The Play on Words Festival (formerly the English Riviera Literature Festival) returns for a third year from Thursday 25 to Saturday 27 April and includes a stellar cast of well known and emerging South west based authors. We’ve expanded our workshop offer too to stimulate and inspire you along your own creative path. This year we have introduced a festival day ticket as well as a festival weekend ticket so that you can enjoy all the talks taking place throughout our lovely theatre, and there’s the usual option of buying tickets for individual day time talks and a new, buy two get third one free offer (on talks only).

As well as welcoming back some of our audience’s firm favourites such as Dr Todd Gray and Rachel Trethewey to name just a few, we’ve expanded our programme to include even more themed talks on a range of subjects with guest authors including award winning British writer of horror fiction, Adam L.G. Nevill and best selling, crime fiction author and creator of BBC detective drama South of the Border, Susan Wilkins.

For history buffs, there’s fascinating presentations about local and Devon History, and historical fiction as well as a workshop on researching and writing your own Family History. Our programme includes health and wellbeing topics incorporating the romantic novel, wild swimming, mindfulness in fiction, and loss and the restorative power of the natural world. Writers looking to turn their hobby into a business or exploring self publishing for the first time can take part in an interactive workshop and hear from authors sharing stories of their own journey.  Our resident Write Time Write Place creative writing group, led by tutor, Chris Woodhouse will read a series of short written stories and musings. There’s something for the little ones too, with award-winning children’s author Clare Helen Welsh who has published over 40 illustrated books, providing a fun-filled, Saturday morning storytelling and crafts workshop.

About Our Authors and Presenters

In order of appearance:

Dr Todd Gray – Born in New England, Dr Todd Gray has been fascinated by Devon’s history since a school trip in 1973. After completing his degree in London, he moved to Exeter in 1984 to study for a PhD. He completed his doctorate in 1988 and has been a Research Fellow at Exeter University ever since. Genre: Devon History

Rachel Trethewey – Born and educated in Torquay, Rachel Trethewey read History at Oxford University, where she won the Philip Geddes Prize for Student journalism. After working for the Daily Express, The Daily Mail and Westcountry Television, she attained a PhD from Exeter University. Rachel has written five books and her latest, Mothers of the Mind, has received the ‘Antonia Fraser Award’ from the Society of Authors. Rachel is an elected fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives in Devon with her family. Genre: Historical Biographies

Phil Badcott – Phil is a well known local historian and author providing entertaining talks about Torbay and Devon and a regular speaker at the Palace. Genre: Local History

Alison Huntingford – A Historical fiction author with a degree in Humanities with Literature. Alison has always enjoyed reading, especially the great writers of the 19th Century, such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. Her working life has been spent teaching English and maths to young people. She is the founder of the South Hams Authors Network. Genre: Historical Fiction

Chris Woodhouse – Chris has taught in and managed Adult and Community Learning, as well as having devised and run numerous literary workshops and creative writing courses throughout her twenty five year, successful career. She runs the Write Time Write Place creative writing daytime courses and taster sessions at the Palace Theatre. Genre: Creative Writing

Rosemary Griggs – A retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. Rosemary is now a speaker on Devon’s sixteenth century history and costume, leading heritage tours and making regular costumed appearances. With a unique blend of theatre, history and re-enactment which draws on extensive research into 16th century Devon Rosemary will introduce her Daughters of Devon series, the first of which is A Woman of Noble Wit, the story of Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother. Genre: Historical fiction set in 16th century Devon

Mary Georgina De Grey – A linguist and romantic novelist living in Torquay, Mary Georgina is currently engaged on a series of books, each of which features a different European country. ‘Then the Earth Moved,’ set in Italy, was published by American publisher, The Wild Rose Press in 2023 and ‘Then Time Stood Still’, set in Spain, will be out later in 2024. Genre: Romance

Clare Helen Welsh – Clare is a former primary school teacher turned writing tutor and award winning children’s author, living in South West England with her husband and two children. Clare does her best writing by the sea,  which is lucky because she lives close to many beautiful beaches and the salty sea air and has a dog called Hope. Clare is returning to the English Riviera Literature Festival for a third year running. Genre: Storytelling and Crafts for Children 

Abigail Yardimci – Born in Consett, Co. Durham, Abigail has worked as a video rental person, a catalogue product-picker, a deli-sandwich-maker and an amazing barmaid. She eventually trained as an arts education consultant working across the North East of England, she sold her abstract paintings internationally and more recently trained to teach mindfulness meditation to young people and families. Now working as an author, her books are published by Soft Rebel Publishing. Abigail is a mum of two, one half of a multi-cultural couple and lives in Brixham, she loves to blog and gets her kicks from mindful parenting styles, creative living and chocolate in abundance. Genre: Women’s Fiction

Adam L.G Nevill – Born in Birmingham, England, in 1969 Adam grew up in England and New Zealand. He is an author of horror fiction. Of his novels, The Ritual, Last Days, No One Gets Out Alive and The Reddening were all winners of The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. He has also published three collections of short stories, with Some Will Not Sleep winning the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection, 2017. Imaginarium adapted The Ritual and No One Gets Out Alive into feature films and more of his work is currently in development for the screen. Interviewer, Martin Thomas has lived in the local area for over 20 years, and has worked for different organisations including the Heritage Fund, Arts Council and National Trust and he is a trustee of the Agatha Christie Festival. Genre: Horror Fiction.

Sophie Pierce – Sophie is a writer with a passionate interest in our emotional connection to natural landscapes. Her memoir, The Green Hill: Letters to a son (Unbound, March 2023), explores this in the context of traumatic bereavement.  Her next book will build on these ideas in relation to Dartmoor, the biggest wilderness in Southern England. Sophie’s essays have been published in The Clearing (Little Toller Books) and Caught by the River.   Sophie is also the co-author of four wild swimming guides (with Wild Things Publishing) with a fifth, Wild Swimming Walks Exmoor and North Devon, coming out in April 2024.  Until 2020 she was a radio and TV reporter for BBC South West, and had a varied career spanning over 20 years, covering stories on everything from natural disasters through to political scandals and skateboarding ducks. Genre: Memoir, Travel Writing

Matt Newbury – Matt is an author, event manager and the Creative Director of the Agatha Christie Festival. His swimming challenges include escaping from Alcatraz, swimming from Sicily to mainland Italy, swimming to the Isle of Wight and most recently swimming through shark infested waters from Robben Island to Cape Town. He has also competed in several ice swimming competitions, usually coming last. As well as writing books about swimming, he is also the author of Agatha Christie’s Devon and the upcoming Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall. Genre:Travel Writing

DCR Bond –  (Debbie) was born in London, but grew up Jamaica, then Zambia, and dimensions of this international upbringing feature in her writing. Genre: Women’s Fiction.

Don Evitts – Originally from the West Midlands, Don is an author, songwriter and retired music entrepreneur. He has produced a 3-part self published autobiography from which he delivers light hearted whistle-stop talks of music, humour and memories of those times. Genre: Popular Culture




The Palace Theatre Paignton