Get yourself lost in literature - you’ll love it

ORGANISER Dominic Kippin. Picture: Paul Jacobs (13353-1)
ORGANISER Dominic Kippin. Picture: Paul Jacobs (13353-1)
Forest School Leaders Dawn White and Sue Evans with their pupils outside the school

Picture: Habibur Rahman (180146-338)

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The extraordinary literary heritage of the city is being used as inspiration for writers of the future.

Dominic Kippin, literature development officer at Portsmouth City Council, is encouraging the public’s love of books, reading and story-telling, with a year-long extravaganza of literature.

Spurred on by the success of the city’s Dickens 2012 celebrations and last October’s Bookfest, Dominic has added several new and exciting strands to the mix – including the city’s first book prize – under the title of Portsmouth: Home of Great Writing.

It’s all happening in the year Dickens’ statue is due to be unveiled.

Dominic said: ‘Everyone has a story to tell and every one is as valid as the next one – whether you love reading a book at bedtime, gossiping over the garden fence or talking about your days in the dockyard down the pub.

‘Portsmouth has always been a city of great characters and great stories. Sherlock Holmes was conceived here, Charles Dickens was born here and every day some of the best tales are told here.

‘Portsmouth: Home of Great Writing is about getting everybody in the city reading, writing and sharing stories.’

The ongoing Portsmouth Festival of Thought is attracting some of the country’s most interesting non-fiction writers to discuss their work.

Earliery this year Tony Juniper, former chief executive of Friends of the Earth, gave a talk discussing his latest book, What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?

And New York based writer and psychologist Maria Konnikova spoke about her latest book, How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.

There will be events throughout the year – some have exclusive free online tickets.

The next is Mark Rowlands who will talk about his passion for running and philosophy when he discusses his latest book Running with the Pack.

Born in Newport, Wales, he is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami and the author of a dozen books, including the critically acclaimed bestseller The Philosopher and the Wolf, a memoir of his relationship with his pet wolf.

He will appear at John Pounds Church, Old Portsmouth, on March 14, at 7pm.

And in April, through a partnership with Trinity Press, Dominic and his team will be giving away hundreds of copies of ML Stedman’s stunning debut novel The Light Between Oceans.

There will be events throughout May, such as art exhibitions and discussions, linked to the tragic story of Australian lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne.

Judges are now busy trying to put together a longlist for the inaugural First Fiction Award for debut novels with a first prize of £1,000.

Dominic added: ‘I’m always inspired by the enthusiasm for writing in this city.

‘When I first started by job back in 2010 probably the first thing I went to was the Portsmouth Book Awards.

‘The Kings Theatre was absolutely packed with children from junior and primary schools all chanting for their favourite books.

‘There was an award for reader of the year and the children were screaming their friends on. It was awesome to watch and I knew right from the start there is obviously a great love for books and reading in this city.’

To find out more follow Home of Great Writing on Twitter or go to


Entries are invited for The Portsmouth First Fiction Award 2013 from publishers.

The award aims to recognise and reward the best new fiction writing talent and has been created to build on the existing success of the Portsmouth Book Awards for children’s writing.

The winner, chosen by members of Portsmouth Library Service reading groups from a pre-selected shortlist will receive a £1,000 prize and will be promoted across the city.

The shortlist will be announced in May and the overall winner will be revealed at an event during Portsmouth BookFest on Saturday, October 19.

Popular fiction, literary fiction, graphic novels, crime and thrillers are all in the running for the prize.


Portsmouth BookFest is a book festival with something to appeal to everyone, organised by a partnership between Portsmouth City Council and The Hayling Island Bookshop.

The festivals in 2010 and 2011 were a great success with residents from Portsmouth and other areas across the south of England taking the opportunity to meet some exciting authors, including James Herbert, Andy McNabb and Deborah Moggach, author of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.


Portsmouth Thought is an ongoing festival of ideas celebrating the best in new non-fiction writing.

· Mark Rowlands – Running With the Pack; Thursday, March 14 at 7pm, John Pounds Church

· Leo Hollis – Cities Are Good For You: The Genius of Metropolis; Wednesday, April 24 at 7pm, Spinnaker Tower

· Rebecca Solnit – The Faraway Nearby; Wednesday, May 29 at 7pm, The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth

· Damian Barr – Maggie & Me - Wednesday, June 5 at 7pm. Venue to be confirmed.


Portsmouth Reads is the opportunity for the city to share the pleasure of a good book. In 2012 the council partnered with Vintage Books to give away 2,000 copies of Oliver Twist, as part of the celebration of the bicentenary of Charles Dickens birth.

This year it is ML Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans.