‘Maximum meaning, minimum means’

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October 6, 2014 by Lydia Syson

GamesGrowYourOwnFood

Today’s my first post as one of the History Girls…from now on you’ll find me there on the 6th of every month.  Follow the link to find out more about the man behind this brilliant image. (Not an artist, but ‘a graphic thinker’.)


School visits: bonus time

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September 18, 2014 by Lydia Syson

01-Fountain-pen-nib

There’s something particularly satisfying about reading creative work that’s been produced by students after a school visit.  Last summer I went to talk to a group of Year 9 girls at Streatham and Clapham High School, who were – most impressively – finding out about the Spanish Civil War in Spanish.  I thought it was such an imaginative approach to learning a language, and it was fantastic to meet students so engaged with the history and culture of Spain.  Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to give my talk in Spanish. Even better, the project led to some wonderful pieces of writing in English, the best of which – by Anna and Lulu – you can read below.  keep reading


Summer news – updated

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August 1, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Daumiernewspaperreading

This is a bits-and-pieces, catch-up kind of a post, mostly to express my gratitude to lots of different people who’ve helped me in my work in lots of different ways over the past few months… keep reading


Darkling I listen

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July 3, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Nightingale-Luscinia-mega-006

I’ve only heard a nightingale sing once, in a wood near Bristol, when I was in my early twenties.  Last Sunday I stood in the dark and listened to a recording made in 1942, in Surrey.  This nightingale was ‘pouring forth its soul abroad’ – rather more widely even than Keats’ bird, since it was being broadcast live by the BBC – in a short-lived annual tradition that was about to end.  It was broken that night because the engineer realised that his new high-fidelity microphone was also picking up the growing hum of a flight of bombers.  Nearly two hundred aircraft were heading for Germany, and he did not want to warn the enemy of the impending raid.  Fortunately he continued to record, if not to broadcast, and  the result is now part of The Wind Tunnel Project. keep reading


Celebrating Romance

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June 5, 2014 by Lydia Syson

romancefestival_red_final

Think of historical romance, and I suspect you’ll find yourself instantly bogged down in swathes of taffeta, tripping over corset-laces and tumbling into somebody’s moonlit arms beneath ivy-bedecked castle walls.   keep reading


Observe yourself

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May 11, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Orwellaspidistra

Fieldwork. An anthropology of our own people, in the name of progress.  Political empowerment.  Or covert surveillance?  Furtive notebooks and licked pencils? Psychoanthroposociologic Nosey Parkers, according to the Daily Herald.

You would struggle to find anything more utterly characteristic of the 1930s than the Mass Observation movement, and the mixed responses this social observation project provoked. I don’t think I could have written That Burning Summer without the help of the Mass Observers.

keep reading


Writing competition results

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May 2, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Warsaw, September 1939

Last month I wrote about a high-tech school visit I’d made to Sydenham School in South London. Today I’m delighted to announce the results of the creative writing competition. keep reading


Diving deeper: into the ‘Glass Room’

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April 27, 2014 by Lydia Syson

South London Press, 21.3.14

Writing historical fiction demands total immersion.  It’s a fairly obsessive process, but well worth it.  Bit by bit, you build up an increasingly accurate and nuanced picture of the world your characters inhabit, discover what makes them tick, what might affect the way they think and feel about events.  Not surprisingly, I was immediately intrigued when I was invited to use the new ‘immersion room’ at Sydenham School, London, for a planned event with some of their year 8 and 9 students. keep reading


#UKYADay

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April 19, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Project UKYA Button

I’m not going to assume that everybody who reads this will instantly understand the title of this post, but I have a feeling that in twenty or thirty years time, someone, somewhere, will be writing a thesis about the phenomenon that is UKYA.  And nobody will need an explanation. keep reading


Len Crome Memorial Lecture 2014: Taking Sides

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March 2, 2014 by Lydia Syson

Hora de Espana magazine cover

The Spanish Civil War ‘gripped the imagination of a generation’, said Valentine Cunningham this weekend at Taking Sides: Artists and Writers on the Spanish Civil War.  To judge from the huge and variously-aged turnout at the event, not to mention the responses I’ve had from young readers of my own novel on the subject, it will continue to do so for several generations to come.   keep reading


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