Forgotten children’s author remembered at town’s literary festival

Nigel Glossop, curator of the Percy F Westerman exhibition in the newly refurbished Havant Library'''Picture: Allan Hutchings (132700-958)
Nigel Glossop, curator of the Percy F Westerman exhibition in the newly refurbished Havant Library'''Picture: Allan Hutchings (132700-958)
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TALES of adventure and derring-do are at the heart of an exhibition which has helped kick off Havant Literary Festival.

Almost two weeks of literature, talks, art, theatre, poetry – and even ghost walks – will be taking place at venues across the borough.

The first is a fascinating exhibition on one of Portsmouth’s greatest but little-known children’s writers.

Percy F Westerman was born in the city in 1876 and lived there with his family until he was 34.

He wrote more than 170 adventure books which particularly appealed to boys and were seen at the time as a rival to the Biggles books.

Now he has been remembered in Ripping Yarns, at Havant Library, curated by life-long fan Nigel Gossop, as part of the literary festival.

Mr Gossop, from Drayton, said: ‘This exhibition is a result of a misspent retirement. I’ve been researching Percy Westerman for about 20 years. I retired from teaching last year and it meant I could throw myself into it a littler bit further.

‘The exhibition is full of nostalgia, the art work on the book covers especially so.’

Ripping Yarns runs until October 11 and, next Wednesday, a silent film of one of his books, The Haunted Harbour, will be shown at the Meridian Centre, West Street, from 11am.

Meanwhile, blue plaques have been popping up around the town made by creative literary fans.

Tim Dawes, director of the festival, explained: ‘We’ve created some satirical, wooden, blue plaques which you will be able to spot as you walk round.

‘They celebrate the writers who have nothing to do with Havant.

‘There’s one at the railway station that says, “Arthur Conan-Doyle passed through this station many times. There is no evidence he ever got off.”

‘And there’s another one that says, “No famous authors are buried anywhere in Havant”.’

Another highlight is a play by festival founder Lucy Flannery on Sunday evening at Bosmere Junior School, South Street, Havant. Based on an Icelandic saga, A Viking Tale features a 12ft dragon. It is suitable for the whole family but may prove a bit too scary for under nines.

To find out more information about the festival, and to see the full programme of events, go to havantlitfest.org.uk.