Philip Pullman delights a packed crowd at Oxford Brookes

Thursday, 02 November 2017

Philip Pullman in conversation with Simon Kövesi

Bestselling author Philip Pullman visited Oxford Brookes University yesterday (1 November) to talk about his new book La Belle Sauvage.

Philip was in conversation with Professor Simon Kövesi, Head of English and Modern Languages at the University (pictured  right).

The event took place at Headington Campus in front of a packed audience. Due to popular demand it was also live streamed to another lecture theatre on campus to allow as many people as possible to enjoy the event.  

Afterwards Philip also signed copies of his new book for excited audience members.

Launched last month much to the delight of his eager fans, La Belle Sauvage is the first volume in The Book of Dust, a companion to the global bestselling and multi-award winning series, His Dark Materials.

The story centres upon an 11-year-old boy called Malcolm Polstead – who lives in an inn by the Thames in Oxford. Attentive readers may remember Malcolm’s brief appearance as a university scholar in Lyra’s Oxford.

Speaking before the event Philip discussed why Oxford was such an interesting place:

“It’s a very interesting city, it’s a very interesting place to wander around and speculate about ‘Who built that place?’ or ‘Why is there a door here that nobody seems ever to have opened’ and ‘What’s going on behind that window?’ All those little things like that you can do in a city like Oxford because it’s so architecturally varied."

Philip helped launch the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University in 2008 and has been a teaching fellow on the programme ever since.

“I’ve always enjoyed my contacts with the students. I come here about once a year to do a talk with students and answer any questions that they have. I’ve been working with James Hawes [Reader in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes] and I always enjoy talking with him and seeing what he’s doing with his students and the work they produce. So I’m very glad to be involved.”

Philip Pullman book signing

Philip has previously also been involved in the University’s annual Outburst Festival, which takes place at the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford. The festival showcases cutting-edge research and expertise from across the University in a variety of fun activities, exhibitions and workshops for students, staff and the local community.

I’ve always enjoyed my contacts with the students. I come here about once a year to do a talk with students and answer any questions that they have.

Philip Pullman

Speaking about engaging with the community and events like Outburst, Philip said: "It’s important to engage with local communities because universities are a part of the local community and it helps them a great deal and helps the local people a great deal if they’re talking.

“Writing and the arts generally are good for everyone and I’m always pleased to see arts festivals in one sort or another because they’re something that everyone can enjoy. I’m glad to see people reaching out into art forms they may not have experienced before, whether its poetry, or opera or film making, something like that because there is so much pleasure to be gained, so much passion and interest in the world you can discover for yourself by engaging in these things.”

Philip also gave some advice for budding writers:

“Publishers always want to publish a book that was like the one that was a bestseller last year. That’s a recipe for a certain sort of success, but that’s a very parasitic one, a very imitative one. So ask yourself how many people were saying ‘We wish there was a book about Harry Potter’ 20 years ago? 

"Nobody was saying that, she [JK Rowling] just did it because she wanted to. So write about what you want to, write what you’re interested in, write what you like to read. That’s probably the best advice I could give to someone who’s writing.”

Interested in the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes? Visit the website for more information.