Celebrating 20 years of Words by the Water

All of the WBTW:Replay talks are free for you to enjoy and we hope you take as much pleasure in listening to them as we did. If you feel able to support the festival by making a donation we would be very grateful. You will find options to make a donation beneath each talk. 

Alan Johnson – Music of My Youth

Former Home Secretary for the Labour Party and award-winning author Alan Johnson transports us to a world that is no longer with us – a world of Dansettes and jukeboxes, smoky coffee shops and dingy dance halls – adding a fourth dimension to the story of his life.

Words by the Water, 2019
Buy the Book – Alan Johnson – In My Life: A Music Memoir
Publisher – Bantam Press


Christina Lamb – Leaving Kabul

Leading foreign correspondent Christina Lamb reflects on Afghanistan – a fierce country of pomegranates and war – one that she loves and from which she has reported for 30 years. She discusses the human cost of political failure and how the prosecution of ill-thought-out wars has led to the spread of terrorism.

Words by the Water, 2017
Buy the Book – Farewell Kabul: How the West Ignored Pakistan and Lost Afghanistan
Publisher – William Collins


Kapka Kassabova – Two Lakes in the Balkans

Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa – two vast lakes set within the mountainous borderlands of North Macedonia, Albania and Greece. The region remains one of Eurasia’s oldest surviving religious melting pots. Celebrated travel writer, Kapka Kassabova, interrogates her family’s history and the central role the ancient lakes played in it, alongside memories they seem to hold of the region’s turbulent past.

Words by the Water, 2020
Buy the Book – To the Lake
Publisher – Granta


Raymond Tallis – God, Free Will and the NHS

In his latest collection of essays, physician and philosopher Raymond Tallis meditates on the complexity of human consciousness, free will, mathematics, God and eternity. These thoughts are interrupted by Tory barbarians destroying the NHS, tearing apart the welfare state, and steering England towards recession.

Words by the Water, 2017
Buy the Book – The Mystery of Being Human: God, Freedom and the NHS
Publisher – Notting Hill Editions


Stephen Matthews – Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins

Dickens and Collins spent six days in Cumberland in 1857. Collins sprained his ankle climbing Carrock. Dickens was impassioned about meeting Nelly Ternan in Doncaster. Those six days revealed the essential character of both men and together they provided an unsurpassed picture of Victorian Cumberland in ‘The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices’.

Words by the Water, 2013
Buy the Book – A Lazy Tour in Cumberland
Publisher – Bookcase


Wendy Holden & Eva Clarke – Miracle Babies of the Holocaust

Journalist and biographer Wendy Holden tells the remarkable story of three ‘miracle babies’ secretly born in the German slave labour camp, Mauthausen during World War II. United by their experiences, they now consider each other ‘siblings of the heart.’ Wendy Holden will be joined by Eva Clarke, one of the ‘miracle babies’.

Note – We join Wendy Holden mid-sentence in the early stages of her talk. Unfortunately there was an issue with the original recording but we were keen to share this captivating talk despite the abrupt start.  

Words by the Water, 2015
Buy the Book – Born Survivors
Publisher – Sphere