Bobbie Coelho’s Ode to HULF 2019

photo of Bobbie Coelho holding up one of her books

Bobbie with her latest poetry collection, snapped at HULF 2018 by Angela Fitch

We always enjoy Bobbie Coelho‘s contribution to the Festival. As well as taking part in poetry events in the Methodist Chapel, she joins in our Outreach programme to Beaufort House, the care home in the village.

This programme sends poets into Beaufort House to read to those residents who are too frail to visit the main Festival. Beaufort House residents love hearing poetry read to them and are always moved by the poets’ words.

It’s very important to us at HULF to be as inclusive as we can, and we are very grateful to the poets who volunteer for the Outreach.

Bobbie also kindly made a special trip to Hawkesbury in between Festivals for a solo reading at Beaufort House, which the residents very much appreciated.

Bobbie’s Poetry Collections

cover of Finding the LightBobbie has now published three collections of poetry, Finding the Light, Reflecting the Light, and The Lesson. She started writing to help her come to terms with her diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. She also uses her poems to raise awareness of Parkinson’s. The beautiful covers and upbeat titles of her books reflect her positive attitude and determination, Her presence at the Festival inspires us all.

No surprises then that Bobbie’s review of this year’s Festival arrived in the form of a poem!


A Cotswold village, so pretty,
It would be a pity
To miss HULF while its around
Though its only on for one day

It is Debbie Young
Who organises the fun
I don’t know how she does it all in one day
I hear a lot of people say

There are books galore
To which are added plenty more!
On every subject under the sun
Get there quickly before it goes away.

Bobbie Coelho’s Children’s Stories

Bobbie’s latest children’s book

Bobbie also enjoys writing children’s stories, and since HULF 2019 has published her latest book for children, Blodwyn’s Baby. Bobbie whets our appetite for the new book as follows:

“Imagine if you will a large, red, very large and extremely grumpy dragon, called Blodwyn. While out walking one day, she finds a baby …………..human”!

What fun!

For More Information

Bobbie shares many of her poems on her website and her Facebook page. Here are the links so you can enjoy more of her work – and you’ll also find her books available to order online or from good bookshops.



Historical Crime Writer Susan Grossey Reflects on her First HULF

Susan Grossey, historical crime writer, shares her enthusiasm for her first ever Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest



Full disclosure: until I became e-friends with Debbie Young, I had never heard of Hawkesbury Upton – let alone its literature festival.

When Debbie started mentioning it, I realised that it was my chance to meet her in person and to attend a free book festival – which is a rare beast these days, with most such events charging upwards of £10 per session ticket.

I felt a bit bad about just turning up as a spectator and so I asked whether I would be any use as a speaker, thinking – arrogantly – that I would be doing a little festival something of a favour. Once I had been accepted and gathered into the HULF family, I quickly realised my mistake: this is a prestigious and well-attended event, and I was jolly lucky to make it onto the programme at all.

Susan, seated on the right, was part of the “inspired by the day job” panel, with AA Abbott, Wendy H Jones and Hugh Arthur. (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

The panel session in which I took part had as its theme “authors inspired by their day jobs”, and I found myself sitting alongside an accountant (AA Abbott), a former military nurse (Wendy H Jones) and a commodities trader (Hugh Arthur) – so with me as an anti-money laundering consultant, we were certainly an eclectic bunch. Oddly enough, we are all crime writers (that nurse can think up some dastardly murders…) – and money laundering has featured in books by each of us, so perhaps I am not quite the trail-blazer I had imagined myself to be!

What was common to the three panel sessions I attended – one as a participant and the other two in the audience – was the generosity and fair-mindedness of everyone concerned.

There was no grandstanding, no “I’ve got a three-book contract and you’re only a beginner”, and no barging into anyone else’s spotlight. The audience questions were sometimes predictable but often so thought-provoking that everyone fell silent for a few moments as the answer was considered – and I really like that evidence of true connection with, and deep interest in, the books under discussion.

The fabulous organisation of the HULF was quite something to behold, with locals obviously incredibly supportive of the initiative. The village has an impressive selection of suitable venues, including a brace of lovely chapels, and with a bespoke map and excellent signposting we were all dashing around with true purpose – with a packed programme, no-one wanted to miss a moment. The Wonderland Café was a marvel, and the volunteer-staffed bookshop gave all authors equal status and marvellously prompt payment. And there was even a professional photographer on hand, with a special deal for HULF authors dreaming of needing a head-shot for that Booker Prize publicity material.

Applications to feature in the HULF 2020 line-up will open on 1 September 2019 and I urge you to note the date in your diary: it’s an inspiring and invigorating day – and even if you don’t know anyone at the start of the day, I guarantee that by the end of it you will have made some firm friends.

The story so far… the first five in a planned series of seven Constable Sam Plank historical mystery novels.

Susan Grossey is the author of numerous non-fiction books about money laundering and – more thrillingly – the Sam Plank series of historical crime novels set in London in the 1820s. There are five already published, with the sixth due out in October 2019 and then one more to complete the series. After that, unable to contemplate life without a Regency constable, Susan has planned a series of five novels set in her home town of Cambridge, and narrated by a university “bulldog”.

Twitter: @ConstablePlank

2019 Keynote Address by Brad Borkan

Inviting Brad Borkan to be our keynote speaker was a masterstroke. Not only was his talk, Lessons Learned from the Early Antarctic Explorers, both fascinating and inspiring, he also gave an entertaining speech as part of the opening ceremony. Thanks to Brad for allowing us to reproduce it below. (The speech remains his copyright.)

“Books stimulate our brain, enliven our conversations, and enrich our soul”

Brad Borkan, keynote speaker for this year’s Festival

It is a great honour to be here today.  There is such an incredible array of talented authors and wonderful books here that it promises to be a fun and highly memorable event.

Special thanks to Debbie Young and her team who have brought this all together.

To prepare for coming here today, I read some of the books on display here.  I read Debbie’s book Best Murder in Show, about a murder that takes place in a village surprisingly like this one.  Debbie assures me that I will get out of here alive.

Currently I’m reading Wendy Jones’ wonderful book, Killer’s Crew, about a murder in Dundee.

Last night I had dinner with two other great crime and murder writers: David Penny and Rachel Amphlett.  Seems like there is a theme running through this of murder.

You’ll be pleased to know that my talk today about the early Antarctic explorers has no murders in it.  In fact, it is the absence of murders, sabotage, mayhem or even fistfights, among the men during multi-year Antarctic expeditions where survival took place in the most extreme and dangerous conditions, that makes the stories I will tell so remarkable.

There are books of many genres on display.  There is easily a year’s worth of reading here.  Maybe two years.

Why is reading important?

Well, I grew up in America, and have lived in the UK for the past 25 years.  In January 2019 I received UK citizenship so now I have a foot in both countries, and for me, reading is a great escape from the politics in the US and UK.  It doesn’t matter what side of any debate you are on, reading is great escape from the turmoil.  Or, if you enjoy the turmoil, then reading is a great way to learn more about the present situation.

Books transport you.  They can transport you back to historical times like the books of David Penny or my book about early Antarctic exploration.  They can focus on the present, and they can transport you 10, 20 even 50 years into the future as some of the books on display here do.

But reading is different than television and film.  And I love TV and I love films, but what is remarkable about reading a book is each person has their own unique interpretation of what they are reading.

Books stimulate our brain, enliven our conversations, and enrich our soul.  They do this in a way that films and television cannot.

I’m sure you’ve all seen Star Wars movies.  If I said to you, “3CPO – the gold-plated robot,” you would all conjure up in your mind what 3CPO looks like and you would all have the exact same image.  But if none of us had ever seen a Star Wars movie and we read about it in a book, we would each have a different view of what 3CPO looked like – influenced by our own experiences and imagination.

Books also transport us across continents.  There are books here set in New Zealand, the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, even Antarctica, and they enable you to experience the world without ever leaving the comfort of Hawkesbury Upton.

Books also make great gifts.  Right here you can buy books as presents for birthdays, anniversaries, Father’s Day coming up in June, and Christmas.  Everyone enjoys receiving books, and especially ones signed by the author, and endorsed specifically for your friend or relative.  When November and December come around, and everyone is scrambling to buy Christmas presents, you can sit back, relax and say, “I did all my Christmas shopping in April, at the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival”.

Lastly, I’d encourage all of you to chat to the authors.  Every author I know loves talking with readers.  As authors, we are great readers ourselves.  The initial motivation for an author to start writing is, having read many books, thinking, “I can do better,” or “I see a gap in the market,” or “I have a story to tell that no one else can write.”  Engage the authors and engage each other.  Make new friends.

Brad Borkan with Debbie Young, Festival Director (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

And if you had dreams of writing your own book, talk with us.  All authors love to talk about the writing and publishing process and are happy to share their experiences and knowledge.

I’d just like to wrap by saying it is absolutely thrilling to be here.  Special thanks again to Debbie Young and her team for bringing this wonderful event together.

I’d like to now declare the 2019 Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival is officially open.

And here’s what Brad said after the event:

HULF was incredible.  You assembled a truly remarkable wealth of writing talent and friendly people.  Speaking at it is one of the highlights of my author career that I will always cherish.  Thank you for inviting me.

cover of When Your Life Depends On It

“A remarkable book” – Sir Ranulph Fiennes

For more information about Brad Borkan’s book, co-authored with David Hirzel, When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic, visit his website: You’ll find him on Twitter at @PolarDecisions.