I had to get a picture of this stunning piece of stained-glass work, which you can find on the first mezzanine landing of the grand stairwell of Twickenham Library. I was visiting to talk about my latest novel The Fountain in the Forest on a panel with fellow authors Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson, hosted by Richmond Libraries’ Cheney Gardner, for Richmond Literature Festival’s Local Author Day.
It was a privilege to speak at this very enjoyable event, and I’m grateful to Richmond Libraries, Richmond Literature Festival, my fellow panelists and the wonderful audience for their hospitality and interest – it was great fun.
‘Knowledge is power’. That’s certainly as true now as it was in 1906, when the library – originally called the Carnegie Library Twickenham – was dedicated by F.W. Allison Esq. J.P., the then Chairman of Council.
During the panel discussion we were each asked how we got started on the road to becoming published authors. In responding I had to speak up for public libraries, because when I was a child – growing up in a household without much money and not many books – the public library in Farnham was where I was introduced to literature, quickly graduating from wonderful children’s story books like The Wombles, Doctor Dolittle and Wurzel Gummidge to the general fiction section where I found authors like Mervyn Peake, Agatha Christie, the Ellery Queen mysteries, as well as yellow-jacketed Gollancz Science Fiction anthologies, Doris Lessing and more. Without that public library, followed by access to arts subjects at secondary school and an arts education (A-level art at Farnham College, a foundation at the then West Surrey College of Art and Design, now University of the Creative Arts, Farnham, and a Fine Art Degree at Sheffield City Polytechnic, now Sheffield Hallam University) I would almost certainly not be an author today, nor have had access to any kind of professional life in the arts.
I’ve spoken about the importance of public libraries in more detail, including when I was interviewed after giving a masterclass as part of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature last year.