Cheltenham Literature Festival 2007 – Day Three

7 October 2007 –  Lucy and Stephen Hawking

It’s not very often that a theoretical physicist commands the rapturous applause of hundreds of members of the public, but Professor Stephen Hawking isn’t just any theoretical physicist. Not only is he the bestselling author of the popular science title A Brief History of Time, but the scientist has now turned to children’s writing too, not to mention being a Simpsons character.

In an extremely rare public appearance, Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy Hawking saw Cheltenham Literature Festival goers flocking to the Centaur quite literally by the bus-load today, to hear more about the father and daughter’s co-written book George’s Secret Key to the Universe.

The family-friendly event, held in association with Gloucestershire’s Star Centre, saw Lucy explain more about the story of George – a boy who, with the help of his neighbour Annie and her scientist father Eric, uses a super computer to create doors to anywhere in the universe.

Lucy’s enthusiastic storytelling also took the audience on a journey across the solar system during the morning talk, littering her presentation with videos of interviews with astronauts, as well as giving the audience a fistful of informative facts – did you know for example that one million planet earths can fit into the sun? No, neither did we – but it’s bound to come up in a pub quiz at some point.

Next it was her father’s turn in the limelight as Stephen Hawking talked about black holes in an accessible way that the kids in the crowd may have understood, but at times had the parents scratching their heads, before cracking a few jokes at the expense of the French. The mind-expanding voyage came to a close, with just enough time for a few questions from the audience, which ended with the particularly profound question: ‘What did it feel like to be on the Simpsons?’ to which Professor Hawking replied: ‘I liked being given rocket launchers, but wasn’t so keen on my yellow face’.

For all who attended this very special event, seeing one of the modern day’s most influential scientists was a rare privilege and a true highlight of this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Buy George’s Secret Key to the Universe for £7.74 at