Review: Insightful and engaging - Kate Adie talks women in wartime at Warwick Words festival

Kate Adie at the Warwick Words festival, Guy Nelson Hall, Warwick, October 3.
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War is something about which long-time BBC reporter Kate Adie knows more than a lot of women.

It comes as no surprise then, that this eloquent and charismatic journalist has a lot to say about the role women played in the life-changing events of the First World War.

Her voice known to Radio 4 and BBC World Service listeners as presenter of the fascinating series, From Our Own Correspondent, Kate talks for an hour on the topic - and she presents in such a likeable and engaging manner that the time whizzes by.

Although she is there as part of Warwick Words - a books and literature festival - and there are copies of her latest book, Fighting on the Home Front, being sold at the back of the hall, Kate does not even mention her own book. Instead we are taken on an insightful journey from 1914 onwards in which we are invited to stop and focus our attention on the women and girls who took the plunge and did things they had never come close to doing before.

Kate uses images and vivid descriptions to give us a sense of how cold and tough conditions were for women working in munitions factories, ploughing fields with skinny horses (the only horses left in England) and nursing in makeshift hospitals in the firing line in France. We also learn that there were women’s football leagues that were seriously reported on - and there was even one English women, Flora Sandes, who fought as a soldier in Albania.

Kate’s genuine admiration for these women and passion for celebrating their courage and ‘can-do’ attitude is clear and infectious. We in the audience can’t help but admire Kate herself; she reveals that it was not actually her choice to become a war correspondent (“you do not choose in the BBC”) but she has just “got on with it” - even when she was the only woman amongst thousands of men at war in the Saudi Arabian desert. Quite a woman.

Sundari Cleal

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