Cambridge Literary Festival - Hurstpierpoint College

Cambridge Literary Festival

Sixth Form English students hear from two great novelists

A group of 20 Sixth Form English students headed to Cambridge for the weekend to take in events at the annual Literary Festival. 

They arrived in the afternoon after a long drive up – during which at least one student was reading Ian McEwan’s new novel Machines Like Me in preparation for his talk – and, after briefly stopping at the hotel to check in and deposit their bags, headed into the city. 

The students met with former Hurst student, Izzy May, who gave them a tour of Pembroke College, where she is currently studying English. After a walk around Cambridge, accompanied by a detailed and knowledgeable commentary from our very own Mr Smith, they all made their way to the Cambridge Union building for the first of the talks. The group settled into the plush leather seats of the building’s storied central chamber, and listened to Ian McEwan, one of Britain’s great modern novelists, discuss a wide range of topics from his recent work (and, of course, Brexit) to the purpose of fiction. 

After a restful night in the hotel, Sunday morning began with a quiz. Students had to answer questions on Cambridge, literature in general and current affairs. A crack team of Annie M, Juliette W and Lily S eventually emerged triumphant. After the quiz the students walked back into town, in order to catch the other main event – the talk from Elif Shafak. Shafak is a Turkish writer whose work has been nominated for a broad range of international prizes; she spoke beautifully about the challenges facing those outside the narrow mainstream of society. Our students were inspired by her considered and articulate defence of fiction in an increasingly fractious world. 

After a quick lunch, the students boarded the minibuses for the drive home, all enriched from their weekend in Cambridge. 

Nicholas Fanthorpe, Teacher of English