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Festival Artists

Find out more about our wonderful Festival artists

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Emily Carding

Emily Carding is a professional actor, writer and artist living by the sea in beautiful East Sussex. They are a solo parent to a teenage gothspring who was once an adorable faery child and possibly still is somewhere under all the hoodies and grunting. They are also the creator of The Transparent Tarot, The Tarot of the Sidhe and The Simple Wisdom of the Household Dog for Schiffer Books and author of Faery Craft, So Potent Art: The Magic of Shakespeare and Seeking Faery for Llewellyn publishing as well as multiple essays for anthologies on various esoteric, mythical and mystical subjects. Emily holds a BA (hons) in Theatre Arts from Bretton Hall and an MFA in Staging Shakespeare from the University of Exeter. They have now appeared in versions of 24 of Shakespeare’s plays on stage and screen and won multiple awards for their innovative approach to Shakespearean performance including Brite Theater’s immersive solo adaptations of Richard III and Hamlet, and their own Quintessence, a sci-fi solo show which imagines a future in which an AI recreates humanity using the complete works of Shakespeare as a guide. For the latest news and more info please visit


Melinda Salisbury

Melinda is the three-time Carnegie nominated and bestselling author of multiple young adult novels. Her first novel, The Sin Eater's Daughter, was the bestselling UK YA debut novel of 2015, and collectively her books have been nominated and shortlisted for numerous national and international awards, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the YA Book Prize, the 2016 and 2019 and 2021 Carnegie medals, and more. Her books have been published in fifteen countries, to date.


Andrew Wille

Andrew Wille is an editor, teacher and writer with a special interest in mindfulness and intuitive approaches to creativity. He was senior editor at Little, Brown in London, acquiring and editing fiction and nonfiction, and as a freelancer has worked for all of the major UK publishers and many independent presses too. He has an MFA in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, the birthplace of the modern mindfulness movement in Boulder, Colorado, where he also taught. Further resources and information on his work as a book doctor can be found at


Steven Short

Steven Short has loved the written word since his mum bought him a subscription to Twinkle (the comic for girls) when he was four. A magazine writer and editor for more than three decades, now a content creator he writes about interiors, architecture, travel, food and drink for national and international titles and has also published three collections of themed short stories by ‘name’ authors along with new voices. He is currently working on Short Stories About Fathers.


Miranda Seymour

Miranda Seymour is a novelist, biographer and critic. She has been a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She began writing as a historical novelist, moving from fiction into biography during the 1980s with her remarkable group portrait of Henry James and his literary circle: A Ring of Conspirators. The subjects of her biographies include Ottoline Morrell, Robert Graves and Mary Shelley (which required Seymour to spend some time in Hastings researching Mary Shelley sojourn in a sanatorium recovering from smallpox). Her most recent subject is Jean Rhys – author of The Wide Sargasso Sea. The book has been described as “An elegant work that provides readers with a better understanding of a beloved author's life.” (Kirkus Review) and is one of The Observer’s “must-have summer reads” for 2022.


John McCullough

Acclaimed poet John McCullough teaches creative writing courses at the University of Brighton, the Arvon Foundation and New Writing South. His first collection, The Frost Fairs, won the Polari First Book Prize in 2012 and was a Book of the Year in The Independent as well as a summer read in The Observer. His second collection, Reckless Paper Birds, published by Penned in the Margins and shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award 2019, focuses on vulnerability and the human body. It won the coveted Hawthornden Prize in 2020. His most recent collection Panic Response was published in 2022 by Penned in the Margins and has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize. John has a PhD in English literature from the University of Sussex. He lists his interests as including queer culture, Doctor Who and most things to do with Japan. John grew up in Watford but now live in Hove with his partner Morgan Case and their cats.

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Tom Drake-Lee

Tom Drake-Lee is an Associate Literary Agent for DHH which he joined in summer 2021 and he is currently building a fiction and non-fiction client list. Tom has worked in bookselling and publishing for over three decades and was the sales director of Vintage for over twelve years where he worked closely with a number of prize-winning authors. He also works as a writing coach and was one of the judges on this year’s CWA Gold Dagger.


Anita Kelsey

Anita Kelsey’s first career was as a singer and songwriter. She won a MOBO Award for her first album, with the UK garage act Sunship. Her vocals feature on many hit dance records and also in feature films. As a backing vocalist she has appeared on tracks with Razorlight, Kings of Leon, Boy George and the Spice Girls. In 2009 she decided on a new career – as a cat behaviourist and achieved a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour & Psychology from Middlesex University. She now provides cat behaviour counselling, dealing with issues such as feline territorial aggression, furniture damage, feline separation anxiety and confidence building with shy or anxious rescue cats. She is a member of the Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) and regularly writes for cat related magazines You can find out more about Anita and her work here Anita’s debut book was "Claws: Confessions of a Cat Groomer" and was followed by "Let's Talk About Cats". "Conversations On Feline Behaviour" which was published in 2020.

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Cole Moreton

Cole Moreton is a writer, broadcaster and podcaster. He’s the author of four non-fiction books and his debut novel, ‘The Light Keeper’ was published in 2019. It’s set around Beachy Head and is described as ‘a story of hope and longing’. Cole is a regular on the radio - his BBC Radio 4 series The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away won Audio Moment of the Year and his new podcast ‘Can We Talk?’ is a series of short stories about encounters with remarkable people. Cole has covered many of the major news stories of our times as a writer for titles including The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Financial Times. An East Ender by birth, he now lives near Beachy Head and co-hosts a podcast called ‘Edge of England’


Jane Haynes

Jane Haynes is a psychotherapist who originally trained as an actor at the Royal Court Theatre, however, after reading The Divided Self and working with R.D. Laing at Kingsley Hall, she trained as a Jungian psychoanalyst. Jane has since detached herself from this orientation and now refers to herself as a relational psychotherapist who is always listening out for the unconscious. Jane is a founder member of the Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. After Perestroika she regularly visited St Petersburg as consultant to the Eastern European Institute for Psychoanalysis where she helped to develop the clinical curriculum. Jane works with her daughter Tanya Haynes who is the director of The Blue Door Practice which they co-founded along with Dr Jamie Arkell FRCPsych. Jane also offers mentoring consultations – independent of her work as a psychotherapist – exploring creativity and writer’s block.


Alex Marwood

Alex Marwood is the author of several highly regarded psychological thrillers. Originally a journalist who worked extensively across the British press, her first book THE TEMP was written under her own name – Serena Mackesy. It went into the Sunday Times Top Ten on publication. In 2012 she started writing under the pseudonym Alex Marwood and her first novel, THE WICKED GIRLS, achieved widespread acclaim and was an international bestseller. It was included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list and won the prestigious Edgar Alan Poe Award. THE KILLER NEXT DOOR, her second novel, won the coveted Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel and was followed by THE DARKEST SECRET, which also met with critical praise. Her most recent book THE ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS has just been published and was described by one reviewer as “A stiletto of a novel: heart stopping and devastating” She has also been shortlisted for numerous other crime writing awards and lives in South London. More about Alex:

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helen jacey

Helen Jacey is an author and the founder of Shedunnit Productions. Her books include the internationally acclaimed The Woman in the Story: Writing Memorable Female Characters, which established Helen as a leading expert on gender representation in screenwriting, and her crime fiction series Elvira Slate Investigations, featuring the first 1940s feminist sleuth. Her work spans screenplays, radio drama, essays, articles, screenwriting writing guides, advertising and songs. She has worked extensively as a story mentor and script editor on numerous international film and TV productions, and taught creative writing for many years at several UK universities. She gained her MA and PhD from the University of the Arts London. Helen lives in St Leonards on Sea with her husband and two cats.


Beth Miller

Beth is the author of six novels, including the bestselling The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright (2020). Her most recent novel, The Woman Who Came Back to Life (2022), will be published in seven languages. She has also published two non-fiction books. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Brighton University, and teaches creative writing at various places including for Arvon. She also works as a writing mentor and book coach.


Joan Taylor-Rowan

Joan Taylor-Rowan lives life on the edge – literally – she lives in St Leonards-on-Sea, where she teaches creative writing. She was recently awarded a Masters with Distinction in Creative Writing and has just completed a novel inspired by the beginnings of the space race in the late 1940s. She also writes about trees for the Hastings Online Times. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, been placed in many competitions and been broadcast on BBC radio 4. Her first novel The Birdskin Shoes is available through Amazon in print and e-versions. Since moving to St Leonards, seven years ago, her fiction has taken a more surreal turn. The Bexhill Advertiser, ESK, the Hastings Contemporary and dog-walkers have been recent sources of inspiration. Her story set in the Hastings Contemporary – Inside the Egg was placed second in the Cambridge international short story prize in 2018 and her story Dryrobe about a Hastings sea swimmer, won her the coveted Catherine Cookson cup last year. Her unpublished story Zombies in Frant, is begging to be made into a film. To find out about her popular creative writing courses, and her work, visit her website


Tola Dabiri

Dr Tola Dabiri is a consultant in the cultural sector, specialising in project management, equality and inclusion, and fundraising. Tola has written poetry and short stories since the age of ten, but is unpublished. Tola has over twenty years experience of in working in the cultural sector in the U.K., and has developed and managed a number of successful projects including the digital project Carnival in a Box ( in 2020. In her earlier career, Tola was a Senior Policy Adviser at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and managed library services across London. Tola Dabiri has a PhD from Leeds Beckett University, and her research area is orality and the intangible cultural heritage of Carnival and masquerade, and she has a special interest in Grenada.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is a British writer, podcaster and editor. He has published three books, including one on mini-golf, as well as numerous items of journalism. His book, ‘THE YEAR OF READING DANGEROUSLY’ is described by Andy as ‘the true story of the year I spent reading fifty of the greatest and most famous books in the world, and two by Dan Brown.’ Along with John Mitchinson, he presents the hugely successful literature podcast Backlisted - Giving Life to Old Books which was winner of Futurebook Podcast of the Year 2019. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Spectator. He has toured the country with his motivational lecture Read Y'self Fitter and appears regularly on BBC Radio, most recently on The Verb and The Museum of Curiosity. Andy’s website:


James Young

James Young is a writer, editor and literary translator. His short fiction has appeared in various literary journals, and he was shortlisted for the 2019 Wasafiri New Writing Prize, the 2020 Fish Short Story Prize, and the 2021 Bath Short Story Award. He is the editor of Short Fiction literary journal, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College, University of London. In 2022 he won the Peirene Stevns Prize for Literary Translation. He has been running The Hastings Writers Workshop (, a highly popular writers workshop programme, since September 2021.


Natalie Haynes

Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster and - according to the the Washington Post - a rock star mythologist. Her first novel, "The Amber Fury", was published to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, as was "The Ancient Guide to Modern Life", her previous book. Her retelling of the Trojan War, "A Thousand Ships", was published in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Womens' Prize for Fiction in 2020. It has been translated into multiple languages. Her eagerly anticipated book, "Stone Blind", is published in September 2022 and retells the myth of Medusa. She writes for the Guardian and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4: reviewing for Front Row and Saturday Review. Seven series of her show, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, have been broadcast on Radio 4 and are available now on BBC Sounds. You can find out more on her website

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Tristan Gooley

Tristan Gooley is an author and natural navigator. He has spent decades hunting for clues and signs in nature, across the globe, and has been nicknamed: “The Sherlock Holmes of Nature”. Tristan has led expeditions in five continents, climbed mountains in Europe, Africa and Asia, sailed small boats across oceans and piloted small aircraft to Africa and the Arctic. He has walked with and studied the methods of the Tuareg, Bedouin and Dayak in some of the remotest regions on Earth. He is the only living person to have both flown solo and sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic and is a Fellow of both the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Royal Geographical Society. In 2020 he was awarded the Harold Spencer-Jones Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of Navigation - the Institute’s highest award, given in recognition of an outstanding contribution to navigation. Tristan has given talks across the world and appeared on TV and radio in the UK and internationally, including The Today Programme, Night Waves, Countryfile, BBC Stargazing Live, Country Tracks, Ramblings, Open Country, The One Show, and Winter on the Farm. He set up his natural navigation school in 2008 and is the author of award-winning and internationally bestselling books, including "The Natural Navigator" (2010) "The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs" (US) / "The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs" (UK 2014), "How to Read Water" (2016) and "The Secret World of Weather" (2021). He has also written for the Sunday Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC and many magazines and is Vice Chairman of the independent travel company, Trailfinders. Find out more here Natural Navigator website


Marcus Ryder

Marcus Ryder has over twenty-five years’ experience working in television and journalism and is a leader on the issue of diversity in the media. He was previously the Chair of the Royal Television Society’s Diversity Committee and was the head of BBC Scotland Current Affairs for nearly a decade. He is the recipient of a number of awards for his work, including multiple BAFTA Awards, and recently took up the position of Chair of RADA Council - the UK's leading drama school.


Marcia Farquhar

Marcia Farquhar is an artist working in performance, photography, painting and object-making. Her site-specific works have been staged and exhibited internationally in museums and galleries, as well as in lecture theatres, kitchen showrooms, hotels, pubs, parks and leisure centres. Farquhar’s performances are conceptual in nature and often precariously balanced between the prescribed and the unpredictable – socially open, broadly embracing of circumstance, and resolutely focussed in the live and unrepeatable moment. They have also made frequent and subversive use of popular cultural forms such as TV cookery, pop-psychology, the Punch & Judy show, the fashion catwalk and the guided tour.


Chris Curran

Chris Curran is a former teacher and actor. She is also the author of five psychological suspense novels, the most recent of which is ALL THE LITTLE LIES. Her first four books are wholly or partly set in Hastings where Chris lived for over twenty years. In 2020 she also began writing as Abbie Frost with, THE GUESTHOUSE, a contemporary take on a classic remote house mystery. It’s set on the west coast of Ireland. Reviewers have called her books, ‘truly gripping,’ (Sunday Express) ‘addictive and fun’ (Daily Mail) ‘thrilling’ (Sublime Horror) ‘relentlessly exciting’ (The Courier). Her next publication as Chris Curran – WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT – is due for publication later this year. More about Chris:


Darren Charlton

Darren was born in Hastings and now divides his time equally between East Sussex and Kent where his partner lives. He studied English Literature and Theatre at De Montford University and currently works part time for the NHS.   His first novel, Wranglestone, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Readers, was shortlisted for both the Costa Book Awards and the YA Book Prize, and is currently longlisted for the Polari Book Prize. Wranglestone's sequel, Timberdark, publishes on the 1st of September.



VG Lee is the critically acclaimed author of five novels and two collections of short stories, the most recent of which, Oh You Pretty Things, was published in 2019. Sarah Waters said, "Lee writes with unfailing warmth and wisdom" while Andrea Levy praised her "light touch, wonderful laconic style and spot-on humour." ​In 2012, Lee was nominated for a Stonewall Award for writing and in 2014 she won the Ultimate Planet Award for Best Established Author.


Morgan Smith

Award-winning short story writer Morgan Smith initially worked in hospitality and as a volunteer rescue archaeologist, writing in her limited spare time. Joining the staff of Hastings museum she gave up writing fiction and took a part-time University of Sussex archaeology course. She later gained an honours degree in Earth Science with the Open University. Now known as a geo-archaeologist, Manx cat breeder and classic motorcycle enthusiast the lure of fiction proved irresistible and Morgan’s first novel was long listed for the Bridport Novel Prize. She is currently working on the sequel.



Adele Bates empowers school leaders and teachers to support pupils with behavioural needs and SEMH to thrive with their education. She’s an International Keynote Speaker, a featured expert on teenagers and behaviour for BBC Radio 4, the author of "Miss, I don't Give A Sh*t," Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools, from Sage & Corwin Press, and is a fully funded International Researcher in Finland, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica on Behaviour & Inclusion, as well as teaching for nearly 20 years… For her tips and resources check out


Freddie lewis

Freddie Lewis is a songwriter, poet and performer based in Bristol. Combining music and poetry, exploring the space between them and their overlap, Freddie’s work is grounded in everyday imagery, drawing inspiration from literature and placing it alongside his signatory brand of pop music. Following the release of his debut body of musical work and accompanying poetry Freddie has received support from the likes of BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and the Spotify editorial team. While continuing to hone his craft and his message through 2022, he has played music and poetry shows across the country, including BBC Introducing Stages and The Great Escape festival. Freddie’s website


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Sioux Bradshaw trained as an illustrator and was a cartoonist at the New Statesman and Private Eye. She set up the Artist Advisory Board as a body to harrangue artists and writers till they do some bloody work


Julia Bird

For the last decade or so Julia Bird and Mike Sims have worked together on a series of playful and social events celebrating the life and writings of John Keats, the published version of which is "A Joy Forever - a Walk Out with John Keats" (Paekakariki Press, 2021). Julia Bird is a poet and poetry programmer who works with many literature organisations, producing live touring shows through her company Jaybird Live Literature. She currently works for The Poetry Society as Learning and Participation Manager, working on local and national events as well as participation activities for adults and young people. She has published the poetry collections "Hannah and the Monk" (2008) and "Twenty-four Seven Blossom" (2013) with Salt Publishing, and the pamphlets "Now You Can Look" (2017) and is, "Thinks Pearl" (2021) with The Emma Press. She grew up in Gloucestershire and lives in London. Julia and Mike also published the artist's book Paper Trail with Roy Willingham in 2019. A Joy Forever: a walk out with John Keats by Julia Bird & Mike Sims - is out now from Paekakariki Press Lots more information here


Alison Weir

Alison Weir was born in London, England, and was educated at the City of London School. Later, she trained as a teacher, with history as her main subject. But her great love of history had been born some years earlier, after reading her first adult novel at the age of fourteen. After that, she took up history as a hobby. Alison had a career in Civil Service management and training before her first book, Britain's Royal Families, was published in 1989. She has since written over thirty books – both historical fiction and non-fiction - and has sold well over 3 million books worldwide. She is the biggest-selling female historian in the United Kingdom. From 1991 to 1997, she ran her own school for children with special needs and has a special commitment to promoting adult literacy. She undertakes a comprehensive programme of literary events and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences, and an Honorary Lifetime Patron of Historic Royal Palaces. She is married with two adult children and lives in East Sussex.


Colin Grant

Colin Grant is an author of five books, including ‘Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey’. His history of epilepsy, A Smell of Burning, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year 2016. As a producer for the BBC, Grant wrote and directed several radio drama documentaries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and also writes for a number of publications including the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, TLS and the London Review of Books. His latest memoir, I’m Black So You Don’t Have to Be will be published in January 2023.


Andrew KÖtting

Andrew Kötting was born between the mountains and the sea in Elmstead Woods in 1959. He has made numerous experimental short films, which were awarded prizes at international film festivals. Gallivant (1996), was his first feature film, a road/home movie about his four-month journey around the coast of Britain, with his grandmother Gladys and his daughter Eden, which won the Channel 4 Prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival for Best Director and the Golden Ribbon Award in Rimini (Italy). The film went on in 2011 to be voted number 49 as Best British Film of all time by the UK publication Time Out.


Jack Parlett

Jack Parlett is a writer, poet and scholar. His first book, The Poetics of Cruising: Queer Visual Culture from Whitman to Grindr, was adapted from his PhD thesis and published by the University of Minnesota Press in February of this year. His second book, Fire Island: Love, Loss and Liberation in an American Paradise, was published by Granta in May. It was described in the New Yorker as a 'richly textured history' and named an 'Editor's Pick' in the New York Times Book Review. His debut poetry pamphlet, Same Blue, Different You, was published by Broken Sleep Books in 2020, and his writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Literary Hub, Boston Review, Poetry London and elsewhere. He recently held a Junior Research Fellowship at University College, Oxford, where he also taught literary theory and American literature. He is currently working on a book about flamboyance.


Patrice Lawrence

Patrice Lawrence is a Brighton-born award-winning writer for adults and children. Her books for young adults have won many prizes including the Bookseller YA Prize, the Waterstones Prize for Older Children's Fiction, the Crimefest YA Prize twice, the Woman and Home Teen Drama Award and the inaugural Jhalak Prize for Children and Young People. Before becoming a full time writer, she worked for more than 20 years in organisations promoting social justice.


Lou Tondeur

Louise Tondeur studied Drama at the University of East Anglia, taught Drama, then returned to UEA to do their MA in Creative Writing, publishing two novels with Headline Review, The Water’s Edge and The Haven Home for Delinquent Girls. Then she did a PhD, went travelling, and started a family while working full-time as a university lecturer. She left her job in 2017 to find more time to write. Poetry credits include Perverse, Rialto, Under the Radar and Shearsman, and her short story collection, Unusual Places, came out in 2018. She has self-published several guides to the writing process, including How to Write a Novel and Get It Published. Lou is a Creative Writing tutor for the Open University. She lives in Hove with her wife, their son, and two black cats, is working on her third novel, and blogs at:



Omikemi is an artist combining writing, somatics, workshop facilitation and mentoring to create care-driven spaces focused on listening and alongsideness. Their writing has been published in numerous publications including Ambit, Rialto and Ten: poets of a new generation (Bloodaxe). Omikemi currently works as a freelance writer and creative mentor for Disability Arts Online. Their recent projects include Crossings, a somatics practice commissioned by Serpentine and editing Onyx, a publication for Black, Asian and dual heritage artists identifying as (dis)abled and/or living with illness.


Laura Wilkinson

Laura has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories. Her contemporary fiction is published by Headline Accent. These novels are Crossing the Line, The Family Line, Redemption Song and Skin Deep. Crossing the Line was a Welsh Books Council book of the month and her latest, Skin Deep, has been widely praised, including a Not the Booker longlisting. Alongside writing, she runs workshops on craft and has spoken at literary events nationwide. Over the past eleven years she’s worked as a creative writing tutor for organisations including New Writing South and West Dean College, and as a structural editor and mentor for leading literary consultancies, coaching writers to competition shortlistings and publication. ‘There’s almost nothing better than helping a writer find their voice and develop a compelling story, whether they wish to be published or not. While everyone’s journey is unique, because I am a writer, I have personal insight into and understanding of the pleasures and pains of authoring.’



Jessica is a contemporary poet of Bengali origin, who grew up in Wales and now lives in Kent. Her work appears in many journals including Agenda, Poetry Wales and the Birmingham Literary Review. Her pamphlets are The Swell (TellTale Press 2016) and Joyride (BLER Press 2017). She was highly commended in the 2017 and 2021 Forward Prize for best single poem. Her first collection, "Flood", was published by Cultured Llama in 2018 and her second, "Tigress", by Nine Arches Press in 2019 was shortlisted for the Ledbury-Munthe Prize. Her new third collection is "Notes from a Shipwreck" (Nine Arches Press) 2022. She is a joint editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press and board member of the Poetry Society.  Jessica’s website


Lynne Murphy

Lynne Murphy is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sussex. Born and raised in New York State, she has held academic positions in South Africa, the US and the UK. Her academic training and publications have concentrated on word meaning and word relations, but her experience as a migrant in English-speaking nations has led her to explore issues of language and culture in the anglosphere. Her alter ego Lynneguist writes the award-winning blog "Separated by a Common Language" and tweets a US-UK Difference of the Day on Twitter. Her most recent book, "The Prodigal Tongue: the love–hate relationship between British and American English" (Oneworld/Penguin 2018) is "a funny and rollicking read" (Economist Books of the Year). "Her love of our living, changing language is infectious" (The New Yorker).


Mike Sims

Mike Sims is a writer, poet and editor and is currently the Director of the T S Eliot Prize. He has collaborated on many art and poetry projects, including "Letter of advice to Amy" by Joseph Cornell (AKA The Amy Box) and "This Westward" with Roy Willingham. His most recent exhibition "Ground Works" was held at APT Gallery, London, in October 2021. He was a co-founder and editor of The Illustrated Ape magazine, winner of the Creative Review Best in Book award. He is a former editor of Printmaking Today and remains a regular contributor. He was born on the Wirral and lives in London. Julia and Mike also published the artist's book Paper Trail with Roy Willingham in 2019. A Joy Forever: a walk out with John Keats by Julia Bird & Mike Sims - is out now from Paekakariki Press Lots more information here

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Simon Mawer

An Oxford trained biologist, Mawer’s writing career began in 1989 with the publication by Hamish Hamilton of his first novel, Chimera. This won the Society of Authors’ McKitterick Prize for first novels in 1990. Two more novels followed before Mendel's Dwarf was published in 1997. Described by the New Yorker as “furious, tender and wittily erudite” it reached the last ten of the Booker Prize and was a New York Times “Book to Remember” for 1998. The Gospel of Judas, The Fall (winner of the 2003 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature) and Swimming to Ithaca followed. In 2009 The Glass Room was published. The Guardian described this novel as “a thing of extraordinary beauty and symmetry” while the Washington Post found it “eerily erotic and tremendously exciting”. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Wingate Prize, and was a bestseller in both the US and the UK. Following this, Trapeze (2012), his ninth novel was described by The Daily Telegraph as “an absorbing novel full of treachery, twilight and terror” while the New York Times said that the reader was “left dangling at the denouement in cliff-hanger purgatory, waiting for the sequel”. They guessed right—Tightrope, the sequel, came out 2015. Waterstones Novel of the Month in March 2016, it won the 2016 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Prague Spring followed in 2018 on the 50th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. And in July 2022 his twelfth novel, Ancestry, was published. Ancestry is many things – a historical novel, set largely in the nineteenth century, but also a reflection on the nature of fiction, imagination and memory.


Michael O'Rourke

Michael O'Rourke is a local therapist who works with members of the LGBTQ+ community and is interested in the part queer literature has played in shaping cultural identity for the community.  Michael is taking his PhD in Expressive Writing as a Therapeutic Tool for Gay Men and is interested in exploring how 'masculinities' help form identity and the part queer literature, from Oscar Wilde to Jean Genet to Armistead Maupin play in queer representation. Michael is the Clinical Manager of Brighton Therapy Centre - a charity providing therapy to hard-to-reach communities including LGBTQ+ and refugee clients.  He also has a private practice in Hastings where he has lived with his partner and two dogs for six years.


Dr Jonathan Garabette

Dr Jonathan Garabette is a Consultant Psychiatrist working privately. He was previously a consultant psychiatrist at Broadmoor High security Psychiatric Hospital. Jonathan originally trained as a neurologist and received a first-class degree in neuroscience before training in medicine. Once a psychiatrist, Dr Garabette underwent further training to become a psychotherapist, allowing him to fulfil his lifelong wish to provide individualised care. Dr Jonathan Garabette and Jane Haynes PHD became involved in this event through their shared passion for literature, Proust and the belief that in certain situations, recommending a resonating book or poem can be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.

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