My festival recipe: A little of what they fancy

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THE Brewin Dolphin Book Festival would not function without a dedicated team of staff.

In the first of a series of ‘Staff Picks’ chairman of the festival Francis Hamilton picks the authors and events he is most looking forward to.

“The 2011 programme of 65 events is our best ever. So, how can I choose among them without favouritism?

“Luckily, we know our audiences’ own preferences. You know those questionnaires we leave on the seats at Borders Book Festival events? Last year, over 600 people completed questionnaires which gave us a pretty clear picture of festivalgoers’ favourite subjects – with history, travel, food and biography rating highly. So hopefully my 2011 special choices will be shared by many others.

“I begin with travel, or rather travel-cum-history, in the shape of In Shackleton’s Footsteps by Henry Worsley. In 2008, after four years of planning, this British army officer led a three-man team – all descendants of Ernest Shackleton or his colleagues – to walk the same Antarctic route taken by Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition exactly a century earlier.

“Unlike their heroes of 1908, the modern team reached the South Pole. Henry compares the progress of the two expeditions, step by step through nearly 1,000 miles of snow and ice. His talk will be stirring stuff. Josceline Dimbleby’s Orchards in the Desert is also a genre mixture. An outstanding cookery author and journalist, in her latest book Josceline tells us how and where she developed her culinary tastes and skills: childhood travel in the Middle East and South America, basement flatsharing in London, holidays in North America, Devon and south-east Asia.

“The travellers’ tales come with 70 recipes, some exotic, some simple, all photogenic. Josceline will speak to us as fluently and interestingly as she writes.

“Having Michael Frayn with us at the festival is a privilege. A towering figure in the London theatrical and literary worlds (the author of Spies, Donkeys’ Years, Noises Off, Copenhagen – need I say more?), he is one of our finest and funniest wordsmiths.

“In Melrose he will talk about many things, but especially his new book My Father’s Fortune – a close-up, inquisitive biography of a father who meant so much to him while being so totally different. Definitely not to be missed.

“And then there’s a book to be published later this month, by our fellow Borderer Christopher Ward.

“His grandfather was a violinist in the orchestra on the Titanic – one of the few victims whose bodies were found and taken to Halifax to be buried. And The Band Played On tells what happened afterwards to Christopher’s family – and how he was able to discover the truth, 100 years later.”