award-winning author of more than six acclaimed books, is a fierce advocate of nature’s remaining wild places. In her exploration of the necessary wildness both within us and outside us, her talk will range from the deepest experiences of life in the Peruvian Amazon to her lockdown travels - riding to Prague on a horse with no name called Herbie and meeting her deceased father in a surrealist art gallery. She will consider the whales who are offering friendship to humans in the Laguna San Ignacio and consider journeying in different ways: the same lake seen by biking to it, swimming in it, walking with a blind cat or skating on it when the wild lakes of Wales freeze. To Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy, Jay is “a fearless adventurer” whose work “isn’t just good - it’s necessary’’.

Jay Griffiths

Elemental Journeys

The Amur River, the tenth longest in the world, is almost unknown to most of us. For almost two thousand miles it flows between Russia and China in the most densely fortified border on earth. Colin Thubron followed it – at the age of 81 - from its source in the mountains of Mongolia to its end in the Pacific, travelling by horse, train and boat. Along the way he was harassed by police and injury but – in conversing with those he met on both Russian and Chinese shores – he brings alive a whole pivotal world in this remarkable book. Colin is Britain’s most acclaimed literary travel writer, celebrated especially for his books on Russia, Central Asia and China. Between 2008 and 2017 he served as President of the Royal Society of Literature. He was appointed CBE in 2007.

Colin Thubron

The Amur River

‘Trailblazing’, ‘pioneering’ and ‘disruptive’ is how Tharik Hussain’s debut book, Minarets in the Mountains: a Journey into Muslim Europe has been described. A truly decolonised modern work of travel writing and winner of the 2022 British Guild of Travel Writers’ Adele Evans Award, it was also shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Award; longlisted for the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize and named a Book of the Year by amongst others, the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman.
Following in the footsteps of Ottoman traveller, Evliya Celebi, Tharik will take audiences on a magical eye-opening journey into another Europe: Muslim Europe. Home to the continent’s largest indigenous Muslim population, they will visit mosques older than the Sistine chapel and meet mystics worshipping in ancient Sufi lodges, as he unveils a Europe most of us ignore, before also explaining exactly why.

Tharik Hussain

Minarets in the Mountains

An improbable world beckons as John Gimlette takes us on a journey - both contemporary and historical - amongst the fantastical landscapes, beguiling creatures, isolated tribes and descendants of 17th century English pirates of tropical Madagascar, an island so vast that – if it was stretched out across Europe - would reach from London to Algiers. No humans lived on the world's fourth largest island until 10,000 years ago and then, when mankind did finally settle, they came all the way from Borneo, 3,700 miles away on the other side of the Indian Ocean. Ever effusive and entertaining, John has travelled to over 80 countries, authored six travel books and won both the Shiva Naipaul Prize and the Dolman Travel Book Prize.  His Wild Coast was listed by the Daily Telegraph amongst the ‘Twenty Best Travel Books of all Time’.

John Gimlette

The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, an Island story

Berlin is magnet for artists. In an inspirational double act created for the festival, former Berlin residents Demi Anter and Sherborne’s own Rory MacLean unveil the city’s secrets, focusing on David Bowie’s prolific Berlin sojourn and his devotion to continual creative growth: never be complacent, never play to the gallery, always reach for the furthest horizon. Rory worked with both Bowie and Marlene Dietrich and his books – which have been translated into a dozen languages — include UK top ten Stalin's Nose, Under the Dragon and Berlin: Imagine a City, "the most extraordinary work of history I've ever read" said the Washington Post. When not charming audiences at the Glastonbury Festival and Bristol Old Vic, or auditioning for the Great British Bake Off, the intrepid Californian poet Demi travels the world with her Maine Coon rescue cat Gus.

Demi Anter

Bowie in Berlin

Sara Wheeler is Britain's foremost woman travel writer. Her new book Glowing Still tells the story of her travelling life: venturing from Pole to Pole, via Poland, corralling reindeer with the Sámi in Arctic Sweden, towing her baby on a sledge (a helpful herdsman advised her to put foil down her bra to facilitate nursing), recalling the Antarctic lavatory through which a seal popped up (hot fishy breath!). Today advancing years have ushered in unheralded freedoms, and journey's end finds Wheeler at peace among Zanzibar dhows, contemplating our connection with other lives - the irreplaceable value that travel brings - and paying homage to her heroines, among them Martha Gellhorn, the ineffable war correspondent who furnishes Wheeler's epigraph: 'I do not wish to be good. I wish to be hell on wheels, or dead.'

Sara Wheeler

Glowing Still

In The Summer Isles, Philip Marsden casts off from shore to sail single-handed up the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. In a wooden sloop, he encounters Atlantic storm-swells and relentless wind. Through the people he meets and the tales he uncovers, he explores the perennial wonders of this remote western seaboard. But The Summer Isles is also an exploration of the less tangible aspects of these coasts. “A tiny split had opened in the fabric of the world, and I found myself eagerly passing through it,” he writes, bringing to life the imaginary islands and the Celtic otherworld through the redemptive power of the imagination. Philip, an award-winning author of many remarkable works of travel, history and fiction, lives in Cornwall on the upper reaches of the River Fal with his family and a number of boats.

Philip Marsden

The Summer Isles – A Voyage of the Imagination

PlaceholderSiberia is a land of extremes: its biggest lake holds a fifth of the world’s fresh water, its taiga is the largest forest on earth, it covers an eleventh of the world’s landmass. A place of exile and banishment during both Czarist and Soviet years, Siberia is revealed to be much more than a heartless, frigid myth. In a transporting journey told alongside images by the American fine art photographer Michael Turek, Bridport-based author Sophy Roberts takes us into the heart of its remote reaches and her debut book, The Lost Pianos of Siberia. A Sunday Times Book of 2020, Lost Pianos is now published in eleven languages worldwide. Sophy will talk also about the contradictions that make up Russia's past, and how those contradictions are now playing out under the current regime. text here ....

Sophy Roberts

The Lost Pianos of Siberia

John Blashford-Snell CBE is one of the world’s most renowned and respected explorers. He has organised and lead over 100 expeditions including an exploration of the infamous Blue Nile, made the first vehicle crossing of the complete Darien Gap, and navigated almost all 2700 miles of the Congo River, the last two journeys driven by environmental, medical and scientific objectives. On retiring from the Army, he served as Director-General of Operation Raleigh which by 1992 had enabled 10,000 young people from 50 nations to take part in challenges and expeditions. Colonel John’s work has been recognized by awards including the Segrave Trophy, the Livingstone Medal, the Patrons Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Gold Medal of the Institute of Royal Engineers. He has written 16 books, broadcasts and lectures and continues to lead expeditions worldwide.

John Blashford-Snell

From Utmost East to Utmost West

In The Arab Conquests, Justin Marozzi tells the extraordinary story of how, starting in 632AD, several generations of marauding Muslim armies carved out an empire which rivalled that of Rome at its zenith, extending from the shores of the Atlantic in the west to the borders of China in the east. In one of the greatest feats of arms in history, this unknown and radically militant faith swept out of the Arabian desert to change the world for ever. Justin has spent most of his professional life working in and writing about the Muslim world. His seven books include Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood, the winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s 2015 Ondaatje Prize. A former Trustee of the Royal Geographical Society, he lives in Norfolk with his wife and their Transylvanian rescue dog, Daphne.

Justin Marozzi

The Arab Conquests

Rory MacLean is one of Britain's most expressive and adventurous non-fiction writers. His books – which have been translated into a dozen languages — include UK top tens Stalin's Nose and Under the Dragon as well as Pravda Ha Ha and Berlin: Imagine a City, "the most extraordinary work of history I've ever read" according to the Washington Post which named it a Book of the Year. He has won awards from the Canada Council and the Arts Council of England and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary prize. He has worked on movies with Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie as well as humanitarian projects for the UN, EU and ICRC. He divides his time between Berlin, Toronto and Dorse

Rory MacLean

Festival Curator

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