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TAL Festival Ltd

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Thame Arts & Literature Festival

Participate   Enjoy   Inspire

11th to 15th October 2017

Click Here to Book Tickets

Sunday PM

Dame Jenni Murray : A History of Britain in 21 Women

2.30pm : Spread Eagle : £9.00 (Concessions £8.00)

Britain has been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men, and its monarchs. To say that it’s high time that it was defined by its women falls some way short of an understatement.

Dame Jenni Murray draws together the lives 21 women to shed light upon a variety of social, political, religious and cultural aspects of British history. In lively prose Murray reinvigorates the stories behind the names we all know and reveals the fascinating tales behind those less familiar, ultimately producing a unique history of Britain that is as long-overdue as it is absorbing. From famous queens to forgotten visionaries, and from great artists to our most influential political actors, A History of Britain in 21 Women is a veritable feast of page-turning history.

A History of Britain in 21 Women will profile Boudicca, Aphra Behn, Elizabeth I (this chapter will also feature Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots), Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Constance Markievicz, Nancy Astor, Ada Lovelace, Caroline Herschel, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, Gwen John, Rosalind Franklin, Ethel Smyth, Margaret Thatcher, Nicola Sturgeon, Mary Quant, Barbara Castle and Mary Somerville

 ‘Ideal to press into the hands of young women studying politics and history.Independent

 ‘Celebrates the defiant spirit of Britain’s groundbreaking heroines…Entertaining.’  Daily Mail

Jenni Murray is a journalist and broadcaster who has presented BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour since 1987. She is the author of several books, including Memoirs of a Not So Dutiful Daughter.

Jenni will be in conversation with Charlie Lee-Potter, who is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. She co-presented PM for BBC radio 4 for 5 years and has presented almost all of the BBC’s flagship news programmes. She has reported for the Today programme and acted as foreign correspondent for the World at One. Charlie also presented Open Book for a number of years nd has judged the Nestle Children’s Book Prize

James Hamilton :  Gainsborough - A Portrait

4.00pm : Town Hall : £9.00 (Concessions £8.00)

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) lived as if electricity shot through his sinews and crackled at his finger ends. He was a gentle and empathetic family man, but had a volatility that could lead him to slash his paintings, and a loose libidinous way of speaking, writing and behaving that shocked many deeply. He would be dynamite in polite society today.

In this exhilarating new biography - the first in decades - James Hamilton reveals Gainsborough in his many contexts: the easy-going Suffolk lad, transported to the heights of fashion by a natural talent; the rake-on-the-make in London, learning his art in the shadow of Hogarth; falling on his feet when he married a duke's daughter with a handsome private income; the top society-portrait painter in Bath and London who earned huge sums by bringing the right people into his studio; the charming and amusing friend of George III and Queen Charlotte who nevertheless kept clear of the aristocratic embrace.

There has been much art history written about this chameleon of art, but with fresh insights into original sources, GAINSBOROUGH: A PORTRAIT transforms our understanding of this fascinating man, and enlightens the century that bore him.

James Hamilton is an art and cultural historian. His books include TURNER: A LIFE, FARADAY: THE LIFE, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and A STRANGE BUSINESS: MAKING ART AND MONEY IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN, which in 2014 was named Art Book of the Year by the SUNDAY TIMES.

Hamilton was until retirement in 2013 curator of art collections and projects in Portsmouth, Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds and the University of Birmingham, where he is a Fellow of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. He lives in Oxford and has lectured and broadcast in the UK, Europe and the US.

Henry Hemming : ‘M’ - Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster      

4.00pm : Players Theatre : £9.00 (Concessions £8.00)

Based on Henry Hemming’s critically acclaimed M, described by Ben Macintyre in The Times as ‘fascinating’, and by Max Hastings in The Sunday Times as ‘excellent’, this talk reveals the dramatic true story of a maverick MI5 officer who recruited two women in the 1930s to penetrate the British Communist movement. Their skilful, deft work led to the exposure of a Soviet spy-ring in the Woolwich Arsenal, a legendary court case in which one of M’s spies was hailed as ‘Britain’s counter-espionage heroine’.

Get to know MI5’s Maxwell Knight, better known as ‘M’ – a complex, conflicted character and an inspiration for the James Bond ‘M’ as well as John Le Carré’s Jack Brotherhood in A Perfect Spy; - Discover who among them would make the best spy (this part involves an interactive game); - Hear a 1930s song which almost scuppered one of M’s most delicate operations; - Learn about M’s remarkable undercover agent Olga Gray, a typist with a troubled past; - Find out the name of M’s second female agent, ‘M/2’, which has never before been revealed.

 ‘One of the highlights of the Chalke Valley History Festival 2017 was the talk by Henry Hemming on M. It was beautifully delivered and the feedback has been absolutely superb’ Chalke Valley History Festival


Tim Moore  :  The Cyclist who went out in the Cold

5.30pm : Christchurch : £9.00 (Concessions £8.00)

'Bill Bryson on two wheels'  Independent

Scaling a new peak of rash over-ambition, Tim Moore tackles the 9,000km route of the old Iron Curtain on a tiny-wheeled, two-geared East German shopping bike.

Asking for trouble and getting it, he sets off from the northernmost Norwegian-Russian border at the Arctic winter’s brutal height, bullying his plucky MIFA 900 through the endless and massively sub-zero desolation of snowbound Finland.

Sleeping in bank vaults, imperial palaces and unreconstructed Soviet youth hostels, battling vodka-breathed Russian hostility, Romanian landslides and a diet of dumplings, Moore and his ‘so-small bicycle’ are sustained by the kindness of reindeer farmers and Serbian rock gods, plus a shameful addiction to Magic Man energy drink.

Haunted throughout by the border detritus of watchtowers and rusted razor wire, Moore reflects on the curdling of the Communist dream, and the memories of a Cold War generation reared on the fear of apocalypse – at a time of ratcheting East-West tension.

After three months, 20 countries and a 58-degree jaunt up the centigrade scale, man and bike finally wobble up to a Black Sea beach in Bulgaria, older and wiser, but mainly older.

Jane Austen at Home - a one-woman play featuring only the words of Jane Austen

Devised and Directed by Stephen Siddall ; Producer -Jeremy Musson : Performed by Hannah Lee

7.00pm : Players Theatre : £9.00 (Concessions £8.00)

A lively and varied recital/performance, with engaging drawing-room intimacy, celebrating the life and mind and writings of one of our greatest novelists

The show was commissioned and devised - then first performed in May 2013 for the reopening of Moggerhanger, a fine John Soane house near Bedford.

It is a one-woman show, consisting entirely of Jane Austen’s words: it celebrates the variety and wit of her writings, with extracts from her memoirs, letters, juvenilia, poetry and novels, and takes us into the attitudes, imagination and sensations of those who lived in country houses and rectories in the early nineteenth century. We include much of her perceptive (often satirical) observation of the social life of the English county families. The extracts also capture her warm-heartedness and affection.

Stephen Siddall (Director) was Head of English at The Leys School Cambridge, He has directed for BBC 2 and 15 renaissance plays for the university and city at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Hannah Lee studied English at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, before training as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

The playing time is about 75 minutes plus a 20 minute interval and is the most appropriate way to bring Festival 2017 to an end.

It is a splendid notion that 200 years after her death, we still celebrate this wonderful woman’s prose at festivals and theatres across the country.

Click here to book Tickets

Photo by Luise Thomas

Photo by Ljeff Overs

Thame (Causton) The murder capital of Oxfordshire!!!! - Well so it would seem!! - Join Thame’s fully trained, expert tour guides as they take you on a walk around Thame’s fictional murder scenes!!

Meeting point - inside the museum

Starting time - 2.30pm

Dates - Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th October

Duration - approx. 1 hour

Cost - £7.50

Maximum number - 15 per tour


The walk visits some 20 filming locations starting with the museum itself, walking up and down the town centre and finishing outside the town hall.  The tour also includes historical facts about the town including the civil war, John Fothergill and the Spread Eagle, the prize-fighter James Figg, the 800 year old market, where Napoleonic prisoners were jailed and much more. 


The Annual Festival Quiz - Put your knowledge to the test and win, win, win - or at least have some fun while you try!!!

7.30pm : Barns Centre Large Hall : £5.00 per player (Teams of 6-8)

Just to get you in the mood - see how you do with these famous last lines :

(If you know any of these then come and join in - if you don’t - then neither did we until we looked them up!! )

Lots of fun with a quiz from the excellent Sue Boyle and her lovely team.



Having finally wrested the crown from the Oxfam Bookshop last year (amidst considerable jerrymandering!!), The TAL Admin team are happy to throw down the challenge to everyone. This is the ultimate expression of our motto :


Participate, Enjoy, Inspire

Serious Fun!!!

Answers : 1984, George Orwell : A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling : Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen