Category Archives: Festival Guests

Dynamo Youth Theatre Workshop

Dynamo Youth Theatre members took part in an intensive one day workshop with Havant Literary Festival writer-in-residence, Stella Duffy, on Sunday, 27 September, culminating in an evening performance at St Faith’s Church Hall.

Stella, the author of eight plays and twelve novels, is also an experienced director who specialises in improvisation and has worked with the National Youth Theatre.

Through a series of sometimes gruelling physical exercises, the teenagers learned and developed techniques, tools and skills which can be adapted to any number of theatrical disciplines.

The entirely improvised forty-five minute performance included quick-fire poetry, acting out scenes from audience member’s early lives and a four part harmonised madrigal on Havant’s parchment and glove making history and the coming of a new superstore!

Stella Duffy said she had never before gone from zero to performance in one day – “Dynamo Theatre were totally dedicated, brave – and brilliant!”

Dynamo’s Artistic Director Andrew Bowker said “this was a complete masterclass. In the thirty years I have been involved with teaching drama, I have never seen such a total transformation in one day.”
Audience members raved about the performance, who found it hard to believe it was totally unrehearsed and unscripted. Festival Secretary, Sian Bamber, said she would “gladly have paid an entrance fee for the quality of the entertainment on offer.”

Dynamo Youth Theatre’s next production is The Pirates of Penzance, but there will be a fund raiser before that at United Reformed Church on Sunday, 1 November. For more information, visit their website at
To see some photographs of the workshop, visit here:

From Lucy Flannery

Poetry and Magic – Festival Day 1

The Gazebo Garden in the East Pallant car park is a tranquil and secluded space to spend time that many people who use Havant all the time don’t know or forget about. It was an excellent setting for some of the performers in the Word on the Street event.

During my visit, I enjoyed listening to Ann Crowe and Judith Worley who encouraged audience participation in some of their recitations of poems on the Festival theme of water, including an extract from Beowulf about a battle with sea monsters, and ending with Henry Newbold’s rousing response to Turner’s painting of ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ .

They were followed by a set from members of Write Angle, a writing and performing group from Petersfield, who offered an amusing and entertaining blend of their own poetry and music. Write Angle hold regular ‘open mic’ nights at their home venue at the Square Brewery in Petersfield and poetry cabaret nights, the next one on Tuesday. Find out more on their website. There is another opportunity to see Write Angle at the Poetry and Pints event at the Robin Hood on Thursday 1st October at 7:30pm (free entry, but you’ll have to pay for your beer!).

My next stop was for a look around the book fair at the URC, plenty to choose from both fiction and non fiction and I also relaxed with a cup of tea in the Festival Bistro.

Later on, I attended Philip Carr-Gomm’s fascinating talk on English Magic, based on his newly published book co-written with Richard Heygate. Book info and Philip’s website

Philip outlined the history of how England came to be a centre of magical tradition, drawing on influences from many different parts of the world through. He also spoke about different types of magic and its practioners and how it touches every part of our lives, often when we don’t recognise its presence. For instance, how astrologer and scholar John Dee influenced Elizabeth 1st in matters of state and personal affairs and whether Cherie Blair’s lifestyle advisor Carol Caplin could be regarded as a magic practitioner through her use of holistic healing and health advice.

Certainly, in the past the ‘healing arts’ were looked on as magical and we don’t yet know enough about the brain to know why it responds to the ‘placebo effect’. 

Philip commented on the extent to which we all respond to magic in our surroundings, particularly in the natural world and the wider universe and how this resounded in his own druidic spirituality and practice including the artistic sphere of poetry and music. This was brought to us at the event by bardic harpist John Corin and in the display of pagan inspired art.

I wonder when Prince Charles becomes monarch, who his advisors might include and how they will be perceived by the public and the media?

Later when the event was opened to questions from the floor a spectrum of opinions and attitudes emerged from members of the audience as to what magic is and whether it exists. Philip’s book was sadly beyond my pocket for the moment, but one of my personal experiences of magic is that money, items and even people often come into my life at times when they are really needed, not just desired.

In the best theatrical tradition…

It is said that a bad dress rehearsal can precede a wildly successful first night so tonight’s Opening Ceremony  at Havant Arts Centre ought to mean a great Festival ahead!

It was wonderful  to see a big crowd, with many of our honoured guest speakers and patrons present. Festival Director Lucy Flannery introduced Havant Mayor,  Councillor Jackie Branson and Caroline Lucas MEP who both gave us cracking opening speeches with lots of encouragement for new writers and the importance and significance of literature in all of our lives.

Competition winners were announced and prizes awarded and further speeches followed. Find out who won what on the competitions page.

Unfortunately many of these words were difficult to hear for those furthest from the stage due to the microphone being out of commission – this was really sad, and if anyone videoed the whole event with sound,  let us know and we will try and get it on the website.

Then came the grand finale – the fire alarm bells pealed out and we were all ushered out into the car park, the most astute still clutching their wine glasses.  It didn’t look like we were going to get back in any time soon so myself and my companions retreated to a nearby restaurant.

Lucy, don’t stress about this – it has taken many long hours of organisation to make this Festival happen. You have done a superb job and we will all see the results of your hard work in the coming days.

Break a leg.

Guardian First Book Award 2009 – judging panel announced

The judging panel for the Guardian First Book Award 2009 in association with Waterstones has been announced. This prestigious award is exceptional in that it includes reading groups in its judging panel.

The panel will be headed by the Guardian Literary Editor Claire Armitstead, who features in the Festival programme and includes BBC presenter Martha Kearney, author Nadeem Aslam,  poet and novelist Tobias Hill,  political philosopher and writer John Gray,  Guardian deputy editor Katharine Viner and Stuart Broom from Waterstones.

Waterstones have selected 5 reading groups around the UK who will read the ten ‘longlisted’ books chosen by the judging panel. Their opinions will contribute towards the 5 shortlisted books for the award.

Stuart Broom said “As well as new participants we consistently get readers who have been members of the groups before, who relish the responsibility of identifying fresh literary talent.”

For more information about this award, visit this item on the Guardian website.