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© 2019 Seafeverfestival

SEA FEVER 3 - Nelson Life & Times  

Friday 18th October 2019, Wells Maltings


Event 1. 10:00The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 

Chaired by David Waller

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's ballad is one of the best loved poems in the language - and one which just happens to have been published in the year of Nelson's victory at the Nile. Readings and a discussion, chaired by festival co-director David Waller.

Event 2.11:30. Nelson: Under Command and Under Control? Admiral Chris Parry

Best known as a senior commander in his own right, Nelson acquired his fighting skills and much of his contemporary reputation under the command of others. Here, Admiral Dr Chris Parry brings his own extensive naval experience and academic research to bear on the intriguing question of what it was like to have Nelson as a subordinate. This is a fresh take on Nelson from a naval officer famed for speaking his mind.

Event 3. 13:00. Nelson Memorabilia

Martyn Downer and Ian Scott.

Martyn Downer and Ian Scott will comment on paintings and pictures from a private collection that tells Nelson’s story from his farewell to his grandmother when he went to sea aged 12, through familiar and unfamiliar scenes from his life to his funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Event 4. 13:00. Schools' Poetry Recital Competition.

Kevin Crossley-Holland.

Memorizing and reciting poetry is an art in its own right. As part of our Nelson theme, local schools here on the coast have been asked to choose poems reflecting Nelson’s characteristics (or virtues and defects) for recital by their pupils. They’ve done so with real passion. At this event a panel led by the poet and novelist Kevin Crossley-Holland will judge the results.

Event 5. 14:30. Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe. 

Professor Andrew Lambert

It was after Nelson’s great victory at Aboukir Bay in August 1798 that Nelson was raised to the peerage. He took a title that celebrated both the famous victory and his much-loved birthplace – almost within hailing distance of the Maltings itself. Although Nelson is much more firmly associated in our imagination with Trafalgar, at this event Professor Lambert argues that the Battle of the Nile was of considerably greater strategic significance. Indeed, it was ‘arguably the most decisive engagement in the great age of sail.

Event 6. 16:00. CS Forester v Patrick O’Brian. 

Chaired by Admiral Chris Parry

Nelson provided inspiration for the two great novelists of the Napoleonic Wars at sea: CS Forester (creator of Horatio Hornblower) and Patrick O’Brian, who wrote the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series. Each sequence has its supporters. The New York Times declared of O’Brian, ‘His Aubrey-Maturin series, 20 novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, is a masterpiece. It will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.’ Winston Churchill was Forester’s greatest fan. ‘I find Hornblower admirable, vastly entertaining.’ This debate is being staged to help members of the festival audience hone their own views, with competing teams putting the case for each of these iconic writers. Who will prevail?

Event 7. 17:30. Remembering Tom Pocock.

Chaired by Dan Worsley

Tom Pocock, who died in 2007, was a biographer, war correspondent, journalist and naval historian. A longstanding enthusiast for the North Norfolk coast, it was Tom whose books about Nelson and his times revived interested in the great admiral in the years after WW2 – a national enthusiasm that culminated in the bi-centenary celebrations for Trafalgar in 2005. At this event his friends, colleagues and relatives will remember Tom. They will raise a glass to his life and his achievement in restoring Nelson to the pedestal on which he so rightly belongs.

Tickets for the festival are on sale through Wells Maltings.

  • In person: visitor information office, Wells Maltings, Staithe Street NR23 1AU

  • By phone: 01328 710885    

  • Online:


All events are priced at £10, with one exception: the Schools' Poetry Competition (Event 4) is £2.50. Omnibus tickets are available for the whole festival at £35.

All events will be staged in the auditorium at the Maltings, with the exceptions of Ian Scott and Martyn Downer’s talk on Nelson memorabilia and the tribute to Tom Pocock. These will be held in the Handa Gallery.