Philip Ardagh is two metres tall with a ridiculously big, bushy beard and size sixteen feet, making him an instantly recognisable figure at literary festivals around the world.
The Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning author is the author of The Grunts illustrated by Axel Scheffler and non-fiction series National Trust: The Secret Diary series which is illustrated by Jamie Littler and includes the titles John Drawbridge: Medieval Knight in Training, Jane Pinny Victorian House Maid & Thomas Snoop Tudor Boy Spy. He is probably best known for his Grubtown Tales, but he is author of over 100 books.
He is a festival regular, appearing at literary events and schools across the country.
Philip was born in Kent and christened in St Paul’s Cathedral. He studied copywriting in Watford, and then went to work in advertising before becoming a library assistant in Lewisham.
Philip now lives in Kent with his wife and teenage son.
The Bookshop Band are the musical offspring of an artistic love-affair between a group of award-winning songwriters and an independent bookshop in the UK, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. The songs are the musical outpouring of the band’s own response to books they have read. As the band’s Ben Please explains: ‘A great book intensely fires your imagination over the time it takes to read it. You are living the life of that character or exploring a time or place you’ve never been to before. As we turn to write, trying to evoke what it was about the book that most resonated with us, what emerges are highly personal songs but from new points of view, inevitably influenced by the different perspectives experienced whilst reading the book.’
The band formed in September 2010, releasing their first album in December that year. They have since released 13 albums each exploring a different theme in their responses to over 100 author’s books. They have toured extensively around the UK and abroad, from bookshops to festival main-stages, and have been commissioned by BBC Radio 3, The V&A Museum, The National Portrait Gallery and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, most recently writing two songs for the launch of Philip Pullman’s The Book Of Dust.
They are currently working with The V&A Museum on a musical series of banned books. Between them Beth Porter and Ben Please bring the books to the stage along with a multitude of instruments, including cello, harmonium, glockenspiel, guitars and ukuleles which, along with their distinct voices, create a cinematic sound that draws the audience right in to a highly intimate performance, at once touching and mesmerizing, heart wrenching and funny.
Elizabeth grew up in a book-loving, story-telling family in Chester. Ever since visiting Haworth Parsonage at the age of 13 she has wanted to be a novelist, and has written numerous opening paragraphs in her time (ruining many a pristine notebook in the process).
Between 1998 and 2001 she read Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. On graduating, she married and moved to the Isle of Man, where she still lives with her husband and two children. Over the years she has plugged away at her writing, finally managing to get beyond the first few hundred words in order to complete Call of the Curlew, which was published in June 2018 by Doubleday.
Her hobbies include painting, playing the violin (lurking at the back of the second violins in the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra and miming the difficult bits) and most of all reading – preferably novels with a hint of the gothic.
Zoe Gilbert’s debut novel, Folk, was published by Bloomsbury earlier this year. She is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2014. Her work has appeared in anthologies from Comma, Cinnamon, Labello, and Pankhearst presses, and has been published in journals including The Stinging Fly, Mechanics’ Institute Review, Lighthouse, and the British Fantasy Society Journal.
In 2015 she appeared at the Beijing Bookworm Festival in China on behalf of the British Council and was commissioned by Microsoft to create a short story book. She chairs the Short Story Critique Group at Waterstones Piccadilly and co-hosts the Short Story Club at the Word Factory.
She is also the co-founder of London Lit Lab, providing creative writing courses for Londoners. She is working on a PhD in Fiction and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, focusing on the influence of folk tales on contemporary short stories.
She lives in Sydenham, London.
Thommie has performed poetry for as long as she can remember – age five, when her Catholic upbringing had her singing songs and writing poems about loving God, through to being 17 and the lamenting of actual or non-existing boyfriends, and on to her current status as a feminist, lover and mum.
A lecturer in creative writing, English and film at Bridgwater and Taunton College, Thommie helps run Hammer & Tongue in Bristol, staging monthly poetry nights, and works as a poetry editor with Burning Eye Books. She was named Bard of Bath in 2008.
Thommie receives regular commissions for her poetry, one of which – Moonbrella – she is bringing to Manx Litfest 2018.
Ben is one of the world’s leading contemporary storytellers, creating and performing work inspired by international fairytale, myth & epic. Renowned for his playful, physical and often challenging performances, he regularly plays stages as diverse as Soho Theatre, Kings Place, The British Museum, Rich Mix, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Barbican, Northern Stage, York Theatre Royal, and Cheltenham, Hay & Durham Literature Festivals. He has been a guest artist in over one hundred International Storytelling Festivals in 25 countries, and was the official storyteller with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble for 10 years.
Having been trained in mime, and in theatre direction at East 15, and apprenticed as an image-maker with Welfare State, Ben became the driving force behind the revisioning of storytelling as a contemporary performing art in the UK. He is a much sought after teacher and diretor of storytellers; Honorary Professor of Storytelling at the Arts University of Berlin (UDK); a Fringe First Award winner for his extraordinary show ‘Mr Sandmann’, and founder and Artistic Director of the legendary Crick Crack Club. In 2017 he was awarded a British Citizenship Award for the Arts, for his services to the artform. Ben’s graphic novel series, ‘MeZolith’, is published by Archaia-BOOM
Jonathan is a former merchant seaman, ice cream van driver and Perrier Award-nominated stand-up comedian. As an actor he’s appeared on TV and in movies.
As a writer he’s written for TV and radio, but is best known for being the author of over 30 books for children and in particular his best-selling, award-winning series, The World Of Norm, which has so far been translated into 16 languages worldwide.
Jonathan’s hugely entertaining live performances ensure that he’s in constant demand at schools and book festivals throughout the UK and beyond.
(Photograph: Chris Close)
Before writing her first novel, Birdie dabbled in the theatre, sold books at Waterstones, ran drama classes for children, and dispensed romantic advice to internet daters. She studied at two universities cunningly disguised as stately homes, taking a BA in Creative and Professional Writing at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, and gaining first-class degrees in between looking for secret passageways and dodging peacocks. Birdie won the 2015 United Agents Prize for Most Promising Writing for Young People.
Birdie is pro-body positivity and anti-bullying, and believes in kindness above all things. She lives in Surrey, where she writes despite the best interruptive efforts of her pets, Ziggy Starcat and Moppet the Wonder Dog. Her debut novel, BOY MEETS HAMSTER, was published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2018
The 2015-2017 UK Children’s Laureate, Chris is an accomplished artist and the political cartoonist for the Observer. He has enjoyed great acclaim for his books for children, which have won a number of major prizes, including the 2001, 2004 and 2016 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medals.
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse won the Costa Children’s Book Award 2013. His work for Macmillan also includes the bestselling Ottoline books, The Emperor of Absurdia, and, with Paul Stewart, the Muddle Earth books, the Scavenger series and the Blobheads series. Chris lives in Brighton with his family.
Jonathan Ruppin has worked in the UK book trade for 23 years, including 13 years at London's most famous bookshop, Foyles. He founded The Ruppin Agency in 2017, with the aim of promoting writers from underrepresented communities.
He has judged a dozen literary awards, including the Costa Novel Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and Desmond Elliott Award. He has interviewed hundreds of authors in print and on stage, and his journalism encompasses television, radio and print. He sits on English PEN's Writers in Translation committee; he founded and runs the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club.
Rona Halsall was a management consultant for twenty years, spending most of her time writing strategies, business plans and grant applications, before dedicating herself to creative writing full-time. Her writing skills have been honed by reading voraciously, as well as undertaking an open university creative writing course.
Rona is a keen book reviewer and belongs to a number of online book and writing groups. She has three grown-up children, and two step-children and she lives on the Isle of Man with her husband. Her first book, Guilty Little Secrets will be published by Bookouture in August 2018.
Pouring honey into your ears and radiating charm, Louise Jordan fascinates and entertains, mixing hope with heartbreak through her acute observations of the everyday and extraordinary. Fuelled by an untamed spirit, Louise Jordan’s music is authentic and timeless, underpinned by an unassuming natural elegance that places simple honesty alongside bold imagination.
Self-accompanied on piano and guitar Louise Jordan is every ounce the quintessential independent artist. With five recordings, eleven UK and three European tours under her belt Louise Jordan is just getting started.
Louise is a Creative Lab Associate to the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth.
Jennifer, a descendant of Illiam Dhone's father, is a senior research fellow with the University of Liverpool. She was born in the Isle of Man, and was once a language tutor to the Thai royal family. She is fluent in Manx Gaelic and at least seven other languages.
She is the author of llliam Dhone, Traitor or Patriot? (Profiles, UK); Lusitania: Tragedy or War Crime? (Peter Owen, UK); Princess Mary Rose (STA books, UK). Jennifer is currently working on a life of Lady Derby (Charlotte de la Tremoille, factual biography); a fact-based fictional account of a female deportee to Jamaica from the Island in 1698; and translating fictional blockbusters from Scandinavian.