The 2016 Philippa Pearce Lecture: Allan Ahlberg

Allan AMUCH LOVED, best-selling, author, Allan Ahlberg, will give the Pearce lecture in 2016 on September 1st in the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College, Cambridge.

Allan is author of more than a hundred books for children, translated into many languages, and winner of many awards, including two Greenaway prizes for Each Peach Pear Plum and The Jolly Postman (with his late wife, Janet Ahlberg). Allan’s range is extraordinary and encompasses some of the best books ever produced for babies, and for older children.  These include wonderful versions of fairy tales, brilliantly funny stories and fine collections of poetry.Always warm, inventive, creative, his output connects powerfully with young readers. We know his lecture will be a rare treat.

Do not be afraid to be afraid

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On a warm September afternoon, under blue Cambridge skies, Meg Rosoff took to the podium in front of an expectant audience gathered from across the country for the 8th Annual Pearce Lecture.

“We knew when we invited you that you wouldn’t shy away from the difficult questions.” As Louise Joy went on to affirm in her concluding remarks, Meg Rosoff did indeed delight her audience with a lecture displaying a “combination of courage and lyricism”.

In a talk that ranged effortlessly from Goldilocks and the Tooth Fairy to Harry Potter and Albert Einstein, Meg left us in awe – but also inspired and empowered. Starting from her own particular connection with Philippa Pearce, she described how, having first met the octogenarian author as a “fawning middle-aged fan”, she went on to champion Pearce’s The Little Gentleman as a member of the Guardian Children’s Book Prize panel. Since the rest of the panel were not convinced that death was a suitable subject for children’s literature, it did not win. But there in the lecture, Meg felt, justice was done. And so, with humour and humility she examined the vital role of fantasy, fairytale and fear – and their attendant risks – in the lives of children.

Taking her title from a line in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Meg used her powers of storytelling, and drew on research, literature and personal experience, to demonstrate that fear itself is not the problem. And that, paradoxically, if we shy away from it, we will find ourselves in the grip of another fear – that of failure. Indeed, she observed, some commentators warn that we now have a society raising a compliant generation so fearful of failure they are unable to take risks, to be intellectually curious.

Conversely, as Meg argued, children all need to experience risk, to have the freedom to explore the “What ifs …” Which is precisely what stories of all kinds, from fairytales to young adult novels afford. Richard Dawkins may prescribe “fostering scepticism instead of filling their heads with fantasy”, but imagination – the quality that sets the human species apart – is needed for science as much as for storytelling. As Meg pointed out, for some of the most fantastic stories ever invented, you only have to turn to the spinning tales of multiverses and black holes.

But the message was not only for children and their parents, or for would-be scientists. Talking candidly of the very real challenges in being a writer, and of that “awkward period between novels when the existence of the next book is not a foregone conclusion”, Meg deftly turned her attention to the risk-taking required of the children’s or YA author, who “gives young people the power to shape their own stories”. Again, fiction and fantasy hold the key, and for her it is Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat (“reads like a postmodern anarchist’s handbook”) which supplies the essential image. “I have become my hero; I am the 58-year-old that sneaks into the house and causes havoc,” she revealed. Thus, she ended by issuing her provocation, not to her audience, or to child readers, but to herself: “think big thoughts, and do not be afraid to be afraid”.

Last week’s lecture

Meg Rosoff’s lecture was a great success. Clever, witty insightful and often funny too. A lot of the voices that I overheard in the auditorium and at the reception afterwards were saying that it was one of the best so far.

If all goes well there will be a lecture video here and on the 2015 lecture page in the next few days.

One more week to go!

One week to go until Meg Rosoff gives her Philippa Pearce Memorial lecture!

Entitled: Do Not Be Afraid To Be Afraid, it will take place at 5.00pm on the 10th of September in the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College, Cambridge.

There are still some seats left, so do come to the Pearce Lecture website and book if you are interested. Remember the event is free! After the lecture there will be a short wine reception. Both lecture and reception are funded entirely by donations. There will be a collection immediately after the lecture.

Seats for Meg Rosoff’s lecture are still available

A quick update to remind all who follow us that seats are still available for Meg Rosoff’s lecture, Do Not Be Afraid To Be Afraid.

The lecture will take place at 5.00pm on the 10th of September in the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College, Cambridge. After the lecture there will be a short wine reception. Both lecture and reception are free, but are funded by donations. There will be a collection immediately after the lecture.

Please retweet, like or generally spread the word!

Booking is now open for Meg Rosoff’s 2015 lecture

BOOKING IS NOW OPEN for Meg Rosoff’s lecture, Do Not Be Afraid To Be Afraid.

The lecture will take place at 5.00pm on the 10th of September in the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College, Cambridge. After the lecture there will be a short wine reception. Both lecture and reception are free, but are funded by donations. There will be a collection immediately after the lecture.

Please book your free tickets, with a maximum of two per applicant, using the form on the booking page. If you have party of more than two you will need to make a second booking using an additional email account.

Once booked you will receive a confirmation email that is also your e-ticket. Print it out, keep it safely and take it with you to the lecture.

If you have previously booked a ticket with us, then you should use the password that you created then for the current booking. People booking for the first time will find that they need to set up an account. If you have forgotten your password there is an option that will allow you to create a new one.

If you have booked tickets, but have not received the confirmation email, please check any junk mail folders. If your email address is behind a company firewall, we recommend that you contact your IT department to make certain that the domain www.pearcelecture.com is not blacklisted. Otherwise, please get in touch.

This Year’s Lecture: Meg Rosoff

A quick note to remind people that this years lecure will be given by Meg Rosoff. It is entitled, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BE AFRAID and will take place be at 5:00pm on the 10th of September, Homerton College, Cambridge,

We often open booking right at the start of July – this year there is a slight delay but we hope to have the booking page up and running very soon indeed. If you want to be informed the moment that ticketng open, please join our mailing list or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.