Our artists and contributors

Our festival is now over for another year, but here's a reminder of the wonderful artists who made Hastings LitFest 2021 such a success.


Sir David Hare

David Hare has written over 30 stage plays and 30 screenplays for film and television. The plays include Plenty, Pravda (with Howard Brenton), The Secret Rapture, Racing Demon, Skylight, Amy’s View, The Blue Room, Via Dolorosa, Stuff Happens, The Absence of War, The Judas Kiss, The Red Barn, The Moderate Soprano, I’m Not Running and Beat the Devil.

For cinema, he has written The Hours, The Reader, Damage, Denial, Wetherby and The White Crow, among others, while his television films include Licking Hitler, The Worricker Trilogy, Collateral and Roadkill.

In a millennial poll of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, five of the top 100 were his. Sir David, who was born in St Leonards on Sea and grew up in Bexhill, has been Patron of Hastings Literary Festival since it began in 2018.

David Hare will talk to theatre and film director Nicholas Hytner about his life and work and will also join a discussion panel with local writers’ groups. Actor Julian Sands will read from Sir David's new book of essays and poems We Travelled.

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Nicholas Hytner

Nicholas Hytner opened the Bridge Theatre in 2017, and was director of the National Theatre 2003-2015.

His productions include Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge; and The History Boys, Stuff Happens, One Man Two Guvnors, and Othello at the National.

His films include The Madness of King George and The Lady in the Van. His most recent production at the Bridge was Bach & Sons by Nina Raine. He will direct David Hare’s new play at the the Bridge in 2022.

His book Balancing Acts was published in 2017.

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Julian Sands

Julian Sands is an actor who works in film, theatre TV and radio. He has performed at Kino-Teatr previously in his Celebration of Harold Pinter and Keats Shelley Ghosts and Lovers.

He played Tony Blair in David Hare's Stuff Happens in its inaugural US production. At that time he was introduced to the author's prose and poetry.

He is best known for films including Room With A View, The Killing Fields, Leaving Las Vegas, Vatel, Impromptu, Gothic, Boxing Helena and The Painted Bird. Upcoming is Terrence Davies' Benediction.

At Hastings Literary Festival 2021, Julian will read from Sir David Hare’s new book of poems and essays We Travelled.

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Monique Roffey

Monique Roffey was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. She is the author of six novels and a memoir. The Mermaid of Black Conch won the Costa Book of the Year and the Costa Novel Award 2020.

It was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2021, the Goldsmiths Prize 2020 and the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2021, and longlisted for the Orwell Prize, the Ondaatje Prize and the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2021.

Her highly acclaimed previous books are sun dog, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2010), Archipelago (winner of the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature 2013), House of Ashes (shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2014), The Tryst and With the Kisses of His Mouth.

Monique Roffey is a Senior Lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Writers Centre.

Monique will discuss love, romance and the challenges of writing about masculinity with editor and The Book of Man founder Martin Robinson. The session will be followed by a Q&A and book signing.  

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Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson is the Editor and Founder of The Book of Man, a men's website aiming to deconstruct old school manliness and work towards a new concept of masculinity. He appears regularly on panels, podcasts and radio to discuss his work.

Prior to founding the site, Martin spent his career working in men's and music magazines. His first book You Are Not The Man You Are Supposed To Be is out now.

He will discuss love, romance and the challenges of writing about masculinity with Monique Roffey. The session will be followed by a Q&A and book signing.

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Lucy Mangan

Lucy Mangan writes a regular column for the Guardian newspaper as well as features and TV reviews. She is the author of a number of non-fiction books including her memoir BOOKWORM, a personal history and celebration of children’s literature. Her first novel, Are We Having Fun Yet?, inspired by EM Delafield’s classic Diary of A Provincial Lady will be published by Souvenir Press in October. @LucyMangan

“People say that life’s the thing… but I prefer reading” – join author and journalist Lucy Mangan in conversation with festival director Sam Davey.

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Peter Bradshaw

Peter Bradshaw has been the Guardian's chief film critic for over 20 years and has been described as "the film reviewer for intelligent, curious cinemagoers”.

Join him as he discusses translating literature to the big screen. Does a great story necessarily make a great movie?

His fascinating talk will focus on The Swimmer - a 1968 American surreal drama film starring Burt Lancaster, based on John Cheever's short story of the same name.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A session and a signing of Peter's book The Films That Made Me (2019). There will then be a showing of The Swimmer.

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Jessica Mookherjee

Jessica Mookherjee is a contemporary poet who draws on her Welsh and Bengali heritage. Her books and poetry have been widely published and reviewed and touch on themes of myth, magic, fracture, post-colonialism, immigration, identity and self creation.

Her two full collections are Flood (Cultured Llama 2018) and Tigress (Nine Arches Press 2019). Her poem Ursa Minor (from Tigress) appears in the Bloodaxe Anthology "Staying Human" and was highly commended in the 2017/18 Forward Prize.

Jessica will be reading from her work and talking about the ways in which we self create and become our own myths, how we are the very things that break us and how this informs how we write poetry today.

She will focus on her latest pamphlet Play Lists (Broken Sleep Books 2021) which returns to her concerns of identity, fracture and self creation in the context of early love and popular culture.

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Bidisha is a broadcaster, journalist and film-maker. She specialises in human rights, social justice and the arts and offers political analysis, arts critique and cultural diplomacy tying these interests together.

She writes for the main UK broadsheets and broadcasts for BBC TV and radio, ITN, CNN, ViacomCBS and Sky News.

Her fifth book,  Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London, is based on her outreach work in UK prisons, refugee charities and detention centres.

Her first short film, An Impossible Poison, received its London premiere in March 2018. It has been highly critically acclaimed and selected for numerous international film festivals.

Her latest publication is called The Future of Serious Art and her latest film series is called Aurora. 

She’ll be joining poets David Herd and Simon Smith to discuss and read from Refugee Tales IV – real experiences of anonymous refugees retold by authors. This volume welcomes new international perspectives and a focus on detention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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David Herd

David Herd is a poet, critic, and teacher. His collections of poetry include All Just (Carcanet 2012), Outwith (Bookthug 2012), Through (Carcanet 2016), and Songs from the Language of a Declaration (2019).

His essays and poems have been widely published and his recent writings on the politics of human movement have appeared in From the European South, Los Angeles Review of Books, Paideuma, and the TLS.

He is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent and a founder and co-organiser of Refugee Tales.  He’ll be appearing with broadcaster and journalist Bidisha and poet and teacher Simon Smith to discuss and read from Refugee Tales IV.

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Simon Smith

Simon Smith teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent.  In 2004 he was a judge of the National Poetry Prize and a Hawthornden Writing Fellow in 2009.

His translation of Roman poet Catullus was published in 2018 by Carcanet, and he was one of the participants on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘In Our Time’ featuring Catullus in January 2020.

He is the author of six volumes of poetry, and a new book will appear at the end of 2021 from Parlor Press in the USA, called Last Morning.  He recently took part in the online project on COVID 19 hosted by the Muscaliet Press, ‘The Quarantine Notebooks’.

He’ll be appearing with broadcaster and journalist Bidisha and poet and teacher David Herd to discuss and read from Refugee Tales IV.

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Michèle Roberts

“Michèle Roberts is one of those writers descended perhaps as much from Monet and Debussy as Virginia Woolf or Keats… To read a book by her is to savour colour, sound, taste, texture and touch as never before,” The Times

Join acclaimed author Michèle Roberts in conversation with Literary Festival Director Sam Davey to discuss Michèle’s new novel Cut Off –“‘Lyrical, atmospheric, wonderful. This novel has all the romance of the most delicious hot French summer”.


Sam Davey

Sam Davey is a former Whitehall civil servant and now lives near the beach in Sussex, England.

She is the winner of the 2019 Fiction Factory national short story competition and has published one book with a small press, a darkly comic fantasy thriller called Angels of Islington (“unique and totally brilliant” – Breakaway Reviewers).

Sam is the founder and director of Hastings Literary Festival (the South East’s brightest book festival) and has always had a passion for books and the written word.

One of her particular interests is the exploration of ancient mythologies – some of the earliest stories told to explain not just the workings of the world, but also to shed light upon the workings of the human mind and heart.

She will be in conversation with writer Lucy Mangan on 24 September and author Michèle Roberts on 25 September.

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Tim B'vard

Tim is the genial compere and host of the Bavard Bar. An all round passionate guy, in a previous life Tim believes he may have been a lawyer. However there is no evidence to support this belief, so it may simply be delusional.

Late last Wednesday, using a complex system of algorithms and assorted 18th century medical paraphernalia, Tim changed his name to Tim B'vard. It is arguable this change may also be delusional. As well as illegal.

In Bedtime Stories, Tim will be hosting an evening of saucy and salacious bedtime fun: bad sex, good sex, lullabies, and possibly the odd wet dream - all in the best literary taste! The show features VG Lee, Bev Lee Harling, Penny Pepper and Sister Mary.

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VG Lee

VG Lee didn’t start writing till she reached her early forties. Her first novel was published in 2000. At the time writer Andrea Levy wrote about The Comedienne: “A light touch, a wonderful laconic style and spot-on humour make it a joy to read.”

Soon after, Lee moved to Hastings, setting her third novel Diary of a Provincial Lesbian in Bittlesea Bay, a fictional seaside town based on her new home. She has run writing workshops in the area and has regularly performed at the Polari-On-Sea LGBTQ+ events held at The Printworks.

On reaching 60, Lee joined a local stand-up comedy course run by writer and comedian Sally Holloway. She went on to become a finalist for Hackney Empire’s New Act of the Year and has been performing stand-up in London and the midlands for the last decade.

Lee is now a critically-acclaimed author of five novels and two collections of short stories. In 2012, she was nominated for a Stonewall Award for writing.

Her mornings are spent writing, but most afternoons she can be found mooching around the local charity shops. She is also a familiar figure standing wistfully in front of the pudding and cake section of Marks & Spencer due to an over-fondness for their Toffee Sundaes and Cream and Jam Doughnuts!


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Penny Pepper

Penny Pepper is an acclaimed author, poet, performer and disabled activist. A genre-defying and versatile writer, her work focuses on the examination of difference, inequality and identity. She tells stories we haven't heard, making others see life differently, always with humour and wisdom. 

A regular award winner, Penny is a finalist in this year's prestigious international Hemingway Shorts 2021 Competition and her winning story is published in their competition anthology Vol. 6. She is also a recipient of multiple short fiction awards including for her taboo-breaking short story collection, Desires Reborn, a Creative Future Literary Award and Story Slam for flash fiction.

Other recent recognition includes Penny's sombre monologue prize winner Letter to Paul performed by actor Liz Carr, celebrating 2020 International Day of Disabled People. It won a Cyber Performance Institute Award and can be viewed on Penny's YouTube Channel - Penny On The Telly.

Penny has been a regular performer and reader at many leading spoken word and literature festivals since 2007. 

Penny lives in St Leonards on Sea, Hastings with her black cat Pixie.

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Bev Lee Harling

Having won the hearts and musical minds of DJs across the board with her 2012 debut LP, Barefoot In Your Kitchen, which BBC 6 Music’s Gilles Peterson made his Album of the Week, Bev will bring her own brand of quirky magic to Hastings Literary Festival this year with songs from her new album Little Anchor.

Born in Hastings and with roots through the fishing community stretching back to the 1800s, Bev mixes up elements of folk, classical and jazz.

Her music is sometimes dark, sometimes frivolous, always engaging and human spirited. The songs’ common bond is the luscious, pure vocals that thread their way through the highs and lows of life experience.

Using her violin, ukulele style and some random found objects, she accompanies herself, creating intimate stories involving dirty dragonflies and men hiding under the bed.


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Sister Mary

Sister Mary is a musical, tap dancing singing nun. She was found on the steps of St Peters of the Sisters of the Third Removed in Soho. She is rumoured to be the secret love child of Elaine Paige.

She has performed several seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe and her shows have been performed in many London venues.

Internationally her shows have been in New York City and Cape Town.

She appeared on The Graham Norton Show and has hosted and compered many comedy and award ceremonies. She also appeared in Scooch's Flying the Flag for Eurovision.

Sister Mary is performed by actor, singer and presenter Tim McArthur, who graduated from Mountview Theatre School in musical theatre. His roles have included The Baker in Into The Woods, Sam Byck in Assassins, Maurice in Bathouse and for the past three years he has played the Dame in Panto at the White Rock Theatre. He is due to return this Christmas, as Dame in Robin Hood.

He has performed his solo shows at Feinstein's 54 Below, The Tada Theatre and Don't Tell Mama in NYC, The Pride Arts Centre and Drews in Chicago, The Theatre Lounge in Kuala Lumpur, and The Purcell Room and The Hippodrome in London.

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Tom Drake-Lee

Tom Drake-Lee has nearly three decades of experience in book publishing. He spent nearly four joyful years working as a bookseller before becoming a bookshop manager.

After this he moved into publishing as a sales representative for Bloomsbury and then Penguin Random House.

He was the sales director at Vintage for 12 years, where he worked with some brilliant prize winning and established commercial authors including Margaret Atwood, Rose Tremain, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Ian McEwan, Richard Flanagan, Sebastian Faulks, Louis De Bernieres, Irvine Welsh and Nigella Lawson.  

As well as formulating the sales strategies for different genres and authors, Tom’s role at this senior level included assessing manuscripts and giving feedback to editors about their commercial potential. 

In 2021 Tom “crossed over” and joined DHH as an Associate Agent and is starting to build a client list across fiction and non-fiction. He also works as an associate writing coach for Gale & Co. Tom is also a judge on this year’s CWA Gold Dagger Award.

Tom has lived in Hassocks for over 17 years, about two hundred metres from the East Sussex border.


Sharon Duggal

Sharon’s second novel, Should We Fall Behind, was published by Bluemoose Books in October 2020, and despite a global pandemic was picked up for the BBC Book Club, Between the Covers, and shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Encore Award. Sharon is also the Programme Manager at New Writing South. 

With Tom Drake-Lee and Pete the Temp, Sharon will talk to Hastings Literary Festival sales director Wayne Herbert about publishing from the inside and out.

They’ll discuss how the pandemic has affected the industry for publishers and authors alike. Their cumulative experience will provide a unique insight into what happens once an editor has shown interest in your work and how best to navigate the publishing industry’s inner workings from the outside.

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Pete the Temp

Pete is an author, comic, and spoken word poet whose work has been featured on BBC Radio 4, The World Service, and Newsnight.

He has spent his life performing at festivals and protests, as well as occupied streets, power stations and coal mines. His mission is to bring carnival, wonderment and riotous love to enchant, beguile and incite.

Pete is a former National Poetry Slam Champion and has taught and performed in 15 countries. While living in Europe he worked as a street entertainer; bringing laughter, dance and interactive silliness to large audiences. 

As an author, Pete has written a critically acclaimed book about the oral tradition and the science, art, and history of spoken performance Stage Invasion: Poetry and the Spoken Word Renaissance. He conceives of poetry as an embodied, social event that passes through our bodies as a form of healing, and through groups of bodies as a field of feeling. 

Since Covid, Pete began teaching mental resilience to large organisations through Tough Cookie.

Pete is one of the editors working with 12 competition winners at our Dateline Hastings: 23-09-21 workshop to produce an anthology of their work.


Wayne Herbert

Wayne Herbert is a writer and events manager for literary projects.

He is finalising his dissertation for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Kent. He is also a director of the festival.

At other times he can be found walking the two best looking cockerpoos in town. 

Wayne will be in conversation with Tom Drake-Lee, Sharon Duggal and Pete the Temp about publishing from the inside and out.

They’ll discuss how the pandemic has affected the industry for publishers and authors alike.

Their cumulative experience will provide a unique insight into what happens once an editor has shown interest in your work and how best to navigate the publishing industry’s inner workings from the outside.

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller has published five novels, including the bestselling The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright (Bookouture, 2020).

Her most recent novel, Starstruck (Farrago, 2021), tells the story of Sally, a tribute artist who impersonates the world’s most famous singer.

She has also published two non-fiction books, published by Summersdale: For the Love of The Archers (2015), a guide to the popular long-running radio drama, and For the Love of Shakespeare (2016), an accessible guide to his plays, poetry, life and legacy.

Alongside writing books, Beth works as a coach and mentor for other writers, and has helped steer a number of writers to publication.

She has taught creative writing for six years, including for the Arvon Foundation, and at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings.

From September 2021 she will be a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, based at the University of Brighton. She previously worked as a journalist, a sexual health educator and a psychology lecturer, and has a PhD in psychology.

She has lived in Sussex for 25 years, in various places including Lewes, Barcombe, Cooksbridge and Brighton. 

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Christine Harmar-Brown

Christine Harmar-Brown's career as writer and director includes working in television as Head of Development at La Plante Productions and as Script Editor on Casualty.

She has been commissioned to write for a number of contexts including scripts for theatre, TV and film, puppetry, youth theatre, heritage, Shakespeare adaptations and devised work.

In addition she designs and delivers a range of arts projects and writing workshops for adults and young people and has taught on the Creative Writing Programme at Sussex Coast College.

Christine is one of the editors working with 12 competition winners at our Dateline Hastings: 23-09-21 workshop to produce an anthology of their work.

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Antony Mair

Antony Mair lives in Hastings, where he established the Hastings Stanza. Following an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster he has published three collections.

Bestiary, and Other Animals, was shortlisted for the 2017 Live Canon First Collection Prize, and published by Live Canon in June 2018. 

Let The Wounded Speak was published by Oversteps Books in October 2018 and was longlisted for the Poetry Book Awards 2020. His third collection, A Suitcase Filled with Hope, was published by Live Canon in May of this year.

Antony is one of the editors working with 12 competition winners at our Dateline Hastings: 23-09-21 workshop to produce an anthology of their work.

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Andrea Samuelson

Born in California, Andrea has lived most of her life in Hastings and has worked as a Parliamentary caseworker and a legal secretary.

She has a Master's in Creative Writing from the University of Sussex and is a Creative Writing Tutor at Bexhill College.

Her short fiction and poetry has been published in literary magazines including The Rialto and she has won national competitions, most notably the Peterloo Prize.

Her poetry collection Cradle Song was published in 2011. She is currently working on a memoir based not only on memories of growing up in Hastings but reflecting the wider history of the town.

An excerpt from this project has been published online as part of Sussex University’s Reframe project.


Andrea is one of the editors working with 12 competition winners at our Dateline Hastings: 23-09-21 workshop to produce an anthology of their work.