On this page you can read biographies of our author, Simon Thomas, the session host, Ian Ridley, and our late co-founder Vikki Orvice.
Simon was loved and admired by a generation of children – and their parents – as presenter on the iconic children’s TV programme Blue Peter from 1999 – 2005. He then moved to Sky Sports News and became the lead presenter of Sky’s Football League coverage in 2010 before getting his dream job of presenting live Premier League matches in 2016.
In November of the following year, Simon’s life was thrown into turmoil when his wife Gemma died suddenly from acute myloid leukaemia (AML) at the age of 40, just three days after being diagnosed. Left to care for their young son Ethan on his own, he resigned from his job and put all his efforts into helping them both through the most difficult period of their lives.
Simon is a keen fundraiser and is the President of the Bloodwise charity, where he helps raise awareness of AML and other blood cancers. He also established the Gemma Thomas Fund to raise money that will help fund important research into AML.
Flamstead resident Ian, Vikki Orvice’s husband, is the author of 13 sports books, including the No.1 best selling Addicted, with the former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. His debut novel, The Outer Circle, was published in 2018.
Over a 40-year career as journalist and author, Ian has been a sports writer and columnist for The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer and the Mail on Sunday, for whom he was Chief Football Writer. He was named Sports Journalist of the Year in the 2007 British Press Awards and has been nominated on two other occasions.
Ian has also written for television, including more than 20 episodes of the Sky One drama series Dream Team, and currently has a film script in development on the life story of the world champion boxer Darren Barker, based on the autobiography on which the two collaborated, A Dazzling Darkness.
Vikki was a hugely respected and trailblazing sports journalist, as football and athletics correspondent of The Sun, as well as being co-founder of Books In The Belfry, before her death from cancer in February 2019 at the age of 56.
In a 33-year-career, 27 of them on national newspapers which also included the Observer and Daily Mail, Vikki was the first female staff writer on a tabloid newspaper and went on to cover five Olympic Games, six World Athletics Championships, four Commonwealth Games as well as more than a dozen Wimbledon tennis championships.
Alongside that, she was a co-founder of Women In Football and vice-chair of the Football Writers’ Association. She was for six years a patient governor of the Royal Marsden Hospital.
Books and reading were always a passion and she was responsible for attracting some remarkable authors to the Flamstead Book Festival, including Tony Parsons, Sophie Hannah, Barry Norman, Renee Knight, Andy Hamilton, Jane Hawking, Claire Mulley, Dermot Turing, Helen Pankhurst and Sarah Vaughan.
We hope the Vikki Orvice Memorial Interview featuring Simon and Ian will be fitting tribute by our festival to our much-loved co-founder.