Author fits the bill

A WORLD-famous author has made a date with South Tyneside.

Travel writer Bill Bryson is to give next year's South Shields Lecture.

He follows in the footsteps of Sir Patrick Stewart, Tony Blair and Lord Kinnock in giving the annual lecture, which is organised by South Shields MP David Miliband.

The former Foreign Secretary started the lectures when he became MP for the town in 2001.

Former journalist Mr Bryson, 58, is best known for Notes From A Small Island, a state-of-the-nation book about England, and Down Under, about his exploits in Australia.

Mr Miliband said: "I am delighted that Bill Bryson has agreed to deliver the next South Shields Lecture.

"He is the UK's biggest selling non-fiction author, and he knows the region well, being the Chancellor of Durham University.

"The lecture promises to be thought provoking, inspiring and entertaining."

Bryson was born in Iowa in 1951, but moved to England in 1977, settling in North Yorkshire with his English wife and four children.

His first book was The Lost Continent, about a trip around small- town America in his mother's Chevy.

In the 1990s, Notes From A Small Island and Down Under became huge bestsellers, the latter going on to be the most-borrowed travel book of the decade.

He has also turned his hand to writing about the English language, in Mother Tongue, and William Shakespeare, in Shakespeare: The World As A Stage.

The prestigious lecture was created to bring top-drawer speakers to the town, and it has had several high-profile guests over the years.

Ken Livingston, Lord Mandelson and Lord Puttnam have also delivered lectures.

The South Shields Lecture will be given on January 14, at a venue is to be confirmed.