This isn’t a tribute to Hamilton, although that is an astonishing piece of work. Wonderful. No, this is about the privilege of telling a story in the room where the action takes place, and singing songs inspired by that story there too. The video is below, have a watch. When I started out writing The Light Keeper a long time ago, I was living in a new town by the sea, trying to get used to it all and looking for friends. I walked the landscape around Belle Tout, Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters with an open mind and heart, looking for a way to respond to it as I had the landscape of the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry for the book Hungry for Home. I was hungry for home when we came to live here; hungry for a place to settle, raise kids and belong. So what a joy to be able to go up into the Lantern Room of the Belle Tout lighthouse and tell stories and sing songs from The Light Keeper, which opens and closes with scenes in that very room. The views are breathtaking, genuinely, as you will see during this performance filmed by Neil MacInnes. The song is Come Way, written by myself and David Perry, who is on guitar and vocals, with Bruce Pont and Phoene Cave also singing. Thank you to David Shaw, the lighthouse owner, for making it possible and for the manager Ian Noall for hosting us with a small audience. The great news is that we are hoping to do it again in the Spring, and there will be another chance to win tickets. In the meantime, you can come and hear the stories and songs at the National Trust Cafe at Birling Gap this Saturday at 5pm. This will also be very special, as it is another place where the action of the story happens and it too is right on the edge of the cliff. Tickets are available here. Get yours now because there aren’t many left. But also have a look at this, for a taste of what you will hear.
No, of course not. But there I was, singing a song on board a boat on the Thames when I saw the water was undoubtedly, unnervingly, half way up the glass. People were looking worried. They were looking for the exits. I was worried. Wouldn’t you have been? Look at it …
Thanks to Helen Daniels for the picture. This was an alarmingly literal response by the river to the words of the song: “Let your love roll down, like the wave turn.”
We were on the Tamesis Dock, a barge venue moored opposite the House of Parliament, on the day of one of those big crisis votes. No metaphors there about a sinking ship, oh no. All I could think of was to keep singing, with The Light Keepers, the band we formed after David Perry and I wrote a set of songs in response to the novel. Anyway, we didn’t drown. The windows held fast. Stories were told, drink was taken. Fun was had.
There are more events coming up, could you get to one of them? It would be good to see you there.
I promised free stuff, so I’m giving away a pair of tickets to each one, to anyone who can show they have reviewed the book on Amazon, GoodReads or anywhere else. I’ll pick the winners in a week’s time, so you’ve got until then to stick something up somewhere and get in touch. With a bit of luck we’ll stay dry …
See you there!
Here’s what it’s like to step out of the Lantern Room at the Belle Tout lighthouse near Beachy Head in Sussex, in the South Downs National Park, and walk around the platform on the outside of the tower. Yes, the outside. A long way above the ground, and beside a four hundred foot drop. I’m afraid of heights – my children still laugh at the way I clung on to the inside wall of the Eiffel Tower for dear life, genuinely scared, so this was a challenge. The heavy breathing is because I was frightened! Worth it though, for the astonishing views. Enjoy! It’s the setting for The Light Keeper, my first novel, published this August. If you want to know more about the book or read the first three chapters for free, just let me have your email here. You’ll automatically get the chance to win a night in the lighthouse.
Hello you. How’s it going? Last night we stayed at the Belle Tout lighthouse. This is a Georgian lighthouse on the edge of a four hundred foot drop on its own hill near Beachy Head in East Sussex, The Lantern Room is a wonderful space with 360 degree views of the South Downs, the Seven Sisters and the sea. Here’s a video, taking you around the room.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? David and Barbara Shaw bought the place a decade ago and they’ve spent more than a million doing it up, so it’s a really beautiful bed and breakfast. Here’s the website. It’s not like that in the story, which takes place when the lighthouse is still semi-derelict, as it was for a while before they took over. Next time I will show you what it was like to go out on that balcony, on a windy day. Brace yourself.
As you may well know by now, this is the setting for my novel The Light Keeper, a story of love, hope, faith and longing, which comes out on August 15. I’ll be telling stories from it and singing songs inspired by it at the Greenbelt Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Then I’ll be doing the same in Alfriston on September 14 thanks to my friends at the wonderful Much Ado Books and at an exclusive, very-limited-numbers performance inside that same Lantern Room, the one in the video, on September 15. Do you want to be there? I’d love you to. Only a dozen people can come, but for the chance of a pair of tickets – or even, separately, the chance to win a night for two staying at the lighthouse – sign up here.
I’m also up for telling you stories and singing you songs wherever you are, if you can get some other people who want to hear. Let me know firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it for now, thanks for reading. I’m going to try something new and write a little note every Friday to share what I’m up to and how you can get involved too, if that’s okay. Get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
I have a new story to tell. It’s about a young woman called Sarah who is caught up in the stress of trying for a baby, through fertility treatment. The cracks are showing in her relationship with her lover Jack. They’re in that terrible moment between having the last cycle of treatment you can afford and finding out whether it has worked. I remember it all too well.
Their nerves are shredded. Sarah needs to be alone, away from him, to face the moment of truth. So she runs, out of the city and down to the coast, to the high cliffs and beautiful down land around Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters.
When he finds her gone, Jack sets off in a hurry to find Sarah, convinced he must do so before it’s too late. But she doesn’t want to be found. Not by him. Not yet.
And there’s someone else seeking answers too, up on the cliffs where the seabirds soar. A man known only as the Keeper, living in an old lighthouse right on the cusp of a four hundred foot drop. He’s only too aware that love sometimes takes you to the edge.
This is the situation at the beginning of my debut novel The Light Keeper, which comes out in August. It’s about love, loss, longing, faith and hope. I hope you’ll want to read it. Matt Haig has. The author of Reasons To Stay Alive and Notes From A Nervous Planet loves The Light Keeper, as you can see below.
I’d love to send you the first three chapters as a taster. Will you give me your email address so that I can send them, please?
There’s more to come. I have a brilliant publisher, Marylebone House, but getting a story out there and heard by people who might really love it is a challenge. Right now, the story and I need friends. People who will read it, tell their mates, spread the word. Could that be you?
If you sign up you’ll also get exclusive access to a load of good things, including videos, readings, podcasts, competitions and the chance to win a book, a walk and lunch with me in that stunning landscape or even a night at the lighthouse for two people.
You can also ask me anything, any time. If you have a book club, a group, a church or a bunch of mates I’ll happily come round and talk about The Light Keeper and the themes within it, which we’ll explore together over the coming months.