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From the playful to the poignant – Lit Fest return entertains and inspires


Back for its third year, Orpington’s celebration of the written and spoken word took place in May with a week of town centre events aimed at a variety of audiences. Topping the bill: Simon Weston CBE in conversation with Dr Tessa Dunlop.


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Organised by Orpington 1st Business Improvement District (BID) in partnership with Bromley Libraries, Orpington Literary Festival 2024 showcased a total of sixteen authors with sessions targeting all age groups and tastes.

With support from Rotary Orpington District E-club, the festival launched on Monday 13th May in Orpington Library and an appearance and book signing from New York Times, Sunday Times and Amazon #1 bestselling author of over fifty-five novels, James Swallow.

James Swallow and Paul evers

A BAFTA-nominated scriptwriter with millions of books in print worldwide, James discussed his wide-ranging career to date – which includes credits on many computer games - with compere extraordinaire, Paul Evers, and previewed his upcoming involvement in the 60th anniversary celebrations of Gerry Anderson’s Stingray.

Pato Loung Literary Quiz

Midweek, a packed Pato Lounge hosted a special literary themed quiz including questions on music, film, and poetry, as well as literary classics, whilst a trip down memory lane awaited visitors to the first of two events to be held at BR6 Bakehouse.

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In a conversation masterfully facilitated by Orpington Library’s very own Khalid Siddiqui, Nicky Forbes (drummer for the Revillos) and Alf Martin (Melody Maker, Sounds) discussed their music industry memoirs ‘The Rhythm Method’ and ‘What’s It All About Alfie’ and delighted the audience with some jaw dropping rock n roll tales featuring some world-famous stars.

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Several Orpington schools were involved in events at Orpington Library over the course of the week, which included a visit from children’s author Nathanael Lessore.

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Nathanael talked with local year 7 & 8 pupils about being an author, and his book, Steady For This. Hilarious and heartwarming, his debut novel is a huge hit with young people and has earned him a place on the prestigious Yoto Carnegie Medal shortlist.

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Local author Jerry Dowlen has pulled together some extraordinary homegrown stories and published them in his latest book Curiosities of Orpington. Assisted by his friend and fellow writer Richard Bowdery, Jerry shared a few of them with a capacity crowd at Orpington Library’s Business Lounge.

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Headlining this year’s festival, at a special event held at London South East College’s BR6 Bakehouse - Simon Weston CBE discussed his life with historian, writer, and broadcaster Dr Tessa Dunlop.

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When the RFA Sir Galahad was destroyed in the Bluff Cove Air Attack during the Falklands War, in 1982, Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston was severely injured, sustaining serious burns to 46% of his body. He has become well-known across the United Kingdom and abroad for his struggle to overcome his injuries and redefine his role in life, and his message is one of achievement, of triumph in the face of adversity, and of seizing the moment and succeeding.

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Tessa Dunlop, a Sunday Times bestselling author with a particular interest in war and royalty, has earned a reputation for speaking truth to power – not least through her regular television appearances, and is currently writing her next book on war memorials.

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Their conversation, led expertly by Tessa, was illuminating, funny, moving, and inspiring. An engaging and natural storyteller, Simon shared anecdotes with warmth and humour, including recounting how he met the Argentinian fighter pilot who led the life-changing attack on him and his comrades. An opportunity for audience questions followed. Watch the conversation back below.

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Orpington 1st Executive Director, Chris Travers, said, “We’re big believers in the positive role that arts and culture play in shaping places, and we’re delighted to work in partnership with Bromley Libraries to bring these events to the town centre. Thank you to their team, to all the authors and speakers who took part in the festival, and to everyone who came to enjoy the events.”


See more Orpington Literary Festival 2024 photographs on our Facebook Page.

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