Patrick Barkham – Author Event

15 June 7.30pm

An evening with Patrick Barkham, discussing the definitive biography of beloved author, Roger Deakin.

Tickets are available at the door.

Patrick Barkham is the prize-winning author of five books, including The Butterfly IslesBadgerlands and Wild Child. He is the Guardian’s natural history writer, an environmental campaigner and has edited a collection of British nature writing. Like Roger Deakin, he lives in East Anglia.

Roger Deakin, author of the immortal Waterlog and Wildwood, was a man of unusually many parts. A born writer who nonetheless took decades to write his first book, Roger was also variously – and sometimes simultaneously – maverick ad-man, seller of stripped pine furniture on the Portobello Road, cider-maker, teacher, environmentalist, music promoter, and filmmaker. But above all he was the restorer of ancient Walnut Tree Farm in Suffolk, the heartland which he shared with a host of visitors, both animal and human, and wrote about – as he wrote about all natural life – with rare attention, intimacy, precision and poetry.

Roger Deakin was unique, and so too is this joyful work of creative biography, told primarily in the words of the subject himself, with support from a chorus of friends, family, colleagues, lovers and neighbours.

Delving deep into Roger Deakin’s library of words, Patrick Barkham draws from notebooks, diaries, letters, recordings, published work and early drafts, to conjure his voice back to glorious life in these pages. To read this book is to listen in to a dream conversation between a writer and those who knew him intimately.

The Swimmer is an unconventional biography of an unconventional person. In his introduction, the Guardian journalist Patrick Barkham explains that he effectively ripped up a 90,000-word draft he’d laboured on for two years, abandoning an attempt at definitiveness that he felt was contrary to the spirit of the man. What he delivers instead is a kind of tapestry fashioned from notes, letters and published works, with Deakin himself as principal narrator and some creative infill by Barkham writing in Deakin’s voice. Given the previous mining of his notes and recordings, much of The Swimmer will feel familiar to fans. But the first-person narration is liberally interspersed with the impressions, memories and perspectives of dozens of interviewees – friends, relatives, colleagues and associates, pupils from a short but memorable stint as a teacher of English, and lovers, of whom there were many. These perspectives stir sediment into the clear waters of Deakin’s narrative.

Amy-jane Beer, the guardian