The guest speaker at the Exeter and District Annual Dinner was Michael Murpurgo, author, poet and playwright. He is best known for his children's novels, particularly War Horse, which was made into a play and film reminding us of the grimness of war and the loyalty of animals.
Michael gave a fascinating talk about his life and how as teacher, telling children stories they wanted to hear, inspired him to become an author. In the 1970's he and his wife Clare set up the charity "Farms for City Children", where inner-city children spend a week assisting with the animals, growing crops, and enjoying the countryside. Over 85,000 children have benefitted from taking part in the scheme.
He told the members how he develops the plots for his books, weaving together fact and fiction to create gripping stories. He related the background to his latest novel "An Eagle in the Snow." This story is based on Private Tandey VC, DCM, MM. He was the most decorated British Private Soldier in the First World War, and was awarded the Victoria Cross when he fought fearlessly in a battle at Marcoing. He spared the last German left standing after this fierce battle, and it transpired that this soldier might have been Adolf Hitler, an incident that altered the course of history!
The evening commenced with a short talk by Abbie Dowse, a gap-year student, partly funded by the Branch, who spent 9 months in India on an English teaching project, working in primitive conditions, with children who had no understanding of English. By the time of her departure, the children were able to have simple conversations in English!All the members enjoyed the excellent meal and were thoroughly entertained by both speakers.