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18 January 2018


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Bitterne Parker: Ali Sparkes
Sunday, 29 March 2015 00:00

Ali Sparkes is a children’s author with nearly 40 books published – mostly by Oxford University Press. Her best known is Frozen In Time which won the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2010. She lives near Southampton Common with her husband and two sons and divides her time between making things up and letting out her inner luvvie at literary festivals around and beyond the UK. Southamptoners may also remember her as a presenter on BBC Radio Solent in the early naughties.

The Qs & the As

What’s your link with Bitterne Park?

I went to Bitterne Park Secondary School back in the days when it was yellow brick. I drove past it the other day and shouted out in fear. Sheesh! That’s BRIGHT.

What’s your earliest memory of the area?

Probably feeding the swans along the river on little wooden jetties. And my brother fishing off Cobden Bridge.

How could the area be better?

It’ll be better when that area to the right of Cobden Bridge (as you approach the clock) finally gets properly developed. It’s looked pretty grim for years now and it could (and hopefully will) be lovely.

Tell us something we probably didn’t know already about Bitterne Park

There’s a little man who lives in the clock. With a very long beard, a magic key to another dimension… and curly toes. At least that’s what they told me when I was a kid…

What’s good – or not so good – about the wider city?

The greenery is pretty good. I fly to events and festivals all over the UK and whenever I take off from the airport I love all the greenery below. I particularly enjoy coming back in to land on the flight path along the river. Always feels like the lowered wheels are going to scrape Bitterne Park School. Mind you, it used to feel like that in the maths block back in 1980, too.

What’s your passion in life?

Writing. Reading. Running. Oh… and I suppose I ought to add my family in there too. I quite like them…

How do you put bread on your table?

I quite like to fling it very fast – especially crusty rolls. You can bruise a teenager with a crusty roll if you give it enough velocity. Sorry, what’s that? Stop being fatuous? Moi? OK. I write children’s fiction for a living. And perform a lot at schools and literary festivals.

What has your career taught you?

That nobody REALLY knows entirely what they’re doing.

What really gets your goat?

Parking Eye. And people who chew loudly with their mouths open. I feel an intense urge to beat them senseless with the works of Shakespeare.

How do you relax?

By running, reading and watching DVD box sets. Not simultaneously.

Which is your favourite pub?

The Royal Oak at Bank. Sorry. That’s a little far from Bitterne Park but trust me, the quality of the pies is worth the journey…

What are you drinking?

Mine’s a Prosecco. Thanks!

What do you listen to?

Radio 4 Comedy and my buddies on BBC Radio Solent when I need comfort and security. And traffic and travel info! And too wide and weird a variety of music to list.

Ali Sparkes talk gasp

Can you recommend a really good read?

Ahem. Really? Well, AFTER you’ve worked through the 38 Ali Sparkes books currently available, do go for Trash by Andy Mulligan. It’s quite brilliant. And wonderfully life affirming. Most of Christopher Brookmyre’s output too (not recommended for under 16s though!).

What’s a great day out?

A walk in the New Forest followed by lunch at The Royal Oak (or maybe the Luzborough) with friends and/or family. Or a sell-out gig at Hay-on-Wye or Edinburgh Festival followed by a convivial dinner with author mates.

What scares you?

The possibility of getting arrested for beating an open-mouthed noisy chewer senseless with the works of Shakespeare.

What would you most like to change - in the world and in yourself?

If everyone’s common sense and tolerance chip could somehow be activated, Earth could be a wonderful place. Me? I’d like to grow a couple of layers of skin and be slightly less sensitive (I refer you to the answer to the previous question).

What’s on your ‘bucket list’?

    •    A trip on one of those huge trains through the Rockies.
    •    A two week break in New Zealand to catch up with dear friends.
    •    To co-write and stage a fabulously successful musical comedy with Simon Tilley (he who married me)
    •    To finish the adult fiction novel I’ve been tinkering with for years
    •    To co-bake a perfect lemon meringue pie with my younger son
    •    To see my older son play Wembley
    •    …and the younger son get an Oscar for best screenplay

Tell us a joke

Did you hear about the agnostic dyslexic insomniac?
He stayed up all night wondering if there really was a dog.

(With apologies to dyslexics… especially as I have a dyslexic son… and I am a Dyslexia Action Ambassador and really should be slapped on the legs for that one…)

Finally, what would be another great question for other Bitterne Parkers?

What’s happened to the traffic light biscuits at G Cotton’s? (Seriously, Mr Cotton – put the proper jam back in!)

Thanks so much for taking part!

Find out more about Ali Sparkes and her books on her website

• Hear Ali speaking about the campaign to save Cobbett Road Library previously on

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions. But before then, do you know a Bitterne Parker we really should feature? If so, please nominate them by emailing us using the contact form, and we'll do our best. No promises, mind.

Read about other Bitterne Parkers

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