2017 Festival Programme

Printable 2017 Programme

Use the scrollbar next to each event to read more information.

Morning & Afternoon Evening
9th October
Geoff Pridmore ( T )
Not The Red Baron - One Pilot’s Love Story
7.30pm, Grove Building, £6

Robin Bowes died at the controls of his replica Red Baron Fokker Triplane during the National Trust’s centenary celebrations at Stourhead in 1995. Perhaps you were there and witnessed his bravery in avoiding the watching crowds.


‘It appears even at the last he sought to avoid persons on the ground at fatal risk to himself.’
Wiltshire Coroner

Geoff Pridmore, who came from Corsley on the Longleat Estate, did witness the crash and, through a later series of bizarre coincidences, got to know Robin’s family and friends. Their stories about Robin led him to research and write this biography. It is the story of the last of the great barnstormers who earned his living entirely from display flying. It is a story of determination, hope, love and loss which will appeal to everyone.

Geoff Pridmore is a writer, actor, film-maker and member of the Society of Authors. He grew up on the Longleat Estate and delighted in the history of rural Wiltshire. He studied method acting and wrote and performed the story of King Alfred which toured schools and theatres in southern England. He later graduated in journalism and is the author of Teach Yourself Journalism published by Hodder & Stoughton.

One pilot’s love story which will appeal to those fascinated by history, like a good love story and everyone who looks skyward at the sound of an aeroplane’s engine.
Geoff Pridmore
Mere Historical Society
Popham: A 16th Century lawyer who made good
with James Bradnock
10.30, Grove Building, RD

Mere Historical Society provides a programme of talks and visits throughout the year. Its informal morning talks are an opportunity for members or their guests to talk about a subject that interests them. This one tells the intriguing story of a 16th Century lawyer from Wellington, Somerset, and is given by James Bradnock, a long-time friend of the Mere Historical Society’s chairman.

Mere Historical Society
Philip Browne ( T )
The Unfortunate Captain Peirce and The Wreck of the Halsewell
7.30pm, Grove Building, £6

'Never did happen so complete a wreck.’ Rev.M.Jones, Vicar of Worth Matravers. 6th Jan. 1786

The story of an eighteenth century mariner, Richard Peirce, who rose to command the East India Company’s ship, the Halsewell.

In 1786 he was the oldest of the company’s captains and planning retirement after one last voyage in the Halsewell to Bengal.

But his plans, and those of his daughters sailing to India with him, came to naught when the ship foundered on rocks off the Dorset coast in a ferocious storm with the loss of many lives.

It was a tragedy that caught the public imagination – much as the Titanic would in later years – and the wreck inspired writers and artists including J.M.W.Turner.

Some years later, Charles Dickens used the story for his novel, The Long Journey. Since then, however, it has been largely forgotten until this first biography of the unfortunate captain by Philip Browne published by Hobnob Press.

The book is attracting 5 star reviews and its author has spoken at a number of events including the Chalke Valley History and the Purbeck Literary festivals.

‘…a gripping story…’ ‘…impossible to put down…’

‘This book was a pleasure to read…I feel I have travelled the high and perilous seas to and from India and China from the comfort of my sofa.’.
Amazon Review
Philip Browne
10th October
Community Lunch
with talk by Sue Evans
12 Midday, The George Inn

The community lunch is now a popular feature of festival week. Join others for this informal get-together.

Over coffee, Sue Evans will give a talk on compiling the Merely a Festival book.

2 course Lunch £ 9.95. Book with venue on 01747 860427
Community Lunch
Pennybank Writers
at the Mothers’ Union
3pm, The Grove Building

PennyBank Writers – the Mere & District Writing Group – entertain at the October meeting of the local Mothers’ Union.

Using Mere, its environs, history and its people as their focus, they will present a programme of poetry and prose chosen to amuse and inspire.

The programme will include both published and original work.

Mere MU extend an open invitation to this event. The PennyBank Writers’ programme begins at 3p.m. and all are welcome to attend.
Pennybank Writers
11th October
Joyce Lewis
...And The Rains Came
2.30pm, Grove Building, RD

Joyce Lewis gained a degree in chemistry and was working in a research unit in Cardiff when she met her future husband. As a married couple they volunteered for overseas work with the BMS World Mission and were directed to East Pakistan which later gained independence as Bangladesh.

Having grown up in WW2, Joyce had learnt to ‘make do’ in many areas and rose to the challenge of working and ‘making do’ in one of the world’s poorest regions. She and her husband experienced the turbulent times which beset the country they called home for three decades.

Joyce had not thought of writing a book until urged to do so by her daughters following the death of her husband. The result was …And the Rains Came published this year.

A story of service and dedication in one of the world’s poorest countries.
BMS Logo
Not Just Gertrude Jekyll
with Christine Stones
Hosted by Mere Gardening Club
7.30pm, Grove Building, RD

Stones worked for the BBC as a producer and presenter before turning to the academic world. She gained a Master’s Degree with Commendation in Garden History from Bristol University and has visited and recorded over 160 gardens in the UK, Europe and South America.

She gives talks on a wide range of garden history topics and tonight tells the stories of women who have influenced garden design.
Christine Stones
12th October
Rachel Crowther
Every Secret Thing
2.30pm, Grove Building, RD

A novel of friendship forged by the power of music, a story of betrayal and second chances.

The compelling story of five friends who meet at university when all join the college choir. But their fragile group is torn asunder when they travel to the Lake District to celebrate their graduation. Twenty years later they are summoned back by a mysterious bequest.

Can past sins be forgiven? Can love be regained?

This is Rachel Crowther’s third novel published in June by Bonnier Zaffre and gaining rave reviews from critics and readers alike.

‘Every Secret Thing is perfectly crafted, brilliantly written and totally un-put-downable.’
Musicmum 5* Amazon Review

‘…there is a strong musical element in the book which I loved. I could imagine them singing together just as I could imagine the cottage in the Lakes.’ Nicola. Vine Voice.

Rachel Crowther qualified as a doctor and worked in the NHS for twenty years before succumbing to a lifelong yearning to write fiction, previously indulged during successive bouts of maternity leave. She has an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from Oxford Brookes, and a string of prizes for her short fiction.

Her first novel, The Partridge and the Pelican, was a Tatler ‘sizzling summer read’ and her second, The Things You Do For Love, was praised by Fay Weldon, ‘a delight of a read’ and by Juliet Nicholson, ‘the best kind of fiction’. She has spoken at a number of events including the Swindon Festival of Literature.

Rachel Crowther
Film Show ( T )
Their Finest
7.30pm, Lecture Hall, £6

Starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Richard E Grant, Jeremy Irons.

Presented by Mere Film Shows and Wiltshire Moviola.

In 1940, a married woman (Gemma Arterton) and a screenwriter (Sam Claflin) develop a growing attraction while working together on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France.
Film Show
13th October
Peter Tait
The Well Beloved - The Women in Thomas Hardy's Life and Fiction
2.30pm, Grove Building, RD

Thomas Hardy created some of the strongest and most vibrant women in literature:

Tess Durbeyfield *
Bathsheba Everdene *
Eustacia Vye * Sue Brideshead

Hardy’s advocacy for women marks him out as a leading feminist writer. His novels raised many social issues affecting women and highlighted the plight of their social status in the Victorian age. But in real life his relationships with real women were often confused and ambiguous.

His Mother, Two Wives, Lady Friends

Peter Tait’s book is published this Autumn by Sundial Press and his talk will focus equally on the actual women central to Hardy’s life and several of his fictional heroines.

Peter Tait was born and brought up in New Zealand. He gained a Masters Degree in History at Massey University and went on to teach in New Zealand and England. He moved to England in 1998 to become headmaster of Sherborne Preparatory School. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a long time devotee of the writings of Thomas Hardy. His two historical novels - Florence : Mistress of Max Gate and Emma: West of Wessex Girl - based on the lives of Hardy’s wives have been well received.


Peter Tait
An Evening with Brian
Freeland ( T )

Meanderings - A River and a Life
7.30pm, Grove Building, £6

A long and varied career touring the world with theatre companies is described in Brian Freeland’s humorous biography published this year.

‘Brian had us falling off our seats with laughter time and time again.’
R.Gregory, Eastbourne Herald.

He began his theatre career as a trainee manager at the London Palladium and then worked with many prestigious companies including the Royal Shakespeare, the National Theatre, Sadler’s Wells Ballet and Scottish Opera. His work varied from technician to director and from variety to grand opera. It took him to forty-three countries and twice around the world. He has also written play-scripts and pantomimes, stage adaptations and a screenplay.

Since his ‘retirement’ Brian is very much in demand as a speaker and performer. This year his appearances include the Charroux Literary Festival (France), Bewdley Book Week, theatres in Tavistock and Falmouth, and Mere.

‘Thanks for the great talk. From the reactions of your audience it was clear you very much hit the spot.’ D.Moore, Bristol N.T. Centre

A career in theatre and time spent living by the meandering River Charente in France come together in Brian Freeland’s biography.

Brian Freeland
Poetry Workshop
with Rosie Jackson
10am - 12, Grove Building, £10
Book with festival organiser on 01747 860475

First Lines and Last Lines -
A practical workshop to suit beginners and those with more experience.

Rosie Jackson is a widely published writer and prize-winning poet. Her recent successes include the Bath Short Poem, Battered Moon, Berkshire Arts Festival and the Cookham Festival Stanley Spencer competitions. Her first full collection, The Light Box, was published by Culture Llama last year.

‘Vivid, rich and fresh…a confident poet writing at the height of her powers.’
London Grip

Rosie has degrees from Warwick and York universities, has taught at the University of East Anglia and is a Hawthornden Fellow 2017. She is a member of The Poetry Society and runs the Frome Stanza Group.

‘Rosie’s workshops did more for me than the entire MA course.’
D.Gregory The Cornflake House

£10 inc. coffee
GROVE BUILDING, Registration 09.45a.m

Book early with festival organiser to secure your place on 01747 860475
Rosie Jackson
The Life of Edward Thomas
( T )

Readings by Mere Amateur Dramatic Society
7.30pm, Lecture Hall, £6

This year is the centennial anniversary of the death of WW1 poet, Edward Thomas, who was killed during the Battle of Arras in 1917. His gravestone in France bears the word Poet although he died unaware that he was recognized as such. Today his reputation as an English poet is secure and the centenary of his death marked with events and publications.

Edward Thomas loved Wiltshire and has a link to a Mere family so it is perhaps fitting that MADS should present this tribute which it first performed at MLF 2000 when members of the Edward Thomas Fellowship were in the audience.

‘…the Dramatic Society mounted a fascinating dramatized reading of Edward Thomas in Wiltshire, which in fact covered his life elsewhere, while keeping Wiltshire central to the performance…… All congratulations to the writer/compiler and the actors for such a successful evening.’
The Edward Thomas Fellowship Newsletter

MADS has its own 70th anniversary this year and in addition to annually presenting productions on the Lecture Hall stage, has been a constant and valued supporter of the Literary Festival.
The Life of Edward Thomas
14th October
Children's Event ( T ) with children's author Michael E Wills
2.15pm, Library, Free Ticket
Suitable 7-11yrs, Book Early.


Michael Wills is back by popular demand following last year’s successful event. This year children are invited on an Egyptian adventure and to travel back in time to the land of the pharaohs and the pyramids.

Michael Wills is a former teacher who has written several well reviewed historical novels for children. These include Children of the Chieftain Betrayed and Finns Fate.

listen to an exciting EGYPTIAN story and colour your own EGYPTIAN MASK to take home.
Michael E Wills
Poetry in the Grove
Reading of poems shortlisted for this year's poetry competition.
2.30pm, Grove Building, Free
Grove Building Interior
15th October
Award Ceremony
- for 2017 Poetry Competition
with poet Dawn Gorman
3pm, Lecture Hall, Free
Book Stalls from 2.30pm.

The awards for the 2017 Festival Poetry Competition will be the main focus of the final event of the 2017 Mere Literary Festival. Present at the ceremony will be senior judge Dawn Gorman, local section judge Jenny Wilding, and Junior Section judge Angela McDonald.

DAWN GORMAN is a poet and freelance editor who has proved popular at previous MLF events. She devises and runs arts events including the popular Bradford-on-Avon poetry reading series Words & Ears. She was a poet-in-residence at Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 and 2016, and at Greenhill Cottage Gallery in Southwick, Wiltshire, 2015-16. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment wrote a symphony based on her poem Replenishment, which was premiered at the Wiltshire Music Centre in 2015; her film poem, devised as the overture, appeared at Cannes Short Film Festival the same year. She is widely published in literary journals and anthologies, and her pamphlet This Meeting of Tracks was published in the Pushcart Prize-nominated four-poet book Mend & Hone in 2013. Her website is www.dawngorman.co.uk.

At the ceremony, Dawn Gorman will also give a short reading of her work.

JENNY WILDING began her career as a teacher before a world tour changed her perspective and she took a university degree in Canada. She moved to the USA and gained her Doctorate in 1982. She took up a Fellowship at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge in 1986 where she carried out research into medieval books and was published. She has lived in Mere since retiring and is the curator of the award-winning Mere Museum and archivist to the Mere Historical Society and Mere Drama Society.

ANGELA McDONALD has a passion for genealogy and family history. She researched and wrote the history of the men of Mere who fell in WW1 and who are commemorated on the town war memorial. Entitled The Proudest Uniform the book is available to buy at Mere Museum.
Award Ceremony