Roscoe Lecture Series - Liverpool John Moores University

Roscoe Lecture: Michael Morpurgo

War Boy to War Horse

Internationally celebrated writer of outstanding children’s fiction, Michael Morpurgo OBE’s recent Roscoe Lecture saw a full house at the Philharmonic hear about the author’s life and writing experiences.  As a war baby, Michael recalled the consequences of the aftermath of World War Two and the effect it had on his family and those around him.  

He told the audience how he wanted to explore what war does to us all within his writing.  Michael also read a passage from ‘Listen to the Moon’, his stunning new WW1 novel which tells the story of a young girl found floating in the ocean on a grand piano, after the ship she was on was torpedoed by a German U boat in 1915.

Michael Morpurgo is, in his own words, “oldish, married with three children, and a grandfather six times over.” Born in 1943, he attended schools in London, Sussex and Canterbury. He went on to London University to study English and French, followed by a step into the teaching profession and a job in a primary school in Kent.

It was there that he discovered what he wanted to do: “We had to read the children a story every day and my lot were bored by the book I was reading. I decided I had to do something and told them the kind of story I used to tell my kids - it was like a soap opera, and they focused on it. I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me.”

In 1976 Michael and his wife, Clare, started the charity Farms For City Children (FFCC), which aims to relieve the poverty of experience of young children from inner city and urban areas by providing them with a week in which they work actively and purposefully on farms in the heart of the countryside. In the last 30 years over, 50,000 children from cities and towns throughout the UK have spent a week of their lives living and working on one of their three farms. Living in Devon, listening to Mozart, and working with children have provided most of the stimulate Michael needs to discover and write his stories.

He spends about half his life mucking out sheds with the children, feeding sheep or milking cows; the other half he spends dreaming up and writing stories. 

Michael has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by ten universities and is Vice-Chancellor of The Children’s University and President of Book Trust.

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Director of LJMU’s Foundation for Citizenship commented:

"Not only does Michael Morpurgo have the gift of a brilliant story-teller but, by weaving many of the great questions and ethical dilemmas into his yarns, he challenges his readers to think more deeply. 

"In magical books, like Why The Whales Came, War Horse, and Kensuke’s Kingdom, he raises thought provoking questions, touching on war and peace, prejudice, discrimination, justice, and compassion: questions which go to the heart of what makes for a good citizen and a humane society. 

"Michael Morpurgo has written over 100 outstanding books and won numerous awards - leading to his appointment as Children’s Laureate."

You can download and listen to Michael's lecture here