Marina Cantacuzino is speaking at the Queen's Park book festival

A festival for book-lovers celebrates British literary art in the heart of London

Friday, 29th June 2018 — By The Xtra Diary

Marina Cantacuzino

Marina Cantacuzino

So, over to Queen’s Park, where this weekend the area’s literary festival takes place – and it is full of extraordinary writers telling extraordinary stories.

One of those that stands out is the story of Grace, as told by Queen’s Park journalist Marina Cantacuzino, author of The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age and the graphic novel Forgiveness is Really Strange.

In 2008 Grace’s 14-year-old son was murdered by a pupil from another school because of “postcode lottery” wars between young people from different areas.

After years of being overwhelmed by the pain of loss, Grace went to prison to meet the boy who killed her son. When she asked him why he did it, he said it was simply because her son went to another school and because he, the offender, had a knife in his pocket that day. Grace collapsed and said: “I’m not crying for my son, I’m crying for you – what have you done with your life?” And from there on she starts to rebuild her own life and find meaning again.

Grace begins to visit prison with a group called Restore, a rehabilitative prison programme run by The Forgiveness Project, to share her story with inmates and, through that process, learns how to forgive. The boy then wrote to Grace and her family, to explain and apologise, and it has helped her family heal.

This is but one of the true, heart-wrenching stories collected by Marina, who founded The Forgiveness Project charity in 2004.

The festival runs over the weekend in the lush surrounds of Queen’s Park and celebrates British literary art in the heart of London. It features 31 events showcasing 90 authors, from fiction writer Zadie Smith to the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan.

“Because my background is in journalism, it’s really about using stories to shift the narrative of our time away from hate towards compassion, to show peaceful solutions to conflict,” Marina told Diary. She will be in conversation with Professor Anthony Costello, author and the World Health Organization’s director of maternal, child and adolescent health.

She added: “It looks at both sides: at people who have harmed, to people who have been harmed.”

Another Queen’s Park based author Diary is excited to see on the bill is The Independent’s former Los Angeles correspondent Tim Walker.

Tim has covered stories from the Ferguson unrest in Missouri, the protests and riots following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer, to the death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump’s US presidential election – a moment Tim tells us “was exciting and fascinating, even if I wasn’t too happy about the result”.

He will be sharing a new short story inspired by his neighbourhood, the plot of which he is keeping under wraps at the moment, with three other authors. Tim also recently published a second book, titled Smoke Over Malibu. Set in Los Angeles, he wrote it while living there as a reporter.

“It is like The Big Lebowski meets Lovejoy, because it’s a Raymond Chandler type of book,” he adds. “The main character is this failed screenwriter who now works in antiques, which is where the love story element comes in.

“It is inspired by the show Lovejoy with Ian McShane, but instead of being about an antiques dealer in rural Oxfordshire, this is set in LA…”

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