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Read below to get an insight into the fascinating and inspiring backgrounds of our guest speakers who will be at BibLit 2024



Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History at Oxford University, where he is Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research and Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford. He is also Professor of Silk Roads Studies and a Bye-Fellow at King's College, Cambridge.

Peter attended Eton College and then received a degree in Byzantine history from Jesus College, Cambridge, before getting his D.Phil at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He met his wife, Jessica, while they were both at Cambridge and the couple have four children. They live in Oxfordshire.

The Times has described Peter as “a literary star”, while the BBC calls him a “rock star don”, as does The New Statesman. His book Silk Roads was named The Daily Telegraph's History Book of the Year 2015. it went to Number One in the Sunday Times Non-Fiction charts, remaining in the Top 10 for nine months in a row, selling more than two million copies worldwide. His follow-up, The New Silk Roads, was also critically acclaimed and won the Human Sciences prize of the Carical Foundation in 2019.

His latest book, The Earth Transformed: An Untold History is a global bestseller, going straight to #2 in the non-fiction charts in the UK, and in the bestseller lists in Canada, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, India, Italy and Indonesia.

Walter Scheidel, professor of classics at Stanford University, writing in The Financial Times, said: “Humanity has transformed the Earth: Frankopan transforms our understanding of history.” 



After studying history at university, Sally moved to London to work in advertising. In her spare time, however, she studied floristry at night school and eventually opened her own flower shop. She soon came to appreciate that flower shops offer a unique window into people’s stories and eventually she began to photograph and write about this floral life in a series of non-fiction books. Later, she continued her interest in writing when she founded her fountain pen company,

Her debut novel, The Keeper of Stories, was a Sunday Times best-seller. It combines Sally’s love of history and writing with her abiding interest in the stories people have to tell. Her second novel, The Book of Beginnings, is a story about the power of friendship – and also reflects her love of fountain pens. She is currently working on her third novel, which has a floral theme.

Sally now lives in Dorset. Her eldest daughter, Alex, is studying to be a doctor and her youngest daughter is the author, Libby Page.

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Sir Nicholas Coleridge CBE DL is a British former media executive, author, and cultural chair. As a journalist, he has contributed to The Daily Telegraph, Sunday TelegraphThe Spectator and the Financial Times, has been associate editor of the Tatler, and editor-in-chief of Harpers & Queen magazine. He is Chairman of Historic Royal Palaces, and Provost Elect of Eton. He is a former Chairman of The Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Fashion Council, and was co-chair of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant. He is the author of 14 books including the best-selling novel Godchildren and best-selling memoirs The Glossy Years: Magazines, Museums and Selective Memoirs described by The Sunday Times as "the most entertaining book of the year".  He and his wife Georgia have four children and live in Worcestershire.



Ysenda Maxtone Graham was born in 1962 and educated at The King's School, Canterbury and Girton College, Cambridge. She has written for many newspapers and magazines as a features writer, book reviewer and columnist. She is the author of seven books: The Church Hesitant: A Portrait of the Church of England Today; The Real Mrs Miniver, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography of the Year Award; Mr Tibbits's Catholic School; An Insomniac's Guide to the Small Hours; Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls' Boarding Schools, 1939-1979; British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays, 1930-1980, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and most recently Jobs for the Girls: How We Set out to Work in the Typewriter Age. She lives in London with her husband and three sons.



James Read is a food writer and founder of Kim Kong Kimchi. It was while moonlighting from his day job as a journalist that he developed a cauliflower kimchi “vegan zombie brains” for a pop-up Halloween restaurant. This awoke something in him; as his company has gone from hand delivery to Ocado, he’s built his own walk-in remotely-monitored fermentarium, compiled an array of fizz-related spreadsheets, written Of Cabbages & Kimchi and spoken to audiences from London to Copenhagen on the wonders of fermented food. He is happiest reading research papers on microbiota, hunting out ingredient origin myths and running A/B tests on fermenting pineapple cores.



Andrew Gimson is the author of Gimson’s Kings & Queens: Brief Lives of the Monarchs since 1066; Gimson’s Prime Ministers: Brief Lives from Walpole to Johnson; and Gimson’s Presidents: Brief Lives from Washington to Trump

His most recent book is Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10, and he has also written an account of Johnson’s early life, entitled Boris: The Making of the Prime Minister, hailed by Michael Crick as "my biography of the year", by Ken Livingstone as “the scariest thing I’ve read since Silence of the Lambs”, and by Johnson himself as “rubbish, but well-written rubbish”.

Gimson was deputy editor of the Spectator and parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Telegraph, contributes profiles and interviews to Conservative Home, and is at work on a volume of brief lives of heroes from Boudicca to Nelson Mandela, and also on a survey of jokes in British politics from Disraeli to the present day.



Nicholas Shakespeare was born in Worcester in 1957 and brought up in the Far East and South America. One of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 1993, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and The Dancer Upstairs, which was made into a film of the same name by John Malkovich and chosen by the American Libraries Association as the Best Novel of 1995. His nonfiction includes the critically acclaimed authorized biography of Bruce Chatwin, In Tasmania, and Priscilla: the hidden life of an Englishwoman in Occupied France. He has been longlisted for the Booker Prize twice, was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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James Fleming has edited the journals of Lady Anne Blunt, written five novels and, his latest effort, the ‘beguiling’ (Spectator) Bond Behind the Iron Curtain. He is the proprietor and editor of The Book Collector, the international journal for bibliophiles, which was started by Ian Fleming in the same year that he wrote Casino Royale.



Jane Ridley is an historian, biographer, author, broadcaster, and Professor of Modern History at the University of Buckingham. She has been in charge of the university’s Master of Arts course in Biography since establishing it in 1996. This was the first such postgraduate course. She is the current Chairman of the Biographers’ Club.

Jane Ridley won the Duff Cooper Prize in 2002 for The Architect and his Wife, a biography of her great-grandfather Edwin Lutyens.  Other books include: The letters of Edwin Lutyens to his wife Lady Emily, ed. with Clayre Percy, Fox Hunting: a history, The Letters of Arthur Balfour and Lady Elcho, ed. with Clayre Percy, The Young Disraeli, Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince, Queen Victoria: a short life (Penguin Monarchs). Her latest book is George V: Never a Dull Moment.



Anne de Courcy is a journalist, reviewer, biographer and social historian, who has often appeared on television, for which two of her books have been made into documentaries. Many have been best-sellers; among them are The Viceroy’s Daughters, The Fishing Fleet, Snowdon: The Biography, The Husband Hunters and Chanel’s Riviera: Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d’Azur, 1930-44. Margot At War: Love And Betrayal In Downing Street, 1912-1916, published in November 2014, was shortlisted for the Paddy Power Political Book of the Year award. Anne has worked for the London Evening News, the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail, and currently reviews for the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. Much of her new book, Five Love Affairs and a Friendship: Scenes from the Paris Life of Nancy Cunard, was written during lockdown at her house in nearby Barnsley.

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Henrietta Spencer-Churchill studied Art History in Italy and France before enrolling at the Inchbald School of Design in London. She started her Interior Design business “Woodstock Designs” in 1981 having worked for 3 years with Diana Hanbury and Jean Monro.

She specializes in the restoration and refurbishment of period and listed buildings with emphasis placed on conserving their historic value and features whilst bringing them into the 21st century. Many of her commissions are abroad which involves the challenges of learning about and incorporating local cultures and trends.

As well as her Interior Design business much of her time is dedicated to the overseeing of the restorations of her family home Blenheim Palace, the running of the Blenheim Foundation and organizing special and fund-raising events for local charities.

She is the author of 11 books and is currently filming a pilot TV programme “Hidden Treasures” which will air on UK prime time TV in due course and another TV documentary hosted by Nick Knowles called “Heritage Rescue” which is due to be aired on the Discovery Channel in 2022.

A new book on Blenheim “300 years of Life in a Palace” will be published September 2024 by Rizzoli.



Robert Hardman’s most recent book, Charles III, New King. New Court, The Inside Story topped the Sunday Times bestseller list.  With his unrivalled access to the Royal Family – for Charles III he interviewed the sisters of both the monarch and the Queen - their close friends, staff past and present, and hitherto unseen documents from the royal archives, Hardman is undoubtedly the country’s top royal biographer.  Past international bestsellers include Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II - the 2022 Sunday Times Biography of the Year - Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work, and Queen of the World, along with globally acclaimed television documentaries of the same names. A recent BBC film was Charles III: The Coronation Year. A member of the BBC commentary team at all the major state occasions of recent times, including the Coronation of Charles III and the funerals of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Hardman, educated at Wellington College and Cambridge University, is an award-winning journalist for the Daily Mail and lives in London.

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Victoria Summerley is a Bibury resident as well as a journalist and author. She has worked for The Times Higher Education Supplement, the Evening Standard, The Observer, The Guardian and most recently The Independent where she was executive editor, and deputy editor of The Independent newspaper until 2012.

Victoria has always been a keen gardener, but first wrote about gardening when Sir Max Hastings, then editor of the Evening Standard, was looking for a “gardening-literate” journalist to interview Sir Terence Conran about his design for the Evening Standard Chelsea Flower Show garden in 1999. While on The Independent, Victoria won the prestigious Garden Media Guild Journalist of the Year award in 2010.

When she moved to the Cotswolds in 2012, she intended to spend all her time in her garden, which she opens for the National Garden Scheme on the first Wednesday in July. However, she was persuaded by publishers Frances Lincoln to write The Secret Gardens of Cotswolds, and subsequently Great Gardens of London and The Secret Gardeners, working with photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas.



Abigail Willis lives in Somerset, and is a freelance writer and editor with a particular interest in gardening and the arts. She is the author of several books, including Secret Gardens of Somerset, The Remarkable Case of Dr Ward and Other Amazing Garden Innovations and The London Garden Book A-Z.

She is a contributor to the RHS magazine, The Garden, as well as The English Home,

the Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph, the Church Times, the Chelsea Fringe festival and The City Planter. She is a member of the Garden Media Guild and The Critics’ Circle.

As well as art, architecture and gardening, her interests include contemporary jewellery, ceramics and craft, cream teas (jam on top of clotted cream please, and strictly no sultanas), and open-air swimming. When not at her desk she can be usually be found pottering, secateurs in hand, in her garden or on the allotment.



Arthur Reynolds is an international financial advisor whose work enables him to divide his time between the United States and the United Kingdom, where he writes and lectures on the life and works of Edward Elgar.  A lifelong rescuer of Elgarian artifacts, Arthur owns what is believed to be the largest accumulation of Elgariana in private hands.  Arthur holds degrees from Columbia University, Cambridge University and New York University’s Graduate Business School.

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Caroline Montague lives with her second husband and their seven children at Burnt Norton in Gloucestershire, the scene of a tragedy that inspired T.S. Eliot's famous Four Quartets. The story of the house and former inhabitants were the inspiration for her first novel Burnt Norton (2013). Her second novel An Italian Affair was followed by A Paris Secret and then Shadows over the Spanish Sun (2021). Her most recent book Pieces of Us was published in January this year. When she isn't writing, she works for her own interior design company.

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Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE is a cross bench Peer, and is Chair of University College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust. She is a Trustee of the Rayne Foundation, Chair of Independent Age, as well as a Trustee of Yad Hanadiv (Charitable Foundation). She is a Commissioner for the Integration of Refugees and was a Commissioner on the UK Commission for Bereavement. She was Senior Rabbi of West London Synagogue from 2011 until March 2020, where she is now Rabbi Emerita. She is also Chair of Walter & Liesel Schwab Charitable Trust set up in memory of her parents, to help refugees and asylum seekers access education.

She is the author of many books including; Antisemitism – What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters; Is that all there is? Thoughts on the meaning of life and leaving a legacy; Not yet Dead; The Moral State we’re In; Dying Well: a guide to enabling a good death; Caring for Dying Patients of Different Faiths; The Moral State we’re In; On being Jewish.

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Lord Nickolas Soames was a Conservative MP for 36 years, serving as Minister of State for Armed Forces in the government of John Major. He was briefly expelled from the party (Whip removed) by Boris Johnson.
For two years he was an equerry to the Prince of Wales, who has remained a good friend.
He is a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, son of Mary Churchill and Sir Christopher Soames, the last Governor of Rhodesia, and great nephew of Lady Baden Powell.

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Charles Moore has been the Editor of The Spectator, The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph. He continues as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator. He was created Lord Moore of Etchingham in 2020.

Kate Ehrman was formerly on the editorial staff of The Spectator and assisted Charles Moore in the preparation of all three volumes of his biography of Margaret Thatcher. She writes book reviews for The Oldie and also works for Garsington Opera.

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Dame Fiona Reynolds, former Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Director General of the National Trust, is currently Chair of the Governing Council of the Royal Agricultural University.  Fiona was Chair of the judging panel of the Wainwright prize for Nature Writing in 2016, and published her first book, The Fight for Beauty: Our path to a better future in 2017. She lives in the Cotswolds.

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