2017
28.01

If I can just get one kid to pick up a book, or give school another chance when otherwise they wouldn’t, then I feel that it was all worth it. ~Andy McNab

ALCS
25/01/2017

The winner of the inaugural Ruth Rendell Award for the writer who has done the most to raise literacy levels in the UK, tells us why adult literacy is a cause very close to his heart.

1. Did you have any idea you were in contention for the Ruth Rendell Award, or was it a complete surprise? What does it mean to you to win it?

The first I knew was when I was told I was on the shortlist. I felt incredibly proud and also grateful to all the people who had suggested and supported my nomination. I never for a second thought I’d win, though. It was enough to just be nominated.

2. Why is literacy a cause so close to your heart, and in what ways do you see yourself as most effective in championing it?

It is something I feel really passionate about because it changed my life. As a child I was in and out of schools, never engaging and never switching on and bothering. When I joined the army (straight out of Borstal as a nearly 17-year-old) I had the reading age of an 11-year-old. It was the army that taught me to read and write, and just as importantly, showed me the power of education as an enabler, an enhancer and a launchpad. I go into schools, workplaces and prisons as often as I can and the message I want to give them is simple: You just need to switch on and start taking advantage of all the educational opportunities being offered to you. What education does is give you knowledge, and knowledge is power, power to make your own decisions and do what you want with your life. Frankly if I can do it, anyone can.

3. Would you share with us a recent project or a case history you have been involved with which has particularly gladdened your heart?

There are plenty of these. But one that has stuck with me was going to a youth referral centre in Yorkshire, for kids who had been excluded from mainstream schools and to a great extent been ‘given up on’. They had also pretty much given up on themselves. They weren’t the easiest audience, that’s for sure, but I’ve been there, I know what they are fighting against, I know what support they need and aren’t getting at home or in the community, and perhaps no one had talked to them before who had stood in their shoes. So we chatted about a few war stories, but also about my experiences of education and what reading has allowed me to do with my life, I signed a few books for them and left. A few weeks later I had an email to say that they had started their own book club. Not set up by the staff, but instigated and organised by them. That really made it all worthwhile. But the thing is, it’s not a numbers game, I’m not in it to convert the masses. If I can just get one kid to pick up a book, or give school another chance when otherwise they wouldn’t, then I feel that it was all worth it.

4. What particular projects will you be championing this year, and where will your work take you?

I’m off to the North Pole quite soon. I did a 100 nautical mile trek to the South Pole last year to raise money and awareness for the Reading Agency, and I think I’ve got the polar bug. Either that or it’s messed with my mind! That will be taking up a fair bit of the first part of this year, and then there is a bit of writing to do (my editor will start hyperventilating at that – he’s expecting the book to be finished by Easter!). By the end of the summer I hope to be back on the road doing a bit of promotion for the book but equally importantly getting back to schools, juvenile detention centres, prisons etc. to start bending some ears again. I am an ambassador for the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme (formerly Six Book Challenge) and I do as much as I can getting into places on their behalf as that is a fantastic way to get people engaged. For people who have never had any kind of accreditation, fulfilling the requirements to receive that kind of certificate means a lot. And it really can change lives.

5. ALCS News is read by a broad spectrum of published writers: is there anything we can all do as writers to help to support the cause of adult literacy?

I think supporting organisations such as the Reading Agency and the National Literacy Trust with their campaigns is incredibly important. We are in a privileged position as authors. One practical way is the Quick Reads series, which are short (around 15,000 words) novellas or non-fiction books written for ’emerging’ readers. There is a specific style sheet and strict rules on how to write, and the hope is that they are a platform for readers to then go on and read more challenging works. That is definitely something worth getting involved with if the opportunity arises. Then of course there is supporting places like local libraries and also local independent bookshops. We have influence and the ability to engage people. Let’s use it!

Source: ALCS website

 

2016
07.12

Congratulations Andy,  you deserve it!!

National Literacy Trust
7 Dec 2016

Andy McNab wins inaugural Ruth Rendell Award

The inaugural Ruth Rendell Award was awarded to bestselling author and former soldier, Andy McNab, on Tuesday at the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group Winter Reception.

We launched the Award in memory of the novelist Ruth Rendell, in partnership with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, to celebrate the author or writer who has done the most to raise literacy levels in the UK.

Andy McNab fought off stiff competition to win the award, thanks to his tireless championing of literacy over the course of many years. Andy has travelled the length and breadth of the UK, visiting factories, colleges, schools, prisons and libraries to encourage reluctant readers to take up the challenge of reading. He has inspired others with the story of how he struggled with literacy, but turned his life around by finally learning to read and write. His message is very simple; ‘if I can do it, anyone can’.

Andy has also contributed four Quick Read novels, 250,000 copies of which have been printed, raising awareness of literacy issues and giving new readers the encouragement to change their lives. In 2015, Andy went one step further in his championing of literacy by undertaking an epic trek to the South Pole, to raise funds for The Reading Agency.
Andy was nominated for the Ruth Rendell Award by Baroness Gail Rebuck, DBE.

He said:
“I’m delighted and very proud to be receiving this award. The literacy work I do is deeply personal. Had it not been for the education I received from the army as a 17-year-old, when I had the literacy of a 9-year-old, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Receiving this award gives me even more incentive to get out there and make sure that as many people as possible are helped to achieve, and change their lives for the better.”

Source: National Literacy Trust website

 

2016
11.09

AN EVENING WITH ANDY MCNAB

If you have ever wondered what really happened on the infamous patrol known simply as “Bravo Two Zero”, then get along to “An Evening With Andy McNab” and hear it from the man himself.

Tickets are just £48.00 and include a copy of Andy’s new book “Cold Blood”, a hot buffet and live entertainment.

All proceeds are going to Pilgrim Bandits, so you will be helping a really worthwhile cause, as well as having a great evening.

For more information or to book your tickets, contact terry-arnett@pilgrimbandits.org.

An Evening with Andy McNab

2015
11.04

ChildLine Rocks is a voluntary committee which was established in 2008 to raise money through live music and other shenanigans for ChildLine.

2015 will see the fifth ChildLine Rocks/Sons of Royalty annual Harley Davidson fundraising motorcycle (or car) ride in aid of charity ChildLine, a service provided by the NSPCC.

Andy wrote a great blog about his trips with – and for – this organisation..

The Great British Invasion – by Andy McNab

“I’ve been into bikes for about 25 years. I first started getting into them when I was in the army, purely because I had the chance to go and get my motorbike licence when I was serving.

They said, ‘Right, you’ve got a week off – go and learn how to ride.’ The bikes we learnt on were these dreadful old 250cc CanAm Bombardiers, but from there I just got into two wheels because it was easier to get around. I’ve had everything from £300 shitters that fall apart after ten minutes to a BMW R1200RT, which is what I’ve got now.

I started going on the Great British Invasion about four years ago, and I’ve done it three times now. I met the organiser of it through a mutual friend, and he just said, ‘Look, we’re basically going to scream around the States on Harleys and raise money for a charity called Childline Rocks.’ I liked the fact that it was all organised for you and you didn’t have to worry about anything: you get there and you’ve already chosen your bike, which is waiting for you. You even get a route card every day. When I turned up to my first Invasion all you had to do was get on the bike, ride from British Columbia in Canada and cross the border through all the National Parks into Montana and Idaho – simple. There were some fantastic rides. I’ve just carried on doing it from there, really.

It’s just really free and easy – my wife even comes on it with me. We get a Harley Electra Glide, because it’s basically got a sofa on the back. So she sits on that and I annoy her by constantly flicking the radio channels every two minutes. On the last one through Mississippi and Louisiana we were passing all these hugely religious towns with big crosses everywhere, so I just used to flick the radio onto the Christianity channel. That annoyed her even more, because she’s Jewish.

The Great British Invasion is basically like the coolest, craziest road trip ever. You’ve got a great collection of people who go on it for a start: there’s the Sons of Royalty, the ride’s house band who play loads of gigs along the way, plus people from the music business, the finance industry and lots of ex-military people. The first event in 2008 had a couple of very senior people from the armed forces, including a chap called Brigadier Richard Dennis, who used to be in charge of the entire British Army. He remains the only person to ever get lost on a Great British Invasion, which he actually managed three times. He said he wasn’t lost, just ‘geographically embarrassed.’ We gave him a hard time about it, but he took it very well.

It’s a great mix of people. You end up making some really good friends – you can get to a town and there’ll be loads of people on Harleys waiting to meet you and join you for a bit of the ride. It’s quite funny that there are all these former soldiers that go on it as well. The year before last there were a few blokes from the SAS and a couple of Marines, who’d heard about the Great British Invasion from somewhere. We all turned up and they came over and went, ‘Alright Andy, what the bloody hell are you doing here?’ But having so many former soldiers has its disadvantages. We were near Salt Lake City in Utah and there was a gun range there, where you could just go and try out all these firearms. That’s all anyone wanted to do – shoot Glocks and AK47s. The problem is that us military people had no fun, because we basically had to tutor them all day. It was like we were running a bloody course!

I’d say a typical day involves about 200 miles of riding – 250 at the most. When you’re going through these huge National Parks in places like Utah you have a pretty long day in the saddle, but it’s not like you’re on a motorway: you’re on these amazing roads going through the sort of stunning scenery that we’ve all been brought up on watching Westerns. It’s a great part of the world to explore on a bike, because you’ve got the freedom to stop and do what you want. People on the Great British Invasion are always seeing something and peeling off to investigate. On the last one we were going through Mississippi and people were taking detours to go and see BB King’s old house and all this stuff; I was with a mate of mine, and his girlfriend decided she wanted to try this shellfish in some minging old hut somewhere that she’d read about. So we went and had this meal and guess what? It was absolutely rank. She loved it, though. But we finished, got back on the road and caught up with everyone. Nobody cares – it’s all very chilled out.

Riding a Harley around the Deep South of America makes a bit more sense than doing it round Yorkshire. I’ve never had a Harley over here. If you see a load of blokes turn up on Harleys in the UK wearing all the gear, they take their helmets off and it’s usually a bunch of retired accountants and dentists – they’re the only ones who can afford all the official Harley stuff. It’s not really a bike for me, but if you’re in the States it’s universal. Everybody’s got one, and everyone does the Great British Invasion on a Harley. You have to.

You’d have thought we’d get strange looks all rocking up into towns on Harleys, but we don’t at all. I think they’re just so used to it over there. If 20 blokes on Harleys rolled into Basildon, people would be looking around thinking, ‘Hang on, what’s going on here?’ But in the States it’s just the norm, so people aren’t intimidated. They’ll come over and have a chat about the bikes. In Montana they knew were coming and about 60 people on Harleys turned up and joined us. I love that about America.

One of the best things about the Great British Invasion is that you’ll probably see Morgan Freeman at some point, who is one of the coolest people on the planet. I first met him in Los Angeles years ago on a social thing, because one of my business partners is in films and knows him really well. We were in a hotel there and got introduced to him, and he ended up spending the evening with us. He and my wife really got on because of yoga – Morgan’s a bit of a hippy. So we began this friendship, but when the idea started for last year’s Great British Invasion to go through Mississippi, the plan was to end up at a club called Ground Zero in Clarksdale, which Morgan co-owns. Anyway, the people organising the ride wanted to see if the Sons of Royalty could play a gig there, so my wife said, ‘Hang on, I know Morgan – I’ll ask him.’ She emailed him to see if they could play on a Wednesday or something, but he came back saying, ‘Let’s do it on a Saturday – we’ll make a massive thing of it!’

He’s a lovely bloke. With people at the top of their profession like him, all the bullshit disappears. It’s the people in the middle who throw wobblies and demand six hairdressers and all that shit. He’s got it sorted: he goes to LA to film and then comes back to Mississippi.

When you speak to him, the Shawshank Redemption instantly comes into your head. Well, that and the recent mobile phone ad he did! I told him about that and he’s going, ‘What?’ I was saying what a brilliant advert it was, but he didn’t have a clue about it. He was laughing going, ‘Is that what it’s come down to now? Flogging cell phones?’ He’s an icon, and a very funny guy as well.

When we’re riding about we’ve all got these Sons of Royalty patches, which the Brigadier had initially advised us against wearing because he thought we might get into trouble in that part of America. But you have to bear in mind where you are in the world. The black/white thing still exists in the Deep South – not as much as it used to, maybe, but it’s still very much there. On the last ride we’d stopped off at one of these picnic places in the middle of nowhere to get something to eat and this van turned up with all these White Supremacist stickers on it. One of the ex-Marines who was there was a black guy, and he was reading these slogans and just couldn’t believe. So he goes over to these people and says, ‘What (i) is (i) all this?’ He was trying to get them to explain all the racist jokes they had on the van, but they started waffling on about freedom of speech and all that. You just have to laugh at them, really. The thing is, I remember being in North Carolina having a BBQ at a picnic area and all of a sudden a Ku Klux Klan meeting started happening. I was like, ‘What the fuck is this all about?’ So to get back to the point, no one cares if you’ve got a few patches on the back of your jacket. You can do what you like.

The Great British Invasion is a bit like a really good-natured stag do. For me, I’d never been to places like Montana and Idaho before – I thought Idaho was flat and they just grew spuds there. Absolutely not: it’s mountainous, has amazing scenery and is great for riding. All of a sudden, you’re going to all these cool new places, having a right laugh, listening to great music, having a few drinks, talking to some nice people – it’s brilliant. You end up in these one-horse towns waffling on to some fantastically random people. It can get quite boozy, mind – some of the lads really go for it.

Obviously I have to keep up the whole anonymity thing while I’m on the ride, and it is in the back of my mind, but I just have to be sensible with it. It’s nothing to doing with Iraq or any of that – it’s to do with Northern Ireland and the stuff I used to do there. But a lot of the time you’ve got a helmet on so everyone looks quite similar. Mind you, in some States you can ride without a lid, and someone was taking the piss saying, ‘Look out Andy, the bloke with the shades and the scarf on his head is gonna stick out like a sore thumb – those insurgents will definitely find you!’

If you’re thinking of doing the Great British Invasion, just do it. Seriously. It’s a great way to have a brilliant time and raise money for a worthy cause as well. There’s none of this having to run five marathons in five days malarkey – you get on a bike, ride round the States and raise loads of cash for children who need our help. Easy. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Read more information about The Great British Invasion 2015 here on the Childline Rocks website

2014 Childline charity Harley Davidson bike ride - Photo from website gallery

2014 Childline charity Harley Davidson bike ride – Photo from website gallery

 

2014
07.05

Andy McNab Experiences World Book Night’s Crisis Book Club

Andy McNab is one of the world’s bestselling fiction and non-fiction writers. His insider knowledge and experience from his time in the SAS has enabled him to pen bestsellers including Bravo Two Zero as well as his series of Nick Stone thrillers. Most recently, Andy McNab attended the World Book Night Crisis Book Club. Here’s how he got on…

World Book Night, which took place this April, works throughout the year to give books to those hardest to reach. The organization have been working with Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, to deliver a unique book club for the homeless in London. The book club is attended by a group every week who discuss a book from the World Book Night list of titles.

I was invited to talk at the book club to around 35 members, all of whom were homeless and a mix of age, gender and race. They were some of the most enthusiastic, inspiring people I’ve met. I was thrilled to receive so many positive responses about the book club from those who had attended.

There were many issues discussed in our group conversation including the feeling of being an outsider to society and of not fitting in. This was particularly significant to me as this was exactly how I felt as a teenager going into juvenile detention. I hated society and blamed everybody but myself for what was happening in my life.

But this book club group have a different story. They aren’t blaming anyone, they just want to pick themselves up and get back in the game.

Danny came from a troubled background and is now in his early 30s. He described how he wasn’t allowed to follow a creative path as a child. He is clearly bright but he dropped out of university with huge debts and fell through the cracks. He is now working as an actor:

‘Three years ago I was street homeless and Crisis gave me a place to live at Christmas. I have now started acting… I wasn’t allowed to do any of that stuff when I was young, but now I’ve discovered I might be quite good at it!’

Michael is a university educated ex civil servant, who spent the period between Christmas and New Year trying to hide in A&E because it was warm and he had nowhere else to go. Things had gone wrong at home and at work and he suddenly found himself on the street. But now Michael, like some of the others, wants to write and tell his personal story.

I was asked by many book club members how much of my personal experiences I used in my stories. The answer is, a huge amount. What I tried to show them was that they too have archives of personal experiences and unique stories to tell. All they need to do is start writing them down on paper.

The Crisis book club is giving these members the opportunity and confidence to express their views, to be listened to and to find a way to get back in the race. Finding the courage to make their voices heard is the first step.

If someone had suggested I could benefit from a book club when I was a young man going off the rails, I would have laughed. But how wrong I would have been.

Source: Transworld Publishers

2014
02.03

Have you ever imagined your name immortalised in your favourite authors’ book?

CLIC Sargent’s brand new ‘Get in Character’ fundraising campaign will give you – or your loved one – the chance to appear in a book as a character name.

From Thursday 27 February 2014 ‘Click Sargent for children with cancer’ has a fantastic selection of authors taking part in a unique 10-day eBay auction.

SAS Sergeant turned novelist Andy McNab and popular women’s fiction writer Lisa Jewell are just two of the 26 authors taking part in ‘Get In Character’, which will see people bidding online to have new characters named in their honour.

The ‘Get in Character’ auction aims to raise £10,000 that will help CLIC Sargent provide clinical, practical and emotional support to children, young people with cancer and their families.

The bidding starts at 8pm Thursday 27 February and ends at 8pm Sunday 9 March 2014.

Find out more by visiting the Get in Character auction site and go to the Clic Sargent website to find out more.