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Celebrating a trio of Grand female writers for International Women’s Day

Famous female authors throughout the centuries have felt compelled to disguise their gender to be taken seriously in the literary world and to help persuade readers of both sexes to read their works. 

Blackpool Grand Theatre is shining the spotlight on three renowned women writers for this year’s International Women’s Day – Breaking the Bias on Tuesday 8 March. In their upcoming programme, Blackpool Grand Theatre presents a trio of dazzling stage dramas from three legendary women writers. Best-selling crime writer Hilary Bonner, gritty biographer Helen Forrester and the Queen of Crime herself – the late, great Agatha Christie; have just the ‘write stuff’ for creating gripping dramas for both the page and the stage.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality. 

Hilary Bonner was a Fleet Street journalist for almost 25 years before publishing her first novel The Cruelty of Morning in 1995. She was showbusiness editor of four national newspapers and an assistant editor of one – spending several weeks every year in Hollywood interviewing some of the biggest stars in the world, including Bette Davies, James Stewart and Liza Minnelli. She ghosted a biography of Benny Hill and autobiographies of ‘Allo ‘Allo star Gordan Kaye and, later, her partner, the actress Amanda Barrie.

Born in 1949 and raised in Bideford, not far from the North Devon coast, Hilary has used this stunning location in many of her famous novels and it is considered one of her main inspirations. Her published works have been critically acclaimed, achieving number one positions in many of the sales charts and her full bibliography includes ten novels, two ghost-written autobiographies, one ghost-written biography, five non-fiction books, two television programme companions and many short stories. Hilary Bonner was also chair of the Crime Writers’ Association UK for a number of years. 

Hilary has now written her first stage play, the powerful political thriller Dead Lies, which will storm into Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday 17 to Saturday 21 May starring Jeremy Edwards (Hollyoaks, Holby City) as smooth-talking politician Peter George who harbours a shocking secret. This fast-moving tale could not be more cutting edge if it tried, as Hilary recently said: “My thriller Dead Lies will be bang up to date on Partygate and more. I shall be re-writing every time there’s another Westminster bombshell. Boris beware!”

Hilary Bonner

Helen Forrester was born in Hoylake near Liverpool, England in 1919, less than six months after the end of the First World War. Helen’s spendthrift father had been declared bankrupt, forcing the family to leave behind the nannies, servants, and beautiful middle-class home in the gentler Southwest of England. With nothing more than the clothes they stood up in, the family of nine took the train to Liverpool where they hoped to rebuild their shattered lives.

While 12-year-old Helen’s inept parents searched unsuccessfully to find work, she was taken out of school to look after her six younger siblings and the full burden of keeping house fell on her young shoulders. The Forrester’s found themselves relying on meagre handouts from the local parish, charity organisations and the kindness of strangers and by the age of 14, Helen had finally had enough of her miserable existence, and began a bitter fight with her parents to attend evening school to educate herself and make her own way in the world.

Helen’s first famous biographical novel Twopence to Cross the Mersey tells the captivating story of these difficult years and was published in 1974 to critical acclaim, later becoming a bestseller and establishing Helen Forrester as a major writer. Together with the three additional volumes of her memoirs: Liverpool Miss, By the Waters of Liverpool and Lime Street at Two; Twopence was recognized as a highly innovative form of autobiography thanks to Helen’s clear recollection and faithful re-creation of direct dialogue. 

Helen Forrester

Twopence to Cross the Mersey was also transformed into an emotionally enthralling stage play and you can enjoy this stunning period drama at Blackpool Grand from Tuesday 4 to Thursday 6 October. Helen continued to write into her eighties, producing eleven bestselling novels and a romance novel in addition to her best-selling memoirs and The University of Liverpool awarded her an honourary doctorate in 1988. Helen Forrester died on 24 November 2011 aged 92.

Dame Agatha Christie DBE was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1971 for her contribution to literature. Christie was born in 1890 into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon. Before marrying and starting a family in London, she had served in a Devon hospital during the First World War, tending to troops coming back from the trenches. 

She was initially an unsuccessful writer with six rejections, but this all changed when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the infamous Hercule Poirot, was published in 1920. During the Second World War, she worked as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, London, acquiring a good knowledge of poisons, which went on to feature in many of her novels.

Agatha Christie is still the best-selling novelist of all time and is best known for her 66 gripping detective novels and 14 scintillating short story collections. Christie’s books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and a billion in translation, with many transformed into world famous film and stage plays. Her works come third in the rankings of the world’s most-widely published books – she is only beaten to the top spot by The Bible and William Shakespeare! Most famous of all is the world’s longest-running stage play – The Mousetrap, which first opened in 1952 and will slip into Blackpool Grand Theatre from Monday 19 to Saturday 24 June 2023 as part of its 70th Anniversary Tour direct from the West End! 

Agatha Christie

Visit blackpoolgrand.co.uk or call the box office on 01253 290 190 to book your tickets for Hilary Bonner’s Dead Lies, Helen Forrester’s Twopence to Cross the Mersey or Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. 

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