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John Summers - Ways with Words

PUBLISHED: 10:43 23 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:25 20 February 2013

John Summers will be speaking at the Ways with Words festival about The Art of Complaining. 13 July 2pm. £9 at The Barn, Dartington www.wayswithwords.co.uk<br/><br/><br/><br/>Also see related articles for more info on Peter Thornton's amazing story, far from sweet!

Ever had the hump about something?


Ever had a question thats been bugging you for ages?


Ever found it hard to get the response you were looking for?


Well so has John Summers. And, on July 13th, you can hear him give a lively talk on the art of complaining.


We all have questions that gnaw away and niggle at us. And often we just let them sit there, festering and unresolved. I have gone that extra mile to find the answers by posing questions to the relevant authority, be that the Queen, the PM, the US Ambassador or the head of a corporation. Sometimes acting as consumer champion, sometimes seeking to push the boundaries of science, sometimes just for the hell of it, I have put pen to paper. Now we have insights to questions like:



  • How many letters the Office for National Statistics get every year asking how many letters they get every year?

  • If its possible to work as a vicar but take Sundays off.

  • Why the Ordnance Survey print maps using enemy-friendly kilometre squares when most Brits work in miles.

  • Whether the Prime Minister really has time to run the country.


As author of Humps For 140 Yards, and with tongue firmly in his cheek, the affable fictional character explores where his curiosity takes him by writing small-minded questions to high-minded people.


Glancing through this humorous collection of letters, it's really interesting to see the different kinds of responses that come from different organisations. What they put on paper gives an insight into their attitudes towards the humble letter-writer.


John Summersis actually the nom-de-plume of Martin Staniforth. So why didnt Martin sign his enquiries with his real name? Because when I began writing letters, some of them went to my employer


He moved to Devon from Harrow in 2004, looking for a more inspirational environment in which he could expand on some of his early thoughts. Could anywhere be more inspirational than Devon with its breath-taking coastlines, moors and eclectic towns?


Written in the style of the greatBritish eccentrics, Humps shows thateven in thise-mail dominated world,the lengthier, deeper communication in letters still has a place. And that is what is so marvelous about Ways With Words, for it is a festival of words and ideas. Set within the beautifully inspiring grounds of Dartington Hall, it provides a focus for time and space away from the sound-bite generation who are hooked up to instant gratification, often delivered with an electronic sound effect. Ways With Words gives us time to share and explore ideas using the wonder of the spoken word. Its a place to truly connect with other people.


Devon has often been seen to have a fertile bed, nurturing all forms of creative expression. And Dartington, with its progressive ideology at the Schumacher College and links to the transition town of Totnes, is the perfect place to develop and spread ideas. Come to the festival with an open mind, take in a few talks and then enjoy discussing what youve heard in the queue for coffee.

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