Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Could you organise a literary festival?


Sophie Neville opening the Tavistock Festival

Three million cheers for those organising the 15th Tavistock Music and Arts Festival. The prize-winning market town in Devon has been treated to fabulous concerts, exhibitions, dramatic and literary events every April and May for the last fifteen years, show-casing composers, musicians, artists and authors.


Christopher Kirwin, Chairman of the Festival, told listeners on BBC Radio Devon that it's a good thing he is retired as the festival takes a considerable amount of of his time but the rewards are many.


Sophie Neville with the Chairman of the Tavistock Festival 2018

I was thrilled to be invited to talk about my book on 'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)' and meet those who love the original film after it was screened at The Wharf Cinema where we held a Q&A. For further details on what we got up to, please click here.


We were so grateful for media coverage and the support of enthusiastic audiences. It was a real opportunity to meet readers and those working in the Tavistock Library who hosted some of the workshops and events that visitors to Dartmoor and those who live in the west country were taking part in. The Tavistock Festival continues until 5th May and will hopefully be held again next year. Please click here for the online brochure.

Last night, at the Bedford Hotel, was the opening of the Alan Bennett Play Readings, with Supper. It was a sell-out. Two monologues from 'Talking Heads' were performed, as ostaged, rehearsed, readings, with costume, furniture and musical accompaniment by the brilliant Peggy Salmon. They were very funny and also very moving! The readings are happening again tonight, at the Old Chapel, Calstock. 

The final chance to watch and listen to these beautifully performed readings, by members of The Tavonians Theatre Company, will be on Saturday May 5th at The Bedford Hotel, at 7.00pm for 7.30pm. This will also be the venue for the Arthur Ransome Writing Competition prize giving.

On Friday 4th of May, Peter Cigleris, accompanied by Martin Cousin (pianoforte) will be giving a clarinet presentation, at St Eustachius' Tavistock's Parish Church, Bedford Square.

On Bank Holiday Monday, also in the church, there will be a day-long Choral Workshop, directed by Julian Jensen, followed by tea, at the Bedford Hotel (£10). The Work-Shop presentation, is at 6.00pm, which is followed by a retiring collection. For further details of the work-shop please contact Julian Jensen on 01822 813162 or email music@mountkelly.com after 6.00pm.  At 7.30pm that evening, there will be a 'Battle of the Bands' - music from local youth musicians, at The Wharf, Arts Centre. For more details, about this, please also contact Julian Jensen (see above). Tickets: £5 (students £2).

Could you organise a festival in your home town? It could make a difference and uplift the lives of many.





Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The Quay Book Club completes the Schoolreaders Book Club Challenge!

Author Sophie Neville advocating Schoolreaders' Book Club Challenge

The Quay Book Club in Lymington have just completed the Schoolreaders' quiz.
It was fun!


The questions were unusual and had us thinking.


Everyone was did well on 'Famous First Words',


we were a little flummoxed when it came to 'Children's Books',


but questions on 'Bookselling and Reading' were interesting. 


The quiz made for a fulfilling evening and we were all very glad to support such a good cause.

Schoolreaders book club challenge

To find out more about the Book Club Challenge please click here.



​Schoolreaders is an organisation that aims to help children improve their literacy by providing volunteers to listen to children read in schools with the support of organisations including WI, U3A, Inner Wheel and Age UK.

​What do we do?
We match reading volunteers with local primary schools to listen to children read in schools on a 1-1 basis. 
This is a free service for both the school and volunteer.

Where are we?

We launched in Bedfordshire in 2013 and are open to applications throughout the UK.

For Schools
Over 500 schools have joined the scheme. If you are a state school and would like to join the scheme then please click here. 

For Volunteers
Over 1,200 volunteers have joined the scheme. If you have a little free time to give on a regular basis and would be interested in joining the scheme, then please click here.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

Do you have a Book Club?


The UK charity Schoolreaders is challenging members of Book Clubs to take part in a quiz anytime between 1st March and 24th May 2018

Did you know that in 2017 one in four children aged 11 failed to reach the government’s required reading standards?
​This can have lifelong consequences.

Schoolreaders helps to address this problem by finding volunteers to read one-to-one with children in primary schools, at no cost to the school. It costs Schoolreaders an average of just £15 to provide reading support to one child for a whole academic year.

By taking part in the Book Club Quiz Challenge you will be helping Schoolreaders to reach many more children this year.



My own Book Club is taking part.


I sent off to the information pack, which can be requested here

If you have any questions, email office@schoolreaders.org, or telephone 01234 924222


The pack includes some wonderful bookmarks and postcards.

If you are interested, let them know on Facebook here


One of our Book Club members immediately volunteered to become a school readers, helping children learn to read in a local school of her choice.

You can see how our book club got on with the quiz here.



Monday, 11 December 2017

A feature article in Living magazine


Sophie Neville was invited to write an article for the December issue of Living magazine about the locations featured in Arthur Ransome's series of Swallows and Amazons books. As the British Author died fifty years ago, it seemed a fitting way to remember the places he loved and wrote about, inspiring generation after generation to get out on the water and experience life in the great outdoors.


The idea was to encourage readers to spend time searching for literary locations in the English Lake District. It's a great theme for a holiday if you are travelling alone or with your family, as featured in the pages of Sophie's memoir, 'Funnily Enough' when she went boating on Windermere and Coniston with her father.

The Arthur Ransome Society is now the second biggest literary society in the UK, perhaps partly because it attracts families who like to take part in activities such as camping, sailing, swimming, birdwatching, photography, archery, skating and tobogganing. They offer grants for young members in search of adventure or taking up interests advocated by the author such playing chess or tying fishing flies. There is also a research grant and any number of interesting opportunities for adult members.

You can read the article on-line here


Monday, 6 November 2017

A signed copy of 'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)'



The Nancy Blackettt Trust launched a competition to win a signed copy of Sophie Neville's often hilarious account of making the movie 'Swallows and Amazons' on location in the Lake District in 1974. 

It was won by a lady working as a librarian who happened to be visiting some of the film locations featured in the book the very next week. 

Please visit the Nancy Blackett website for other book offers.  

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Further adventures of the Donny Osmond Hat


It is still shiny. The purple velvet cap, bought in Carnaby Street in the late sixties, had a little outing recently, making an appearance on the local 6 O'clock News.

'Where did you get that hat?' I was asked.

'It's my mother's!'

I had to plough through our family snaps in an effort to date it. Here it is on a car-ferry with us in tow. Note Mum's brown suede coat with large rounded collars. She always worried about it getting spoilt in the rain. As children, we wore more resiliant anoraks or duffel coats with mittens attached to the sleeves. Turn your head and all you saw with the inside of the duffel's hood


We must have been off to the Channel Islands. What date? 1969? 1970? I would have been nine years old, wearing what we called a 'parker' - a prototype hoody made of pale grey cotton with someone's logo printed to the front.


Mum was working for HTV as a television presenter, making a special programme on Jersey when hired a sports car and zoomed around the harbour.


We visited Gerald Durrell's zoo.



My mother bought the hat in an effort to look glamourous when there was no hairdresser at hand. She said it was very expensive but acquired at a good price because there was a slight flaw in the velvet. Here we are at a wedding, Mum in white tights and the three of us in itchy crimplene dresses and straw bonnets.


It can be seen here matched with frothier dress, what must have been a fore-runner to Laura Ashley's designs with lacy bits, frilly cuffs and a pie-crust collar.


Was this the same hat, far right, on the set of the HTV drama series 'Arthur of the Britons'? I wore brown cordory and Mum her safari jacket. My sister was in Saxon costume, standing by to appear in the arms of Oliver Tobias who was playing King Arthur.


I wear the cap now when skies are grey or when I'm sailing. It is comfortable and remarkably good in all weathers. It never complains. How old it is now? 47 years? 48? The label says, 'MALYARD HATS LONDON W1. Chris Holmes has written in to say it was probably designed by the leading London hatter and milliner George Malyard whose work is listed in the Archive of Art and Design at the V&A Museum. You can see photographs of other hats made in 1969 here and here

I hope it's not too precious to wear sailing.

~Author Sophie Neville on the Solway~



Monday, 11 September 2017

Rudi the Otter at the Royal County of Berkshire Show near Newbury


Funnily Enough life with the tame otters is more exciting than ever.

Rudi the Otter appeared at The Royal County of Berkshire Show near Newbury this September and will be at
Countryside Learning 2018 (formally known as Countryside Live) by the River Lee on Hackney Marshes in North London from Wedenesday 27th September until Sunday 1st October

You can see more photos and read more about Rudi and his campaign to reduce road casualties in this months issue of Out & About magazine here

To read more about our tame otter appearing in the drama serial 'The Durrells' on ITV please click here


photo (c) Out & About magazine 2017