Tag Archives: travel writing

Traipsing with Travel Writers Workshop March 5th

14 Feb

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An eclectic backpack of well-travelled writers will discuss the different forms of writing they produce from those adventures – and how you can use your own experiences to create original pieces of work.

Thu, March 5, 2020, 5:00 PM – 7:15 PM GMT Add to Calendar

Eldon Building, Middle Street, Portsmouth PO1 2DJ

 

Schedule

5.00 – 5.45pm: An interview with two of our celebrated travel writers.

6pm – 7.15pm: Themed readings from the collected writers and discussions about the various techniques used.

7.30pm – 9.00pm: Hands on workshop. Please book on the separate listing

Our speakers

Ben Aitken is the author of A Chip Shop in Poznan: My Unlikely Year in Poland, recounting a year spent working, travelling and integrating. Paul Ross called it ‘the funniest book of the year.’ Ben also wrote Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island, featuring in The Guardian, The Times and on BBC Radio.

Amanda Garrie is in the final stages of a PhD in creative writing, where she’s writing a novel, at The University of Portsmouth. She was Portsmouth City Library and Archives Service Poet in Residence for 2019 and is a founder member of T’Articulation spoken word troupe. Much of her poetry and prose-fiction reflects the cultural curiosities discovered on her travels in Spain, Eastern Europe and India.

Mike Manson’s new novel, Down in Demerara, concerns an Englishman who is plucked from his humdrum job and dispatched to the forbidden rainforest of Guyana on a mysterious assignment. Fay Weldon calls the book ‘a fast-moving and wonderfully funny (I laughed aloud a lot) vigorous and intelligent tale of an innocent abroad.’

Richard Peirce, a co-founder of T’Articulation, is well-known on the local spoken-word circuit. His poetry, often connecting emotionally with the people, landscapes and situations, of his travels in the Philippines, Russia and Africa, has been published in a number of anthologies.

Tom Sykes is the author of The Realm of the Punisher: Travels in Duterte’s Philippines which garnered positive reviews in the Times Literary Supplement and the London Magazine. Tom is also the author of Ivory Coast: The Bradt Guide and his travel journalism has appeared in The Telegraph, Private Eye, New Statesman, New African, The Scotsman and many other titles.

Tickets are free but you will have to book them in advance here.

A three part experience in collaboration with Star & Crescent, T’Articulation and the University of Portsmouth.

Ivory Coast 2nd edition out in July

29 Jan

I’ve just submitted my final changes to the 2nd edition of Ivory Coast: The Bradt Guide (out 3rd July). It includes new material on the plantation region, digital culture and recent politics plus previously unpublished photos by Alexander Sebley.

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Appearance at Bristol Festival of Literature on 23rd October

18 Oct

‘Everyone has been nearly everywhere’, wrote Jan Morris. This has provided a new challenge to the travel writer: how to find a new angle on a familiar destination? The answer lies with alternative travel writing.

Two alternative travel writers discuss their very different work. They talk about what they’ve written, how they write, their influences and what they’ve learnt.

Doors open at 6.30pm.

Speakers
Over the last nine years, British writer Tom Sykes has travelled extensively in the Philippines to write Realm of the Punisher, the first major travel book by a Westerner to explore Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency of the country. Tom, to understand the Duterte phenomenon, attended crime sites, met with dissidents on government ‘death lists’ and interviewed friends and enemies of ‘The Punisher’ – as he’s known – in politics, the media, the arts and the third sector. Sykes witnesses anti-government demonstrations in the capital Manila and visits the provincial city of Davao, where Duterte began his draconian crusade against crime using police and vigilante death squads.

Mike Manson’s most recent novel Down in Demerara, (Tangent Books) features Felix Radstock, a man plucked from his humdrum job and dispatched to the forbidden rainforest of Guyana on a mysterious assignment. Set in 1999, Down in Demerara is a funny, charming and quirky tale of self-realisation through love, friendship and fear.

Book tickets here.

Witnessing the World event

11 Feb

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Star & Crescent and Bookfest 2019 present: Witnessing the World: Reportage, Academic Research, Art and Fiction Based on Real Events and Real Lives

The Menuhin Room, Portsmouth Central Library

Thursday, 28 February 2019 from 19:00-21:00

A panel of experienced writers and artists who have captured real-life people, places and events in their work share all the tricks of their trade, discussing style, structure, voice, investigative ethics and research methods. The evening will include a caricature-drawing demonstration and some writing activities. The panellists will cover a wide range of topics from American fan culture to folklore in rural Oxfordshire, Donald Trump to the drug war in the Philippines, the Northern Irish Troubles to contemporary Guyana.

Featuring:
Louis Netter, reportage cartoonist
Simone Gumtau, researcher into local personal narratives
Amanda Garrie, novelist and folklore researcher
Mike Manson, novelist and historian
Lincoln Geraghty, traveller-academic and fan culture theorist
Graham Spencer, Northern Ireland peace and conflict expert
Tom Sykes, foreign correspondent and travel author

Tickets are £5 and can be purchased in any Portsmouth City Council Library or online here.

Bristol Festival of Literature Appearance 22nd Oct

12 Sep

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I’ll be discussing my new travelogue of the contemporary Philippines, Realm of the Punisher, at the Bristol Festival of Literature on 22nd October. My good friend Mike Manson will be present too, riffing on his new novel Down in Demerara. Click here for tickets and further details.

The Realm of the Punisher Out November

22 Jun

‘At last! A Western journalist/academic writing about the Philippines who has done proper homework and legwork, and who clearly has affection for both the country and its people.’ James Hamilton-Paterson, author of Ghosts of Manila and America’s Boy

In June 2016, Rodrigo ‘The Punisher’ Duterte won the Philippine presidential election. Infamous for his bombastic temper and un-PC wisecracks, he is waging a brutal drug war that has killed an estimated 10-20,000 people so far.

Over the last nine years, British writer Tom Sykes has travelled extensively in the Philippines to understand the Duterte phenomenon, visiting the sites of extra-judicial killings and interviewing friends and enemies of the regime. Sykes witnesses an anti-government demonstration in the capital Manila and journeys to the provincial city of Davao, where Duterte began his crusade against crime using police and civilian death squads.

The Realm of the Punisher also features encounters with slum-dwellers resisting violent eviction, an elderly former sex slave to the Japanese in the Second World War and a public artist who must work while under attack from Maoist rebels.

The past is never far away from these present-day problems and Sykes’ travels to festivals, memorials and a tomb housing an embalmed corpse reveal how key figures in Philippine history – from José Rizal to Ferdinand Marcos – have influenced current affairs.

Funny, tragic, enlightening and uncompromising – and infused with the author’s strong sense of social justice – The Realm of the Punisher is the first major travel book by a Westerner to explore Duterte’s Philippines.

(Design and image by Louis Netter).

Pre-order here.

Troubadour of the Vastness: Gareth Rees 1948-2018

16 Apr

I’m truly devastated to hear of the death of my great friend Gareth Rees. I was just one of many people he inspired with his erudition, compassion, free spirit and dry humour. I first met him in 2004 when I was seeking out contributors for a travel writing anthology I was co-editing. With his paint-spattered shirt and veteran rock star looks, Gareth cut a cool, bohemian figure in the somewhat conventional setting of the Hole in the Wall pub, Southsea. My conversation with him that night was an exhilarating tour of literature, music, art, nature, politics, travel and spirituality. We’d have many more chats like that over the next fourteen years. I will always cherish them.

The son of a vicar, Gareth grew up in Gosport and later St Louis, Missouri, where he acquired what would become a lifelong passion for blues music. In 1967, aged nineteen, he went to work picking peaches on a kibbutz in Israel. One morning, after seeing Israeli tanks on the horizon as the Six-Day War was breaking out, he sensibly quit the job and hitchhiked across Europe back to the UK. The experience didn’t put him off travel – he would go on to visit Eastern Europe, North Africa, India, Iraq, the Bahamas and New Zealand, amongst other places. In 1968, he went to the University of Wales where he earned a first-class degree in sociology. After that he pursued graduate research in Canada, where he also lectured, and studied art at the University of Portsmouth.

In the 1970s, he worked as a schoolteacher in Gosport and taught English as a foreign language in Libya. It was while living and working in the Libyan section of the Sahara Desert that he devoured the works of Dickens and Trollope, both of whom he would love for the rest of his life. By the time I’d come to know him, he was also fond of travelogues by Robert Byron, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Laurens van der Post; mystical and religious texts from the New Testament to Rumi’s poetry; autobiographies (never one for ‘high’/’low’ cultural distinctions, he’d read everyone’s from Tony Benn’s to Nigel Benn’s); and the post-colonial novels of Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry and JM Coetzee. Gareth was probably the best-read person I’ve ever met.

And, of course, Gareth was himself a superb writer with a rare gift for fusing intimate, sometimes confessional storytelling with broader meditations on culture, society and the human experience. He once showed me a dusty, forty-year-old copy of the Guardian featuring one of his essays on the Middle East. That piece, too, adroitly blended the personal with the political. In the 1980s, he ghost-wrote the memoir of a British serviceman who’d been incarcerated in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Gareth received an advance for the book, he told me, but it was never released because the publisher was bought out by a Japanese company that was worried the book would spell bad publicity for that country. His later work can be found in the anthology Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups and in his 2014 collection Read Rees, which includes his brilliantly understated comic account of his brief stint as a cleaner at Portsmouth Naval Base. Over the last three years, he was a major and much-loved contributor to Star & Crescent, his most powerful article concerning his battle with the cancer he likened to a ‘hostile being within me which is realising its identity by stealing my substance.’

Gareth’s creative talents didn’t end with writing. Most of his friends and family members will have at least one of his beautiful, often psychedelic painted tiles sitting on their mantelpiece. Throughout his life he played guitar and sang in various local bands including Sister Divine, and regularly performed his songs to acclaim at events such as Portsmouth Darkfest.

But it was in person that Gareth arguably made the biggest impact on me and others. As a diligent student of the human condition, he’d listen intently to anyone – whatever their class, creed or background – especially if they had an unusual or distinctive story to tell. He’d be even more intrigued if the story involved travelling somewhere he himself hadn’t been. Although usually reserved and self-effacing, Gareth could be blunt – sometimes hilariously so – with those who indulged in egotism, hypocrisy, pretension, self-righteousness or one-upmanship. After witnessing some blokeish, beer-fuelled argument about a political issue or abstract concept, he’d say to me, ‘Well, what’s the emotion behind the rhetoric?’ And if the emotion was petty or vindictive then he’d suggest that whoever was projecting it should do some self-examination before making judgements about anybody or anything else. In that same vein, Gareth was very mindful of his own feelings and motives – he strove to be himself at all times and respected others who did likewise.

While Gareth didn’t have any formal political affiliations, he knew a lot about politics and was sceptical of all hierarchies and power structures, often calling out those at the top of them – wherever in the world they were – as bullies and gangsters. As someone who was forever youthful in spirit, he was troubled about what he termed, in an interview for S&C last summer, ‘the problem of senescence … Are you with the young shoots – the future – and want to join them in fighting for change or are you afraid of the future, would prefer to stay in the past?’

His resistance to senescence extended to practising yoga most days (in his late sixties he was still able to stand on his head) and taking long, brisk walks in the country. When I saw him on the night before he passed, he said how beautiful the birdsong outside his room was, which reminded me of the strolls he and I used to take around Rowlands Castle. The following morning when I heard the news that he’d gone, I looked out of my window and thought that this was exactly the kind of bright, sunny spring day that would have stirred the pair of us to go up to Stansted Park and see the bluebells in blossom. He loved the bluebells.

Gareth is survived by his children Freya, Rhiannon, Joe and Sian, all of whom showed incredible love, care and fortitude during his last months. They have lost a great father. Others, me included, have lost a great friend. But we will always remember the ways in which Gareth brought light and beauty and energy into our lives.

This article was originally published here.

Photography by Alexander Sebley.

Two New Tunisian Stories in New African Magazine

27 Aug

I have one article on the ancient Carthaginian and Roman sites of Tunis and another on Tunisian cuisine in the current edition of New African. The pieces are not online yet so it’s well worth buying a hard copy through the site right here, even if I say so myself.

Adventureman out February 9th

15 Jan

Jamie McDonald’s Adventureman, which I had the privilege of editing last summer, is out on February 9th with Summersdale Books.

“At the age of nine, Jamie McDonald’s family feared he would never walk again.
Twenty years later, he set off to run 5,000 miles coast to coast across Canada.

“When Jamie decides to repay the hospitals that saved his life as a child, he embarks on the biggest challenge of his life: running the equivalent of 200 marathons back-to-back, solo and unsupported, in –40 degree weather, surviving all kinds of injuries and traumas on the road and wearing through 13 pairs of trainers. And he does it all dressed as the superhero, the Flash.

“Though his journey was both mentally and physically exhausting, it was the astounding acts of kindness and hospitality he encountered along the way that kept him going. Whether they gave him a bed for the night, food for the journey, a donation to his charity or companionship and encouragement during the long days of running, Jamie soon came to realise that every person who helped him towards his goal was a superhero too.”

More info here.

 

Island Cities, Coasts of Teeth Event

17 Oct
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6pm-7.30pm

Blackwell’s in Portsmouth, Cambridge Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2EF

A heady gala of both travel writing about Portsmouth and Portsmouth-based travel writers who have gone elsewhere in search of inspiration. As part of the event, Tom Sykes and Alexander Sebley will be doing a local launch of their new book Ivory Coast: The Bradt Guide. Expect tales of animist rituals, Rastafarian communes, disabled artisans’ cooperatives and risky expeditions with Ghanaian migrant fishermen.

Other performers include Sarah Cheverton (Star & Crescent, Huffington Post) and Gareth Rees (reading from his latest book Read Rees). More TBA.

Facebook group here.