Returning to Marlborough after his appearance in the 2014 LitFest, Sathnam Sanghera spoke to a packed Town Hall about his new book Empireland - not a history or a political book, but one that tries to redress the balance in our understanding of the British Empire and its effects, both in countries that became part of the Empire and in Britain itself.

Born from Sathnam's realisation that as a British child his schooling barely mentioned the Empire, and when he went on to read English Literature at Cambridge he only studied the work of one author of colour in the three years of his degree, Empireland covers a wide range of topics looking at various ways in which the British Empire has changed the lives of its subjects, for good and for bad, and how it has influenced our modern multicultural Britain.

Indeed Sathnam made the point that we wouldn't have such a multicultural society without the colonies and the fact that people all over the world were British subjects who could come and live and work in Britain if they wished.

During questions, one member of the audience expressed robust disappointment that Sathnam had not covered the benefits of the Empire in India, but he disputed this, saying, for example, that Sikhs did well out of the British involvement in India.

Sathnam finished his interview saying he'd had great reviews and many readers telling him how much they have enjoyed and benefited from reading Empireland, but he's also received a lot of racist hate mail and even death threats. He thinks perhaps one of the reasons he gets an extreme reaction is because he is a British Asian expressing his views on Empire, and that this upsets people's sense of hierarchy and the status quo. He ended by stating that he understands why people get upset about his book and his opinions, but whether you agree with his argument or not, the argument IS allowed to exist.


Rosamond Lupton gave a sell-out audience a captivating talk about her book Three Hours. She explained how from imagining the story the characters and the plot then the writing of the words would come.

At every point she knows where her characters are and how they develop in the story. The setting of the book in a remote alternative school in snowy woodland heightens the tension, the quietness, and the sense of being trapped. Throughout the story the courage and resilience of the children is powerful and the whole story a gripping and intense experience for the reader.

EMMA CARROLL (India Tilley, age 9)

I think Emma was really engaging and fun. She had a lot of hands-on activities and she really filled us in with lots of intriguing knowledge. When she got that 1960s music on, we were all up on our feet dancing! Overall she was really welcoming and made you feel at ease and she is brilliant at explaining the most puzzling of questions.