Leeds Literary Festival

A Festival of Words and Ideas



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MiliM is non-profit making and run entirely by volunteers, we are proud to be able to offer an exciting programme of webinars during the Covid-19 crisis.

To be able to do this, we do need help to replace event revenue we have lost this year.

Every penny helps, goes directly towards events and we are very grateful for your contribution.


Milim Spring 2019

Ilana Tahan

From Bondage to Freedom: Hagadah treasures from the British Library’s collections

Hagadah, which literally means ‘telling’ or ‘narration’, is the Hebrew service book used in Jewish households on the first two nights of Passover, at a ceremony known as the Seder (order).

A spring festival celebrated in the Diaspora over eight consecutive days, Passover commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage as told in the Book of Exodus. Originally an integral part of the Sidur (general prayer book), the Hagadah became an independent entity sometime in the 13th century, and soon emerged as the Jewish text most suitable for decoration.  This is attested by the broad range of medieval illuminated Passover Hagadah manuscripts still in existence, and the numerous editions published worldwide since the invention of printing. Its narrative, ritual and didactic character, and the fact that it was intended for domestic use, provided ample scope for originality and artistic creativity. It is therefore unsurprising that to this day, the Hagadah remains the most cherished and most frequently illustrated text in the Jewish realm.


This presentation by Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of the Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections at the British Library, will showcase beautifully illustrated handwritten and printed specimens drawn from the British Library’s unparalleled collection of Hagadot, spanning six centuries of original artistic endeavour. These fine examples represent landmarks in the centuries-long history of the Passover Hagadah. Ilana’s talk will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

Ilana has been the Lead Curator responsible for the smooth running and delivery of the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project, a major, externally funded project undertaken by the British Library, 2013-2020. In 2009, Ilana was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to scholarship.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries, with sites in St Pancras, London and Boston Spa, near Wetherby. The Library has a growing culture and learning programme in the Leeds region.

A virtual tour of the British Library’s Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word exhibition can be viewed here.

Image:  Baking the matzah (unleavened bread) Or 2737, f. 88r-

Yanky Fachler

Moshe Dayan - the most iconic Jewish face of the 20th Century

Because of his eye-patch, his pedigree (only the second child born on a kibbutz), his military record, and his political record, Moshe Dayan is the 20th century’s most widely recognised Jewish face – in Israel, in the Jewish world, and in the outside world.

UK-born Yanky Fachler lived in Israel for almost 30 years before moving to Ireland, where he is chair of the Jewish Historical Society of Ireland. Yanky is a writer, broadcaster, corporate trainer, published author, and frequent speaker to Jewish Historical Society of England branches in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Jerusalem.

Peter James

In conversation with UK No.1 best-selling crime and thriller author, Peter James

Peter James, a UK No. 1 bestselling crime and thriller author will be in conversation with Jonathan Straight. Synonymous with plot-twisting page-turners, Peter has garnered an army of loyal fans throughout his storytelling career – which also included stints writing for TV and producing films. He has won over 40 awards for his work, including the WHSmith Best Crime Author of All Time Award, Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger and a BAFTA nomination for The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons for which he was an Executive Producer. Many of Peter’s novels have been adapted for film, TV and stage.

Gary Bloom

Keeping your Head in the Game

Time to talk about his latest book “Keeping your Head in the Game” which is the first ever book about sports psychotherapy. Ten sportsmen and women enter therapy to discover more about themselves and their careers.

Described as a genuine MUST for anyone interested in the human side of sport. It is comforting to realise that everyone – from global superstar to young aspirant – suffers from profound uncertainty of one sort or another . .This book will promote greater kindness and understanding .

Gary will be in converation with Adam Pope BBC Radio Leeds reporter


To order Gary’s book click here



Helen Fry

A Very Secret War: Bugging the Nazis in WWII

During WW2, British intelligence bugged the conversations of German prisoners-of-war at three stately houses, including Trent Park in north London, and Latimer House and Wilton Park in Buckinghamshire. From 1942 Trent Park was reserved for Hitler’s captured Generals. In an astonishing turn of events, they were housed in luxurious conditions and lulled into a false sense of security. They became unguarded in their conversations and inadvertently gave away from of Hitler’s most closely guarded secrets, including the V1 (‘doodlebug’), V2 and atomic bomb programme. For over 60 years the “secret listeners” (German-Jewish émigrés who had fled Hitler) never spoke about their work, not even to their families. They died, little knowing that they, alongside Bletchley Park, shortened the war. Having worked through the declassified files, historian Helen Fry sheds light on one of the greatest deceptions of WWII.


Historian Dr Helen Fry has written and edited over 25 books; primarily on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War (2019). Her books include MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII and The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. She has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, some of which include  David Jason’s Secret Service (Channel 4), Spying on Hitler’s Army (Channel 4) and Home Front Heroes (BBC1). Helen is an Ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, formerly a founding trustee and Deputy Chair of Trent Park Museum Trust; and President of the Friends of the National Archives.

Gillian Walnes Perry

A Night at the Oscars

In 1996, Gillian Walnes Perry MBE had the great privilege of attending the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, along with Miep Gies, the courageous helper of Anne Frank and her family in hiding. To coincide with the 2021 Oscar nominations,Gillian will take the audience on a behind the scenes look at Hollywood’s glittering annual ceremony, describe what it’s like to walk the red carpet, and how the Oscar winning director of the documentary film she had commissioned introduced Miep Gies to the world from that famous Hollywood stage. Gillian will also explain the history of the event, citing some of its most memorable moments and colourful characters.

Vera Grodzinski

American Heiress Peggy Guggenheim, and her Venice Modern Art Museum

This presentation by Vera Grodzinski sets Peggy Guggenheim’s art collection and patronage against her personal life that was always played out in the public eye. Born 1898, Peggy Guggenheim’s tempestuous life spanned the most of the volatile years of the twentieth century. As an American heiress she made Europe her home during the interwar years, but as a Jew she took refuge in New York to escape Nazi persecutions across a warn-torn Continent. After World War II, she returned to Europe, and settled in Venice where she created one of the best -loved modern art museums in Italy. Since her death in 1979, she has been revered as a modern art icon and her Venice ‘Modern Art Collection’ remains her unique legacy.

Vera Grodzinski is a historian of Jewish social and cultural history; she has lectured widely, and has written for academic and cultural publications here and abroad. Her scholarly interests lie with the Jewish contribution to the western cannon of modern art, whether Jews were private art collectors, commercial art dealers or public art patrons.

At present she is finishing her Memoir, set in the wider context of her family’s history:

Seven Languages, Eight Passports, Nine Lives.

Jewish Journeys, Jewish Memories.

(Her manuscript is still searching for an agent and publisher)  

Judy Simons

Writing Family History

Lies and secrets. Secrets and lies. All families have them. When Judy Simons discovered a locked box of papers after her mother’s death, she also unearthed a gripping family saga with secrets that had remained unspoken for over a century. Yet writing about the past is like trying to do a jigsaw when half the pieces are missing. This talk explores how we can discover the truth hidden in our own past. Judy’s research took her into immigrant ships, Manchester sweatshops, Victorian lunatic asylums and to Sheffield’s Paradise Square, once the heartland of the city’s Jewish life, where gangs of youths waited in the shadows armed with stones ready to throw at the “Jewboys” as they left cheder each evening. Drawing on diaries, letters, photographs and family heirlooms, The Northern Line forms a conversation between generations, part memoir and part forgotten Jewish social history.

Judy Simons is Emeritus Professor of English at De Montfort University Leicester and a Research Fellow at the University of London. Her books include Diaries and Journals of Literary Women and What Katy Read. She was born and brought up in Sheffield and for many years was editor of Sheffield Jewish Journal. Judy is Chair of Buxton Opera House and a trustee of the Girls Day School Trust.


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