For the love of literature

The library at The Amelia

Tunbridge Wells author Leonora Langley tells the Times about the Local Writers Fair on Friday May 12. Part of the town’s literary festival, which runs from May 11 to May 14, it aims to shine a spotlight on some of our talented wordsmiths…


The second Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival takes place later this week and this year during the four-day event you can hear everyone from former TV chat show host, Sir Michael Parkinson and actor Russell Tovey to comedian-turned-children’s author David Walliams discuss their latest tomes in a variety of venues across town, including the Assembly Hall and The Forum from May 11 to 14.

For the first time, the Amelia Scott cultural centre will be hosting a Local Writers Fair to coincide with its main bill of celebrity guest speakers. The event will take place on May 12, from 11am to 4pm and admission is free.

Throughout the day there will be something for everyone with children’s books, fiction and poetry being discussed as well as thrillers, non-fiction and history. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet with local writers like myself, discover new books and also purchase signed copies.

It promises to be a fun event with other local writers including Michael Waterhouse, Gary Bridges, Sophie Kersey and Carol Anne Skipper all involved. I will be appearing at 11am alongside Deborah de Satgé and Paul Bright to discuss children’s literature.

As a Tunbridge Wells resident and author of the book, ‘Let The Souls of Our Children Sing’, which is about the vital importance of nurturing emotional wellbeing in the young, I am delighted to be part of this new event. This is especially because the welfare of mothers and children was a subject dear to the heart of social reformer and campaigner Amelia Scott whose name lives on in the new integrated cultural building, The Amelia.

As a peace-loving suffragist, Amelia’s early social and philanthropic work included teaching Sunday school classes and mothers’ meetings, as well as Poor Law work which opened her eyes to the needs of new mothers, both married and unmarried, leading to the refurbishment and opening of a former inn, reinvented as the Crown Hostel for Women and Children in 1913. By 1931, it was reported to house 100 women and 50 children in a week.

I believe local authors can play an important role in bringing a specific neighbourhood or city to life with their unique understanding of the culture, stories and challenges of the environment in which they live and work. A good part of the content of my book was based on thirty years’ experience as a teacher in the South East, most recently as a peripatetic piano teacher at Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells from 2013 to 2019. I have also worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist for 15 years, most significantly as a support worker and supervisor with Cruse Bereavement Care.

In ‘Let the Souls of Our Children Sing’, which has taken me a lifetime to bring to fruition and is the only book I ever wanted to write (described by one critic as ‘a small book with a big message’), I highlight the increasing amount of pressure we are placing on our children. As a result, this leads to unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety and depression. With one in six children now suffering from an identifiable mental health issue and 12.3% with a special need, I would go further in my belief that most children in our present society have a special need to a greater or lesser degree.

In my book, I argue that a large part of the problem is that since the 1870s, mainstream education has mainly focused on academic achievement, a 19th-century model emphasising cognition and logic because it can be counted and measured. The existing anachronistic structure desperately needs a new paradigm placing greater emphasis on children’s emotional wellbeing and soul development, which is beyond measure. I believe parents and teachers need to work together in raising their consciousness to help children increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, self-compassion and self-love with the ultimate aim of them reaching self-actualisation as described by humanistic psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

I do hope you’ll come along this coming Friday to The Amelia to discover more.

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