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Author Stephanie Merritt, aka SJ Parris, shares her culture fix

PUBLISHED: 14:22 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:22 02 March 2017

Author and journalist Stephanie Merritt AKA S.J. Parris

Author and journalist Stephanie Merritt AKA S.J. Parris


Author and journalist Stephanie Merritt, AKA S.J.Parris, tells us about her passion for local theatre and shares some of her other favourite cultural hotspots in her hometown of Guildford

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2017


If I want to go to the cinema I...

like to take advantage of the film seasons at the Electric Theatre and the Yvonne Arnaud, in Guildford – they often have a selection of more unusual films than the big chain cinemas. But I also love the Curzon in Soho and have signed the petition to save it from developers – I’ve been going there since I was a student. It’s a haven for independent arthouse cinema and would be a terrible loss.

The last film I saw was...

Rogue One at the Guildford Odeon, with my 15-year-old son. It was great to see a big action movie with a feisty female lead, though I couldn’t help missing the brilliant Carrie Fisher, who paved the way and was my heroine when I watched the original films as a child. I don’t think the new ones can live up to those, but they’re good fun.

For my theatre fix, I like to...

keep it in the family! My partner Sean is a founder member of the Olivier Award-winning show Showstopper!, The Improvised Musical, who are regular favourites at the Electric Theatre, Guildford as well as in the West End, and my son, Patrick, has been a member of the Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre since he was seven, which I can’t praise highly enough. It’s such a brilliant opportunity for young people to experience performing in a professional theatre and the directors are so dynamic – it’s given him so much confidence and I love watching the variety of work they put on. I’ve been a judge for their new writing competition several times and it’s a thrill to see an original play come to life and appear at the Edinburgh Fringe.

If I get the chance to go to a concert, I...

always love the atmosphere of a big crowd. We were lucky enough to be invited to see David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) three times last year on his world tour for Rattle That Lock – twice at the Royal Albert Hall and in the summer outdoors at the beautiful Chateau de Chantilly near Paris, in an audience of 25,000. I find it very moving to be in a crowd that size where everyone is united by a passion for the same music, and the show was extraordinary - I’m not sure how we’ll top that this year!

I’m currently reading...

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel. My brother gave it to me for Christmas, knowing my obsession with medieval history. The author worked for Sotheby’s and it’s a history of some of the world’s most famous manuscripts, their origins and travels. It’s also beautifully illustrated and has made me fall in love with old books all over again.

The last time I went to my local library was...

over Christmas, though I usually stop to browse the books-for-sale table outside Guildford Library whenever I pass – I find it hard to resist second-hand books. But I’m excited because my novel Prophecy has been chosen as London’s City Read for 2017, so I’m looking forward to lots of library events and talks in April, including some in the Surrey boroughs.

At home, I’m most likely to be listening to...

sixteenth-century choral music, if I’m trying to get in the mood for writing my next historical novel, usually Byrd or Tallis. Until my son comes home from school, then it’s Pink Floyd all the way.

Whereas in the car, I generally listen to...

something rocky I can sing along to, though I only get away with that if I’m on my own. My son likes to make playlists for long journeys, and he’s good enough to include some of my favourite bands like The Magnetic Fields or Belle & Sebastian as well as his own.

The TV programme I never miss is...

any Nordic Noir, especially The Bridge, though British crime drama is fast catching up – The Missing was superb. I’m also a fan of Julia Bradbury’s walking programmes – the only thing I like better than hiking in the winter is curling up on the sofa with a mug of tea and watching someone else doing it.

My favourite cultural event in Surrey is...

Guildford Book Festival. I’ve been involved for quite a few years now and I’ve had the chance to interview some fantastic authors as well as talk about my own books, always to lively and engaged audiences. It’s a great opportunity to meet local readers and see what a thriving community of book groups and literature lovers there is in the area.

• Catch up on news about Stephanie’s latest books at and follow her on Twitter @thestephmerritt.

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