Latest Articles

Martin Stephen  The English Public School:  A personal and irreverent history

Tuesday 11th September, 7.45pm The Great Hall, Oundle School

The English Public School is a study of the positives and negatives of the private school system, what has gone wrong, and what needs to change.  Until his retirement in 2011, Dr Martin Stephen was High Master of St Paul’s School and before that of Manchester Grammar School, two of the most academically successful independent schools in the world.  Stephen’s experiences mean that he is uniquely placed to write a study of that extraordinary phenomenon, the English public school, institutions that are as admired in some quarters as they are despised and vilified in others.

His book pulls no punches when it comes to the author’s views on the failings of private educational establishments, while also showing that their benefits can be, and increasingly are, harnessed for a much wider good.  His own long and influential experience within that world allows him to expose a world that is rarely less than baffling to outside observers, and frequently reviled.  His often scathing and satirical view of public schools make his book a must read for anyone who is thinking of putting little Tarquin down for Eton or, conversely, for anyone who would like to see the places razed and their ruins sown with salt.  But, as the author writes, ‘If you are English and reading this now, a public school boy or girl is influencing your life.’

£1 off early-bird tickets bought before 4th September available from the Oundle Box Office.

Andrew Bibby Back Roads Through Middle England

Friday 21st September, 7.45pm St Peter’s Church, North Street, Oundle

Author Andrew Bibby sets out to cycle from the English Channel to the Humber, following the great stone belt of ‘Cotswold’ limestone which has left its mark so powerfully on the countryside.  This is a journey of discovery into a very special landscape, and the author draws on themes as varied as social history, literature, land usage, agriculture and rural life today to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that shape the land. 

This wonderful book celebrates the beauty of this area of England, but also does very much more.  Thoughtful, well-informed, sometimes provocative, Andrew goes beyond the superficial to reveal a Middle England which is considerably more complex than many might imagine.

Andrew Bibby is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in The Observer, The Independent, The Guardian and other national papers.  He has written widely on the countryside and the outdoors, including the well-reviewed Backbone of England on northern landscapes.

Places and areas covered in this book: Dorset Jurassic coast; Yeovil, Frome and east Somerset; Bath; Malmesbury, Cirencester, Stow and the Cotswolds; Blenheim Palace and north Oxfordshire; Brackley; Wellingborough, Corby and Oundle; Stamford, Sleaford, Lincoln, north Lincolnshire.

£1 off early-bird tickets bought before 14th September available from the Oundle Box Office.

W. B. Bartlett Richard the Lionheart – The Crusader King of England  

Friday 5th October, 7.45pm St Peter’s Church, North Street, Oundle

This is the first full-length biography of Richard I for forty years.  He was known to history as ‘Richard the Lionheart’, after his reputation for bravery exhibited fighting the ‘Saracens’ whilst crusading in the Holy Land. Whilst Richard I is one of medieval England’s most famous kings he is also the most controversial.  He has variously been considered a great warrior but a poor king, a man driven by the quest for fame and glory but also lacking in self-discipline and prone to throwing away the short-term advantages that his military successes brought him.  In this reassessment, W B Bartlett looks at his deeds and achievements in a new light. 

The result is a re-evaluation of ‘The Lionheart’ which finds that the King is every bit as remarkable as his medieval contemporaries found him to be.  This includes his Muslim enemies who spoke of him as their most dangerous and gallant opponent.  It also shows him to be a man badly let down by some of those around him, especially his brother John and the duplicitous French king Philip.  His character foibles are also exposed to the full including his complicated relationships with the key women in his life especially the huge contemporary figure of his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and his wife Berengaria with whom he failed to produce an heir leading to later suggestions of homosexuality.  This is a new Richard, one for the 21st Century, and a recapitulation of the life story of one of the greatest personalities of medieval Europe.

£1 off early-bird tickets bought  before 28th September available from the Oundle Box Office.

Tickets £8, conc. £6, available from the Oundle Box Office, 4 New Street, Oundle, open Mon-Fri 10am to 4pm on  01832 274734  or at

Details from Helen on 07743 988 181 or  email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Oundle Festival of Literature September 2018

Oundle Festival of Literature September 2018