Ilkeston author is big in Italy

MDB090918f1'Ann Featherstone from ilkeston, new book inspired by the time growing up in the area.
MDB090918f1'Ann Featherstone from ilkeston, new book inspired by the time growing up in the area.

Novelist Ann Featherstone is a hit in Italy although her books are hard to find in her hometown here in Ilkeston.

Her debut work Walking in Pimlico was fifth in the Italian bestsellers list after being translated two years ago.

It is called Il Circo Maledetto, which translates as The Damned Circus, and sold 15,000 copies more than in the UK.

Ann, 57, said: “The Italians have a fascination for British Victorian crime and I am pleased they like the book.

“I was delighted, of course, but rather bemused when I first heard about it. However, there seems to be an interest in London from that period.”

Her second novel, titled The Newgate Jig, has now been translated into Italian and is also expected to be popular.

A local historian and lecturer in performance history at Manchester University, Ann is an expert in entertainment in the Victorian era and uses that knowledge as a backdrop for her novels.

Walking in Pimlico is set in the 1840s and moves from the London suburb of Whitechapel to Matlock and Shrewsbury.

Much of the action takes place around fairs, one of her areas of expertise. This was brought to life by her visits to Ilkeston’s annual charter fair with her parents.

“After your holiday in Skeggie, you went back to school and the next thing to look forward to was Ilkeston fair with the caravans coming to Robey’s Yard, where the health centre now stands.

“They were great big caravans with snarling dogs chained up outside.

“You got that wonderful view of the big wheel as you came up South Street.

“It was very distinctive and very exciting,” said Ann of Inglefield Road.

With another academic, she has books published on circus clowns from the Victorian era. She has also written about early theatre and 19th century films.

Much of that interest grew from her childhood fascination with entertainment in Ilkeston.

The singer and actress Gracie Fields once performed in the town’s New Theatre, which stood on Lord Haddon Road. It later became a bingo hall but was derelict for many years before being demolished to make way for an old people’s home.

“Gracie Fields is said to have rehearsed in the function rooms across the road from the Durham Ox pub while performing in a musical comedy at the New Theatre,” said Ann.

“My own home was always full of music. We had a red and cream Dansette and father played all the opera records,” she said.