AT the end of a powerful performance of his book Private Peaceful at the Octagon in Yeovil on Saturday, Michael Morpurgo congratulated the organisers of the town’s first ever Literary Festival – and the packed house proved the success of the venture.
The Devon-based writer and former children’s laureate was joined on stage by acapella trio Coope, Boyes and Simpson for the show, a reading of his story of a 14-year-old soldier in the trenches of Belgium.
Set over the few hours before dawn, Tommo Peaceful strains to remember the best moments of his childhood, under the protection of big brother Charlie and in the company of Molly, before the threat of The Hun forced children into war.
In Tommo’s case, it was to avoid the accusation of cowardice from an old woman in his village. He was no coward, and neither was Charlie. But war is war.
The singers provided songs from the period as a counterpoint to Morpurgo’s impassioned reading, and he later joined them to sing the Devonshire Carol from his War Horse score, written by John Tams for the late Mollie Sugden.
Many schoolchildren were in the Octagon audience, and Michael Morpurgo was keen (as always) to send them into the night with hope rather than the sadness of Private Peaceful, telling them that the two world wars allowed us to discuss and argue rather than to fight … a difficult message in these fraught days.
The three day festival also included sessions with Wendy Cope, Jenni Murray, David Gower, Tony Robinson and Paddy Ashdown. The organisers are delighted with the response – and are planning for the 2014 festival.