Clare Balding heads strong sporting line-up at Ilkley Literature Festival, with Stephen Roche, Robbie Paul and Ed Smith also talking books

Television sports presenter Clare Balding leads a strong sporting line-up at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which began today in the beautiful Yorkshire spa town and continues for the next two and a half weeks.

Clare will be talking about her newly-published memoir, My Animals and Other Family, at the Kings Hall on Friday, October 12 (7.30pm).

My Animals and Other Family (Viking) is a memoir of Clare's early life at the racing stables run by her father, Ian Balding, where she sat astride legendary thoroughbreds such as Mill Reef, winner of the Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and would sometimes walk into the family kitchen to find the Queen sitting at the breakfast table.

Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, rugby league giant Robbie Paul and former England Test batsman Ed Smith are other sports stars who will be appearing at the Festival.

Roche, the Irishman who won the cycling triple crown of Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and world championship in 1987, shares the platform with ITV presenter and author Ned Boulting to discuss the roles of cyclist and journalist in the world’s greatest bike race, also at the Kings Hall, on Sunday, October 7 (4.30pm).

Stephen Roche's autobiography, Born to Ride, was published by Yellow Jersey in June this year. Ned Boulting is the author of How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France, an amusing an engaging collection of memories from eight years of covering the Tour de France.

Robbie Paul, the New Zealander who won the Super League four times and the Challenge Cup twice during his 12 years with Bradford Northern, is the speaker at the Craiglands Hotel (8pm) on the same day, Sunday, October 7.

Paul's journey from bush boy to international rugby superstar is the subject of Robbie: Rugby Warrior (Great Northern Books), the autobiography he published last month.

Ed Smith, the Kent and Middlesex batsman who has become a successful author since retiring from cricket, will join Barry Johnston, son of much-loved cricket commentator Brian ‘Johnners’ Johnston, at Craiglands Hotel next Wednesday, October 3 (7.30pm), to talk about their shared passion for cricket – and the importance of luck.

Johnston, himself a broadcaster and writer, edited a Centenary Edition of An Evening with Johnners (Quiller), a collection of the stories and anecdotes that made his father's personal appearances on theatre tours so popular.  First published in 1996, the special edition, to commemorate what would have been Brian's 100th birthday, was published in May this year.

Smith, whose 2003 diary, On and Off the Field, was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, subsequently wrote the highly acclaimed Playing Hard Ball, a cultural study of county cricket and baseball, which he followed with the thought-provoking analysis, What Sport Tells Us About Life.

He is the author, too, of Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters, which was published this year by Bloomsbury.

The sporting line-up also includes an appearance at Ilkley Playhouse Wharfeside next Monday, October 1 (7.30pm) by Max Davidson, the novelist and Daily Telegraph journalist, who will talk about Cricket and Sequins, with reference to his unique social history, We'll Get 'Em in Sequins (Wisden Sports Writing), in which, inspired by Darren Gough's triumphant appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, he set out to explore the changing phenomenon of 'manliness' through portraits of some of Yorkshire cricket's greatest players.

And, by way of a warm-up to all these treats, Guardian music journalist and football fan Dave Simpson will make two appearances this Sunday, September 30.

Dave will be at the Rombalds Hotel at 1.30pm to deliver a Masterclass entitled A Fan's Guide to Writing About Sport before moving on to St Margaret's Hall (5pm) to discuss The Last Champions (Bantam Press), published in May this year, in which he explored the glory years of the 1990s at Leeds United, who were the last champions of the Football League's original First Division before the inception of the Premier League in 1992, after which, he argues, football changed beyond recognition as rocketing wages, billionaire owners and the dictates of television took the game away from the fans.

For full details of these and all the events at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which runs until October 14, visit http://www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk.

For more information and to buy any of the new titles mentioned, click on any of these links to the Amazon website.

My Animals and Other Family, by Clare Balding
Born to Ride: The Autobiography of Stephen Roche
How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France, by Ned Boulting
Robbie Rugby Warrior: The Autobiography, by Robbie Paul
An Evening with Johnners,  by Brian Johnston; edited by Barry Johnston
Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters, by Ed Smith
We'll Get 'Em in Sequins, by Max Davidson
The Last Champions, by Dave Simpson

More books by Ed Smith
More books by Max Davidson


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