Category Archives: HULF Talks

logo block for April 2023 event

HULF TALK: Festival of Words

Saturday 22nd April (10.30am-5pm)

The first HULF Talk of 2023 will be a new departure for us: an all-day event at the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Hawkesbury, situated in the delightful ancient hamlet just down the hill from Farm Pool, Hawkesbury Upton.

All profits from the day will be donated to the Friends of St Mary’s, which exists to maintain this beautiful part of our local heritage for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

The event will be provide a wonderful assortment of talks and readings to celebrate the rich delights of English language and literature, including:

  • The Language of Bells
    A talk by Tower Captain Colin Dixon with readings
    by Bill Fairney, Michael Macmahon & Debbie Young
  • Jargon in Fiction
    1) School Story Slang
    A talk by Debbie Young
    2) Pugs, Bruisers & the Fancy: The Language of Pugilism
    A talk by Lucienne Boyce
  • Cracking Codes in the Second World War
    1) The Enigma Machine – A talk byBill Fairney
    2) The Colditz Code – A talk by Ian Macfadyen
  • Utter Nonsense!Jabberwocky and other nonsense verse
    Readings and interpretations by Gerard Boyce
  • Putting Words in Other People’s Mouths
    A talk about the challenges of ghostwriting by professional ghostwriter John Lynch
  • How New Words Are Chosen for the Dictionary
    A talk by professional lexicographer Jennifer Hurd, from the Oxford English Dictionary
  • How Tyndale Enriched the English Language
    A talk tb Lisa Overton about William Tyndale, as influential as Shakespeare in the development of English
  • Lost in Translations
    A talk by Gerard Boyce with readings from Brian Friel’s play Translations
  • Setting Words to Music
    A conversation about lyrics with Ben Humphries, Music Director of Badminton Benefice
  • Ancient or Modern
    1) Gadzookery or OK? – A conversation about historical novels with historical novelists Lucienne Boyce & Jean Burnett
    2) Trespasses or Sins? – A conversation about the language of the liturgy with Rev Richard Thomson & Rev Trevor Stubbs
  • The Old Testament – Word of God or History Book?
    A talk by Tina Stubbs, author of Disowning the Violence
  • Brevity as the Soul or Wit
    Clever quotes & memorable mottos with Michael Macmahon
  • A calligraphy exhibition of pieces celebrating words and language

Chairing the afternoon will be HULF Director and local author Debbie Young.


As ever, tea, coffee, cake and biscuits will be included in the ticket price of £5 per head.

There will be a one-hour break for lunch when guests are welcome to picnic in the church and its grounds, and to enjoy the calligraphy exhibition.

An optional sit-down lunch of home-made quiche, salad, and fruit, served in the historic setting of the ancient Malthouse opposite the church, by kind courtesy of Lisa and Christopher Overton, will be bookable in advance for £10 per head. Wine and soft drinks will be available to buy on the day for a small extra charge. With just 30 seats available, early booking is advised.


There will be ample free on-site parking in the adjacent field on the day.

Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival is a series of not-for-profit book-related events run by Debbie Young. This is a HULF Mini event. For more information about HULF, please visit

Our stunning venue: St Mary the Virgin, Hawkesbury – photo by Sir Ian Macfadyen

NEXT HULF TALK: The World at War – Saturday 29th October 2022

Join us on Saturday 29th October, 2-5pm, in the Bethesda Chapel, Park Street, Hawkesbury Upton for a fascinating and moving afternoon of talks about the impact of World War, with guest speakers from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Ukraine, plus five authors of fiction and non-fiction inspired and informed by the First and Second World Wars, in the run-up to Remembrance Day.

The ticket price of £5 includes coffee, tea, cakes and biscuits, plus a £2 discount voucher valid against a book bought at the event.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Capacity of our beautiful historic venue is limited, so advance booking is essential to avoid disappointment.


This event is kindly sponsored by Hawkesbury Parish News

The Programme & Speakers

The keynote address on the impact of World War will be made by Simon Bendry, now Head of Education and Engagement at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Bringing our conversation into the 21st century, Svitlana Rotayenko, who works for NATO, will speak on the context and effect of the current war in her home country, Ukraine.

Lucienne Boyce, author of The Bristol Suffragettes, will answer the question “To what extent did the First World War play a part in bringing universal suffrage to women in the UK?”

Nigel Messenger, who has done extensive voluntary work with the Royal British Legion, will talk about his fact-based novel, The MichMash Miracles, set in two different eras, about an extraordinary case of First World War battle won using techniques learned from an Old Testament story.

Also blending fact with fiction, Hawkesbury author Will Fenn (aka Bill Fairney), will talk about the inspiration for his novel Uncle Walter’s Secret, a story of espionage.

Addressing the impact of the Second World War on civilians, and in particular on women, will be two best-selling historical novelists, Clare Flynn, whose The Chalky Sea is set in Eastbourne, and Lizzie Lane, whose Tobacco Girls series features workers at the famous Wills tobacco factory in Bristol.

There will follow ample time for questions for the audience, after which the authors will be pleased to sign and sell copies of books and to chat informally to members of the audience over coffee and cake.


Find Your Next Favourite Holiday Read at Our Next HULF Talk (25th June)

Whether or not you’re planning to go away on holiday this summer, our next HULF Talk on 25th June will make you feel like you’ve travelled the world, as our three guest authors taking us through the pages of their novels to an A-Z of colourful destinations, from A(msterdam) to Z(anzibar).

Carol Cooper already had a string of non-fiction books to her name before turning to writing novels with vibrant settings and characters who don’t always do what they should. In her latest book, The Girls from Alexandria, Carol draws on her childhood in Egypt to recreate the bygone world of cosmopolitan Alexandria. 

Kate Frost is the author of several bestselling romantic escape novels including The Baobab Beach RetreatThe Greek Heart and The Amsterdam Affair. In 2021, she signed a six-book deal with Boldwood and has continued to write escapist fiction for them. One Greek Summer was published in March and An Italian Dream will be out on the 7th July. 

Helena Halme writes Nordic fiction with a hint of both Romance and Noir. Her latest series, Love on the Island, is set on the quirky and serenely beautiful Aland Islands, which lie in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden.

Tickets are now on sale via Eventbrite booking form here.

Tickets are limited to just 60, so book early to avoid disappointment!

Photos & Transcripts from April HULF Talk on Crime Writing & Order Form for Tickets for June Talk on Holiday Reads

We’re pleased to announce that tickets are now on sale for our next HULF Talk on Holiday Reads on Saturday 25th June, when Debbie Young will be chairing a panel of three guest authors, Carol Cooper, Kate Frost and Helena Halme, whose novels are set around the world from A(msterdam) to Z(anzibar)! Who better to help you find your next best holiday read?

More details to follow soon, but as always, our venue capacity is just 60, so book early to secure a ticket! Here is the booking form to order yours now via Eventbrite, or open this link in a new browser window:

Photos from HULF Talk on Crime Writing

In the meantime, here are some photos from our April HULF Talk on Crime, Mystery & Thriller writing with AA Abbott, Lucienne Boyce, Valerie Keogh and Debbie Young. Below the photos are links to read the transcripts of Lucienne and Debbie’s talks on aspects of the history of crime writing on their respective author websites.

We were grateful, as ever, to the Bethesda Chapel for use of their venue, and we thank the Hawkesbury Parish News for kindly sponsoring the venue hire costs for this event
The light and airy interior of the chapel makes it a pleasant and friendly setting
We always have a bit of fun with topical props to set the scene for our talks
From left to right, back row: Lucienne Boyce & Debbie Young, front row: Valerie Keogh & A A Abbott

Transcripts of Talks on Crime Writing

Follow the links below to read the talks by Lucienne Boyce and Debbie Young, who have now posted the transcripts on their websites:

The Victorian Origins of Crime Writing by Lucienne Boyce

Lucienne made a new friend at our April HULF Talk

NEXT HULF TALK: Crime, Thriller & Mystery – 30th April 2022

Join us on Saturday 30th April, 2-5pm, in the Bethesda Chapel, Park Street, Hawkesbury Upton for this entertaining new talk.


An entertaining afternoon of author talks, readings & discussions exploring the past, present & future of Crime, Thriller & Mystery books

Kindly sponsored by Hawkesbury Parish News

About this event

In the peaceful setting of Bethesda Chapel, spend a fascinating afternoon in the company of four authors of Crime, Thriller and Mystery novels.

Author and historian Lucienne Boyce will set the scene with a brief talk about the nine-teenth-century origins of the modern detective novel, including Wilkie Collins‘ trailblazing The Woman in White .

Debbie Young will provide insights into the Golden Age of Detective Fiction in the inter-war years, including Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie, who inspired her contemporary English village mysteries.

Fast forward to the present day, and A A Abbott and Valerie Keogh will discuss the development of the modern crime novel and the psychological thriller.

After the panel discussion of current trends and predictions for the future of this broad genre, there will be ample time for questions for the audience.

Once the formal part of the programme is over, the authors will be pleased to sign and sell copies of books and to chat informally to members of the audience over coffee and cake.

The ticket price of £5 includes coffee, tea, cakes and biscuits, plus a £2 discount voucher valid against a book bought at the event.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Capacity of our beautiful historic venue is limited, so advance booking is essential to avoid disappointment.


NEXT HULF TALK: The Romantic Novel – 29th January 2022

Join us on Saturday 29th January, 2-5pm, in the Bethesda Chapel, Park Street, Hawkesbury Upton for this entertaining new talk.


Four successful novelists will lead a lively discussion about aspects of the romantic novel, including its past, present and future, and to what extent they view themselves as romantic novelists:

  • from nearby Charfield, Jayne Davis, who writes Georgian romances
  • from Bristol Kate Frost, who writes contemporary women’s fiction set not only in her home city but in alluring destinations all over the world
  • from Shropshire Katharine E Smith, whose novels include an eight-book romantic series set in Cornwall
  • Hawkesbury Upton’s own Debbie Young, who writes romantic comedies and gentle mysteries set in the Cotswolds

About this event

In the peaceful setting of Bethesda Chapel, this lively team will explore the history of the romantic novel. discuss the nature and the appeal of romance to modern readers.

They will also share the stories behind their own books, along with other insights into their writing lives, and give readings.

After their informal presentations and panel discussion, the authors will be pleased to sell signed copies of their books and chat informally to members of the audience over coffee and cake.

When the event has ended, the nearby Fox Inn will be open and will welcome anyone who wishes to continue the conversation over a drink or a meal.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Guest numbers will be limited for social distancing purposes, so advance booking is essential to avoid disappointment. Admission on the day will depend on advance ticket sales and cannot be guaranteed. Should changes in Covid restrictions require cancellation, the organiser will refund the ticket price less Eventbrite’s administration charge.

The ticket price includes free hot drinks and cakes plus a £2 discount voucher valid against any book purchased at the event.

Meet the authors:

Jayne Davis writes: I enjoy reading many genres, but ever since I got hooked on Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer in my teens, I’ve particularly liked getting lost in the past with a good romance. I’ve had several careers, including engineer, teacher, publisher, and author of school textbooks. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but that kind of writing wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Now I’m finally enjoying writing historical romance. When I’m not writing or wasting time on the internet, I love reading (which author doesn’t?), gardening, walking and cycling. And drinking tea.

Kate Frost writes: I am the author of best-selling romantic escape novels (The Baobab Beach RetreatA Starlit SummerThe Greek HeartThe Amsterdam Affair and The Love Island Bookshop), character-driven women’s fiction (The Butterfly Storm series and Beneath the Apple Blossom), and Time Shifters, a time travel adventure trilogy for children. I live in Bristol with my husband and young son. As well as writing novels, I’m the Director of Storytale Festival, a new city-wide children’s book festival that I co-founded in Bristol in 2019 with the ethos of making books accessible to all and encouraging children and teens to read, write and be creative. I feel incredibly lucky to spend my days writing and being immersed in books. One Greek Summer, my first book with Boldwood, will be published on 9thMarch 2022. 

Katharine E Smith writes: I

I am a writer, editor and publisher, living in Shropshire, UK. I am a Yorkshirewoman by birth and I write (a lot, but not exclusively) about Cornwall. I am married, have two children, and a border collie. I love walking, and wild swimming – even on very cold days (though I definitely prefer it in the summer). My books include three standalone literary fiction novels – Writing the Town ReadLooking Past, and Amongst Friends – a contemporary romance/women’s fiction series – Coming Back to Cornwall – and the Connections series, each book of which focuses on a different character living in a small Cornish town. I suppose my books can mostly be classed as largely women’s fiction, but I don’t like to be sexist about these things and don’t see any reason that men might not enjoy them as well! In my role running Heddon Publishing, I work with other authors all around the world to help develop their work and achieve their dreams of becoming published. I love this work and have met some fantastic people, and learned a lot to benefit my own writing.

Debbie Young writes; Having lived in Hawkesbury Upton for over 30 years, I love writing stories set in the Cotswolds, whether light-hearted village mysteries or romantic comedies or a blend of both. My books include two series of novels, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, which a reader described as “rose-tinted murders”, and the Staffroom at St Bride’s school stories, “like Malory Towers for grown-ups”, and standalone short stories, novelettes and novellas. My latest book is a “what-if” romantic comedy novella, Mrs Morris Changes Lanes. Two of my novels have been shortlisted for The Selfies, a publishing industry award for the best independently-published fiction in the UK.

Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival is a series of not-for-profit book-related events run by Debbie Young. For more information about HULF and the latest event news, visit


As you’ll probably have noticed, during the Covid pandemic we’ve had to cancel the 2020 and 2021 HULFs, which were meant to take place in April.

We had hoped that by the time the next Festival was due to take place, we’d be living in a world free of hand sanitiser, face masks and social distancing, but currently we’re not convinced that by April 2022, we’ll feel comfortable holding crowded book talks and workshops in the relatively small spaces of our village venues. We’re also not keen to bring vast crowds of strangers into the community.

Back to our Community Roots

Rather than cancel the Festival for a third time, we’ve decided to take HULF back to its roots as a small event designed to serve our community. We’ll do this by holding just one event at a time, in a single venue, for an afternoon, rather than what feels like taking over the whole village for the day and bringing in authors and visitors from far and wide. (For the cancelled 2020 event, We had authors willing to fly at their own expense from Sweden and France to take part, and a visitor from the US planning her whole holiday around HULF.)

We’re not quite ready for a return to packed venues yet (Photo of HULF 2019 by Angela Fitch)

Smaller Events at Greater Frequency

To offset the reduction in the size of the event, we will increase frequency to roughly quarterly. Where possible the events will be held on the last Saturday of the month to make it easier to remember when they are. We will of course avoid the last Saturday in August as that is always the day of the Hawkesbury Horticultural Show, at which we always have a stall.

The first HULF Talk, as we’re calling the new style event series, will be on Saturday 27th November on the theme of Travel and Adventure in the beautiful setting of the Bethesda Chapel. (Limited number of tickets still available here – admission is by advance booking only to help us control numbers.)

We would like to thank rare book dealer Peter Harrington of London ( for their kind sponsorship of this event. Their short film, One Hundred Seconds to Midnight (, about a remarkable collection of rare books related to climate change, will be part of the programme.

Click image to book your tickets via Eventbrite (PhotoL Mark Horrell on the summit of Everest)

The second HULF Talk will be on Saturday 29th January, and as we’ll be in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, the theme will be the Romantic Novel. Speakers will include Katharine E Smith and Kate Frost, who write bestselling romantic novels set in Cornwall, Greece, Africa, and other alluring destinations. The full speaker line-up will be announced on the Festival website in December.

We look forward to welcoming you to the new-look HULF.

Photo of Edmund Weiner, Katharine E Smith and Rachel Amphlett at HULF 2019
by Angela Fitch