The anniversary of the Shakespeare in Oxford project – Oxford’s own Romeo and Juliet – Joe and Zara


Today is the anniversary of the Shakespeare in Oxford project. It was hard work for Polly and I raising the money, bringing together the young people and organising the three days of workshops and filming  but these young people are amazing don’t you think –  so thoughtful? (See video link  below the pics)  The scene where Joe and Zara fall in love- they are acting in West Side Story! This concerns Polly’s re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet . Eve Ahmed  movingly reflected on the authenticity of it.  Given the turbulence of our world in 2019 we need  to ‘only connect’ even more !

Weimin He kindly designed the logo and sketched on the final day and Philip Hind organised the filming. This pic is of Victor Glynn, Polly and I  promoting the project to young people.

In Sculpting the Elephant , Harry and Ramma face obstacles but not life and death ones as in Joe and Zara.

Weimin He kindly designed the logo and Philip Hind organised the filming. He has just made a video  for me to show at the launches of Sculpting the Elephant.

My new talks topic – a more personal one.

The Friends of Watlington Library are fortunate in their poster designer – Ross Speirs. He made a great poster for my talk there about Brushstrokes in Time. I must have done okay because they have asked me back. Its open to anyone so if any Oxfordshire friends are interested -do come along. Watlington use talks like mine to fundraise for their community library.  Tomorrow they have none other than Philip Pullman so I’ll have a hard act to follow!  I had hoped to go to that one but I am booked to talk about Brushstrokes in Time and China at Long Hanborough.

What do you think of this poster?

More Launches: Sculpting the Elephant @Antiques on High

The Launch of Sculpting the Elephant at Antiques on High

Sylvia Vetta’s second novel Sculpting the Elephant is inspired by her own life experiences in a mixed marriage and in a twenty year career in the art and antiques trade.  You are invited to explore the ideas behind Harry King’s shop Deco-rators with the author Sylvia Vetta and  with Caroline Henney – vintage jewellery expert at Antiques on High and one of the inspirations for the character of Kathy in Sylvia’s novel.

Thursday May 2 @ 4.30pm : Sylvia will be in Antiques on High for sales and signings. There will be the opportunity to take part in a fun antiques hunt quiz and a Deco prize will be awarded to the winning entry.  (In the case of more than one –there will be a draw.  )

At 5 pm there will be a short video about Sculpting the Elephant and some archive material from the world of art and antiques in Oxford will be on display.  Caroline and Sylvia will talk about the book and guide visitors around Antiques on High pointing out relevant twenties and thirties objects fashion and jewellery. For those who would like to continue conversation with Sylvia, Caroline and other interesting guests they will cross the road to St Mary’s and everyone is welcome to join them for

TEA @ the VAULTS approx 5.30.

 Monday May 13: Sylvia will be in Antiques on High for conversation, reminiscence and book signings from 3.30- 5pm

Saturday June 1: The finale of the May Sculpting the Elephant theme in Antiques on High Sylvia will be present from 2.30-4.30 pm. She will give away copies of features she wrote on Deco and we will raise a glass at the end!

The View from Antiques on High- Queens College to the left and Teddy Hall to the right


The view from St Mary’s: The charming Vaults cafe  where we will have tea is in the ground floor.



Audiobooks panel at Oxford Brookes and a thorny issue – Cultural Appropriation- my experience

Tonight I’ll be on a panel @ Oxford Brookes University discussing audio books. Catherine O’Brien the CEO of Essential Audiobooks is over here from New York and  will be the principal speaker. I have been asked to give the point of view of an author. I plan to describe my journey to the printed book, the audio book and the amazing voice of Caroline McLaughlin who despite the name is of Chinese ancestry I’ll talk frankly  about  a particular problem the audiobook of Brushstrokes in Time encountered.

I understand and sympathise with the origins of the idea of ‘cultural appropriation’ – when minority voices find it hard to get a hearing but as with acting, I believe that writing and casting should be COLOUR BLIND. I sympathised with British Chinese actors who saw Chinese  parts  which could go to them given to others of another background.  Recently their confidence has grown as Sandra Ho was cast as Eve in Killing Eve and suddenly there are more Chinese actors appearing in non-type cast roles. That’s how it should be!

When I was writing Brushstrokes in Time  at the same time, in Montreal, Madeleine Thien was writing Don’t Say We have Nothing. There are many things our novels have in common: the locations, the Cultural Revolution playing an important part, the muse – in Madeleine’s book it is music and in mine the visual arts. There’s an inter- generational story. I love her book but people who have read it sing the praises of BIT too. The difference between us is  that she is Canadian and I am English and the colour of our skin.

The material in my novel has as much but probably MORE authenticity than hers. Why?

Thanks to Qu Leilei. I interviewed the founder of the Stars Art Movement over three years. Leilei was present in Tiananmen Square in 1966 when Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to over a million teenagers. He was present in Tiananmen Square in 1976 when the people rebelled and mourned ZhouEnlai. He was on the Stars March to Tiananmen Square in 1979. He was present at the trial of Democracy leader Wei Jingsheng. His father Qu Bo was one of the most popular authors pre Cultural Revolution. Madame Mao turned a part of Tracks in the Snowy Forest into her model opera Tiger Mountain  .His father knew  Mao , Zhou  Lin Biao  etc. The stories which form the historical  background  to BiT were unique and authentic.

Agents  told me that  despite BIT being  well written, fascinating and  a  page turner  they wouldn’t be able to sell it as I am NOT Chinese.  Madeleine’s experience was completely different. It was talked about and reviewed by the great and good and was short listed for the Booker Prize.  Surely  what should matter is the quality of the writing and not how the author looks!




Coming up in 2019

Tuesday January 8

Talk to Holton and Waterperry WI in Holton Village Hall at 7.30.
Subject : The Importance of Life Writing and How to Begin

Saturday February 2
Indian Republic Day Celebration
Rose Hill Community Centre 6.30

Thursday February 7
Oxford Brookes University
Audio Books
Sylvia will be on the panel of 4 with Catherine O’Brien chaired by James Harrison (Oxfordfolio)
(Essential Audiobooks recorded Brushstrokes in Time)

Wednesday 13 February 7.30 in the Methodist Church
Kennington WI
Talk : How I castaway 120 inspirational people.
Oxford Castaways 3

Thursday 21 February
South Leigh Village Hall 2.30pm
The Importance of Life Writing and tips on how to begin.

Wednesday March 6
- Sylvia Vetta

The launch of Sculpting the Elephant
The Jam Factory opposite Oxford Station
6.30 -7.30 (Free but please book with Sylvia )
(optional meal in the restaurant afterwards £20 )

Saturday March 16,
7pm @ Kennington Village Centre (OX15PG)
This cabaret style Indian Evening launch of Sculpting the Elephant includes entertainment & a free Indian meal but please bring your own bottle!
(Spaces are limited so please reserve your place)

Thursday 11 April
Talk to Long Hanborough WI
China; the true story behind Brushstrokes in Time
7.30 Village Hall

May-June: Antiques on High (85 the High, Oxford OX14BG)
Many items mentioned in Sculpting the Elephant will be on display and a free leaflet on C20th design titled From Dresser to the Ad Man written by Sylvia will be available in the centre. Dates to be confirmed when Sylvia will be present for discussion and book signing. Click on link for details of May 2 launch etc.

Sculpting the Elephant at Antiques on High


Friday June 7  @ 7pm The Friends of Watlington Library: Sculpting the Elephant, Mixed Relationships and Lost Histories

Saturday  June 15 @ Claret Press (Clapham) The London  launch of Sculpting the Elephant.

By |December 30th, 2018|Events|0 Comments

Events ; Speaking Engagements Coming Up in 2018

WI Talks Coming Up in August

How I Castaway 120 people

1) Charlton on Otmoor  Primary School  Tues 14 August 7.30

 2) The Heyfords  The Reading  Room , Upper Heyford  Wednesday 15 August 7.30

Wednesday September 19  @ 4.30

Brushstrokes in Time

China under Mao and what some courage artist did next .

@ Adderbury Library

Saturday 22 September @ Sculpture in the Vineyard  

Bothy Vineyard  Poems in an Exhibition with me and Heather Rosser and  world music from Confluence Collective.c


Wednesday October 3  11-12 am

Life -writing session at Kennington Library  with Pamela Allen

October 9 @7.30

Long Wittenham WI 

Thursday  November  8@ 7.30pm: China from 1963-1993

Long Hanborough 

This photograph was taken at the launch of Oxford  Castaways 3 – some of the inspirational people I have had the priviledge  to interview.

One of the last public pictures of Sir Roger Bannister.


Saturday December 1 10am-4pm

Oxford Town Hall Green Fair

Book signing and selling





To buy copies of Oxford Castaways 2
Go to
and click on the cover image.