Marlborough LitFest

PUBLISHED: 10:03 09 September 2011 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

Lauren Child
PHOTO: Polly Borland

Lauren Child PHOTO: Polly Borland

The second Marlborough Literature Festival will feature two Wiltshire-born writers, Lauren Child and Judy Golding. Tom Mellors spoke to them about their recent work

The second Marlborough Literature Festival will feature two Wiltshire-born writers, Lauren Child and Judy Golding. Tom Mellors spoke to them about their recent work

Marlborough Literature Festival will welcome some of Britains biggest names in literature this September. Among them will be childrens writer Lauren Child, creator of the astronomically successful Charlie and Lola book and TV series, and Judy Golding, who recently published an intimate memoir about her father William Golding, the novelist who wrote Lord of the Flies.

Lauren Child is well known for her eccentric, intelligent and entertaining childrens stories. In the Charlie and Lola series, Charlie is the patient older brother to the lively and imaginative Lola. In the Clarice Bean series, the title character struggles to find peace and quiet amidst a big and busy family, while at the same time encountering the dilemmas that mark her growing awareness of the complexities of the adult world.

Laurens characters are creative and intelligent and it is little surprise that Lauren was much the same as a child. I was one of those children that was always exploring and making things, so I always thought I would do something that involved art in some way or another.

Lauren grew up in Marlborough where her father was Head of Art at Marlborough College. Although her family wasnt as crazy as Clarice Beans, she remembers it being busy. One thing I do remember about my parents is that they were very sociable, so we were always having people around to the house.

Lauren now lives in London and yet she often returns to Wiltshire to visit her friend Pat Cutforth. I see her regularly and I go down and write at her farmhouse I try to do most of my writing down there because its a very nice place to be and it gets me away from the phone and interruptions.

Lauren first met Pat Cutforth when she was seven years old. Lauren was friends with Pats daughter and she often went to her house to learn how to make miniature furniture for dolls houses, a skill which Pat has taught for years. This childhood experience started a lifelong interest in miniature models and dolls houses. For two years Pat Cutforth helped Lauren with what has arguably been her most original work to date, a photobook of the great fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. Laurens version of the fairy tale is told through a kind of diorama, where tiny paper characters are photographed within delicately crafted sets.

She helped me a lot with The Princess and the Pea set because here were things that I didnt know how to do, so she would explain how to do them and she is a great problem-solver.

The Princess and the Pea also saw Lauren collaborate with the acclaimed Australian photographer Polly Borland, who did a portrait of the Queen for her Golden Jubilee. Polly wanted to do a childrens book and we had to think of something that would work as a childrens book and, I dont know, be very appealing to children and yet be photographic. So we thought for a long time and we decided it would be really fun to do miniature sets.

Lauren will be launching a new series of books this October based on Ruby Redfort, Clarice Beans favourite fictional detective. Giving Ruby Redfort her own series turned out to be more difficult than she anticipated however.

Its been very hard because Ruby Redfort obviously appears as a sort of device really in Clarice Bean, because I needed to have Clarice Bean passionate about a series of books, so I invented this character.
They are meant to be like pulp fiction in that they are trashy books, [but] when it came to writing them I realised it would be very, very boring to write pulp fiction books so the idea for Ruby Redfort got more and more complex and ended up being twice the length I originally imagined it, and for older readers.

The first of the new series, Look Into My Eyes, will tell the story of how Ruby Redfort becomes a crime-fighting agent and how she solves her first mystery.

Ruby Redfort is looking to be as big a success as Laurens other literary ventures. It wasnt an easy road to becoming a best-selling author though. Lauren struggled for years before finally getting a book deal with Clarice Bean, Thats Me.

When you look from the outside, it looks like an overnight success but it wasnt and I kept another job for six years before I felt like I could really let go and do this utterly, utterly full-time. So it does take a while but its very, very nice when you realise that you can make a living and that youre doing what you love doing.

Judy Golding is author of The Children of Lovers, an illuminating memoir about her father, the Nobel Prize winning novelist William Golding. In the memoir, Judy recalls how her father, like Lauren Child, struggled to find success as a writer. William Golding sent the manuscript for Lord of the Flies (then titled Strangers from Within) to several publishers before it was finally picked off the slush pile at Faber & Faber by a young editor called Charles Monteith in 1953.

The novel quickly received critical acclaim and Judy remembers how life changed after its success. Well I think the most obvious thing is it suddenly meant we had a bit more money. We had been quite hard up until then.

Sudden literary success had a more subtle effect on her father however: I think to begin with, it gave him more confidence and then curiously after a while it took that confidence away again.

Despite this, William Golding considered his second novel The Inheritors the story of a Neanderthal village confronting violent Homo sapiens in prehistoric times to be his finest work. Judy Golding agrees: It was his personal favourite, and also I think a lot of people would say it was his best. I think its gigantic as a novel.

William Golding is often seen as a pessimist. His novels tend to explore a darker side of human nature where the morality of society gives way to the brute force of power. Judy Golding strongly disagrees with this portrait of her father however, and is keen to show another side of him.

Its very hard for people to realise he was in fact incredibly funny I wouldnt say he was light-hearted but he was very comic, and he hated the idea that he was a pessimist. He got quite stroppy about it, in fact.

He said he was a universal pessimist but a cosmic optimist, and I think he meant that very seriously, although it also sounds as if he was trying to confuse people a little bit.

Judys beautifully written memoir of her father confronts her familys past with courageous and stark honesty. She remembers and reveals aspects of family dynamics which most of us experience in our own families and yet we rarely speak about. Such an honest appraisal of her past was not easy to write though, and it took her 15 years in total. Asked why, she responded: Partly the sheer difficulty of coming to terms with the death of your parent, you know, its a huge shift of everything. And I wanted also to settle in my mind how truthful I was going to be, and that took a long time because I had a very idealised portrait of my father when he died.

The title for Judys memoir comes from the proverb: The children of lovers are orphans. Throughout the memoir Judy remembers painful memories of the antagonistic relationship between her father and her brother, David, of her own troubled relationship with her parents, and of the general feeling that her parents were interested more in themselves than their children.

At times her father is presented as being haunted by his past and in particular his childhood in Marlborough. William Golding resented the class divide that existed in the town and he both hated and envied the students of Marlborough College.

He felt this very deeply, recalls Judy, that public schools are there for the benefit of the ruling classes. And who is to say he is wrong?

William Golding was terrified of the house he grew up in and had nightmares about the place until late in his life. Judy, who loved the house her grandparents lived in, is still confused about this. I have some theories that arent quite at the point of being able to explain them. And its true he believed in the supernatural all his life, he never had any qualms about that.

As tempting as it may be to dwell on the dark side of a persons life, Judys memoir is also filled with fond memories of her childhood in Salisbury and her visits to see her grandparents. This fondness for Wiltshire, and Marlborough in particular, continues to this day.

I do adore Marlborough, I still do. My grandfather was the most wonderful person I think in my entire life, and I shall never forget him and the place where he lived.

Laura Child and Judy Golding will both be speaking at the Marlborough Literature Festival, 22-25 Septemer. For more information visit

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