Hunter Davies: Beyond Borderlines

The Cumbrian-connected writer will return to the Carlisle this October, for the fourth Borderlines book festival.

Since growing up in Carlisle, Cumbria has been a continual source of subject matter for Hunter Davies’ writing career. Perhaps most famous for penning the only authorised biography of the Beatles, his publications include numerous books about the Lake District and biographies of prolific Lakeland people, from Wainwright to Eddie Stobbart.

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The county is one very close to his heart. For the last 30 years, Hunter and his late wife, respected Carlisle author, Margaret Forster, split their time between London and their house on Loweswater, where they lived for six months of the year. Hunter sold the house after Margaret died last year, unable to bear being there alone.

He said: “It was awful, it was so sad I couldn’t bare it, but I just wanted it over with quickly.”

Throughout his grief, the author and journalist has continued to do what he does best, writing about Margaret and his grievous loss.

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Hunter explained: “I’ve always written about everything that has happened to me in my life, I’ve made a profession out of writing about me. I’ve got no shame, no secrets, no embarrassment.

“I think writing about it and turning it all into copy helps me, it gives me an occupation, a subject.”

Now for the first time, Hunter will be joined by his daughter Caitlin, a successful novelist herself, in an author event on Friday 6 October at the Carlisle Book Festival. The two will share ‘Memories of Margaret and Mum’, reflecting on life with Margaret and the influence she had on their writing careers.

Hunter is intrigued to hear Caitlin’s experience as his daughter from her perspective, if a little concerned that she will ruin his stories.

He said: “I want to hear how being our daughter affected her, we haven’t really talked about it. I always tried to get her to write, but she refused for so long to do any journalism, perhaps it was a reaction against us.”

He continued: “Margaret was always willing to be interrupted by the children when they were growing up, her door was always open, whereas I would go to my room, clutching my head shouting ‘don’t you dare come in, I’m working’. So the children never really knew that their mother was a published writer, until they were teenagers. But Caitlin will probably deny that.”

Caitlin will also read extracts from her mother’s schoolgirl diaries which are due to be published this Christmas. Meanwhile the family are still deciding what to do with Margaret’s older, more personal confessions, that were discovered after her death. Although it’s the children who harbour the most reservations; to Hunter, everything is copy.

He said: “She never destroyed them, so she must have known that they were going to be found eventually. In her 1998 diary, she writes…‘I imagine that people like me, in years to come, will enjoy reading the lives of ordinary people.’ It was in her mind that the diaries would be read, that’s my argument.”

In his second event of the literary festival, Hunter will partake in ‘Get Back to the Beatles’, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Liverpool String Quartet will play a selection of Beatles songs, introduced by Hunter, who will provide an insight into how the songs came to be written. The event takes place in the ballroom of the Crown and Mitre Hotel, the very same one where the band was famously thrown out of a dinner dance in 1963, for wearing leather jackets.

Writing in the programme for the festival, of which he is Honorary President, Hunter said: “I don’t think there have been many (book festivals) so far which offer an event melding music and words, with a professional author teaming up with professional classical musicians to tell us some stories.

“This is a first for Borderlines, one of the nation’s newer literary festivals, now just into its fourth year, but already beautifully formed, fast flourishing, endlessly fascinating.”

Borderlines takes place from Saturday 30 September to Sunday 8 October. For the full programme visit www.borderlinescarlisle.co.uk

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