It’s a tale of two literature festivals...

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This autumn sees not one but two big literary festivals pulling in top authors, poets, playwrights and musicians just a few miles apart in Portsmouth and Havant. Elise Brewerton looks at the highlights.

Would you like tips on city gardening? Or perhaps learn more about Portsmouth’s role in the Great War?

This year’s Portsmouth BookFest draws together a programme of literature with events to please all tastes – from historical fiction to children’s novels.

Now in its fifth year, the easily-accessible literary extravaganza begins on October 24.

And Portsmouth Library Service, in partnership with The Hayling Island Bookshop, has put together a stellar line-up of author events.

Green-fingered television presenter Alan Titchmarsh will make an appearance at Portsmouth Cathedral to give a talk on his new book The Queen’s Houses – a tour of the royal residences which includes interviews with royal staff.

Alan Titchmarsh who marks 50 years in gardening this year. 'See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Jonathan Buckley/Waitrose. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. EMN-140328-112753001

Alan Titchmarsh who marks 50 years in gardening this year. 'See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Jonathan Buckley/Waitrose. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. EMN-140328-112753001

The hugely popular CSI Portsmouth is back, with crime author Pauline Rowson heading a panel of police officers, forensic scientists and criminologists looking crime fiction.

And 2,000 copies of the late News columnist James Riordan’s novel, When the Guns Fall Silent, are being made available to library users as this year’s Big City Read.

The launch night will feature an introductory talk about Pompey Pals – the thousands of men from Portsmouth who formed the two Pompey Pals Battalions to fight in the Great War – as well as poetry and prose inspired by the First World War.

Lindy Elliott, library and archives services manager, said: ‘Portsmouth BookFest 2014 has something for everyone, including fun, family events for kids, enlightening historical discussions and expert advice.

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No Caption ABCDE SUS-140827-151822003

‘CSI Portsmouth also returns with popular authors and an array of experts from Hampshire Constabulary and the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies.

‘BookFest is by Portsmouth for Portsmouth. There is such a broad range of events for people of all ages, of all tastes.

‘We’re encouraging everyone to get their tickets early, either online starting September 29 or at their library and enjoy the range of authors and events.’

To book tickets go to portsmouthbookfest.co.uk, call (023) 9268 8037 or from Central, North End or Southsea Libraries.

Or call Hayling Island Bookshop on (023) 9246 6620.

‘A wonderfully diverse mix of books, poetry, theatre’

NOW in its seventh year, Havant Literary Festival continues to punch above its weight in terms of the heavyweight authors it attracts.

A small, dedicated team of volunteers have managed to entice top writers, musicians and thinkers.

And its reach is far beyond the town centre with events across the borough, in pubs, libraries and schools.

Tim Dawes, one of the founders, persuaded the often controversial author Will Self to Havant to read from and talk about his new book Shark, the sequel to Umbrella.

‘The festival is a wonderfully diverse mix of 70 book and poetry-related events over 10 days, covering theatre, spoken word, film, music, talks, walks and workshops in 17 different venues and locations across Havant and beyond,’ said Tim.

’We believe that this year the festival is presenting something for everyone.

‘Not just books – though we do have plenty of great authors and a book fair – but plays, stories, ghost walks, poetry, music, a grand ceilidh and a series of lectures on writing from the 18th century.

‘We were the first literary festival in the Hampshire and West Sussex region.

‘And we are still the biggest.

‘It’s everyone’s festival.

‘But it will only be successful if people come along and listen or getting involved

‘The partnership we now have with The Spring has added a new dimension to the festival this year.

‘Many events take place there, but we use 16 venues in all, including pubs, cafes, libraries and schools.’

Author, poet and musician Mike Harding will give a reading from his latest anthology, The Connemara Cantos, inspired by his home in the Irish countryside.

Patron Stella Duffy is back with a reading from her first short story collection, Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined.

The novelist fell in love with the festival in the first year and has been involved ever since.

After the huge success of the first two festivals its future was in doubt for a while.

But, after taking a step back and handing over the reins to other volunteers for a few years, Tim and co-founder, playwright Lucy Flannery, have put everything into making it bigger than it has ever been before.

The festival runs from October 3 to 12. Tickets for all the events are on sale now. To book, call into The Spring, go to thespring.co.uk or call (023) 9247 2700.

What’s on

Poems of Peace and War - a workshop by Joan McGavin at The Oyster Room, The Spring on Wednesday, October 8.

Day of the Dead II: All Hail the Darkness with Portsmouth Writers’ Hub at The Square Tower on Friday, October 31.

Gruffalo Tea Party at North End, Cosham and Southsea libraries. Meet the Gruffalo and hear stories. Tuesday, October 28.

Portsmouth First Fiction Award voting and awards ceremony at Portsmouth Central Library on Saturday, November 1.

Gottle of Gear! A ventriloquism workshop at The Bear Hotel, East Street, Havant on Sunday, October 5 from 2pm.

A half-day conference on ecologically inspired literature at Bosmere School, South Street on Sunday, October 12.

A half-day conference on ecologically inspired literature at Bosmere School, South Street on Sunday, October 12.