Fairy Tales – breaking the spell - Catherine Johnson and Sally Gardner in conversation

Saturday 31 August

Venue: Stade Hall

12.00 to 13.00

Tickets: £7.50, students £5.50.

Fairy tales, legends, myths and folklore have always been with us. They provide the background narrative to all human culture, explaining our world and often providing us with a moral or ethical framework.
But beneath the surface, the fairy tale has the power to be both oppressive and limiting and subversive and liberating. Think about the classic fairy tale heroine, whose only purpose appears to be to win happiness through successfully capturing her prince – and compare this with the iconoclastic heroines of modern fairy tale writers such as Leonora Carrington, Angela Carter and Fay Weldon, who use their enchantments and opportunities to achieve rather more interesting, empowering (and frequently darker) ends.

Recently, focused critical attention on fairy tales has begun to break the spell of the “Fairy Tale Ending” – challenging the assumption that material security provided by marriage is the “Happy Ever After” that all should aspire to and revealing new-insights into the ancient tales that have comforted, delighted and at times, deliciously frightened us during our childhood.

Join award winning authors Sally Gardner and Catherine Johnson for a discussion on the remarkable and long-lasting potential of classical tales to elicit unexpected responses – and to consider how film, television, advertising and the Internet are currently testing the fairy tale’s boundaries and its traditional authority in defining such things as gender roles and the concept of happiness. From the Middle Ages to the postmodern age and from the French fables to Hollywood, this will be an event to interest anyone who has ever been held in thrall by the magical words…. “once upon a time”

Discussion chaired by Litfest Director Sam Davey


Catherine Johnson

was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the London Institute, Writer in Residence at Holloway Prison and Reader in Residence at the Royal Festival Hall’s Imagine Children’s Literature Festival.

She is the author of several books for children and young adults, Arctic Hero (2008) , which tells the true story of Matthew Henson, an African-American explorer who was written out of history despite being one of the first men to reach the North Pole in 1909. 

Her other books for young people include Landlocked (1999); Stella (2002); The Dying Game (2007); Con Men (2009); The Nightmare Card (2011); Brave New Girl (2011); and Sawbones (2013). 

Sally Gardner

is an award winning children’s writer and illustrator.

She won both the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Maggot Moon (Hot Key Books, 2012)

Maggot Moon tells the story of a dyslexic teenager, Standish, who lives in a dystopian version of 1950s England, and who must find a way to bring down the oppressive forces of the ‘Motherland’. It was described by children’s writer Meg Rosoff as ‘a perfect book’.


Buy Tickets. (Click to read our Ticket Sale Terms and Privacy Policy.)

38 tickets remaining.