Exploration of the Titanic disaster, the first IVF baby and the execution of Ruth Ellis in the new ‘remarkable’ book by Kent reporter Peter Williams


A revealing book by Kent author and filmmaker Peter Williams takes a behind-the-scenes look at some of the landmark events he covered during 70 years as a broadcaster and journalist.

Mr Williams, who is a Freeman from Canterbury and president of the Canterbury Festival, sheds new light on iconic moments that shocked the world and the personalities connected with it.

Peter Williams covered the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby born by IVF Photo: Bourn Hall

His book, Being There: Titanic, Marlon Brando and the Luger Pistol, explores his role in reporting on some of the greatest stories since the turn of the 21st century.

These include the birth of the first IVF babies in Britain and the United States, the death of speed ace Donald Campbell and the execution of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom.

Elsewhere, he writes for evidence that the owners of the Titanic, the White Star Line, lied to official inquiries into the disaster regarding the reduction in the number of lifeboats on the large liner in the interests of the economy.

Mr Williams also reveals how some of the harshest critics of IVF pioneer Patrick Steptoe, who had a home in Blackfriars Street, Canterbury, quickly embraced and benefited from the introduction of IVF once the first baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978..

The book has already received high praise from industry heavyweights, including former BBC chief executive Greg Dyke, who describes it as “excellent.”

Sir Clive Jones, director of ITV and former chairman of the UK Disaster Emergency Fund, adds: “The great virtue of being there is that Peter was really there.

Filmmaker and animator Peter Williams
Filmmaker and animator Peter Williams
In the book, there is evidence that the owners of the Titanic, the White Star Line, lied to official inquiries into the disaster regarding the reduction in the number of lifeboats.
In the book, there is evidence that the owners of the Titanic, the White Star Line, lied to official inquiries into the disaster regarding the reduction in the number of lifeboats.

“Over the course of seven decades, from reporter for a local newspaper to respected television correspondent, Peter has spoken the truth in power, held our masters to account, and celebrated extraordinary people.

“This is a remarkable book written by a remarkable journalist.”

Suzanne Franks, professor of journalism at City University, describes the book as a “compelling memoir but also an illuminating commentary on the events and dramas that have shaped our contemporary world.”

She adds, “Peter writes about encounters with notable villains, movie stars, spies and everyday heroes.”

Among those everyday heroes was Hilary Lister, a quadriplegic from Dunkirk, who sailed solo around the UK in 2009, with Mr Williams tracing every mile of his remarkable journey.

Peter Williams reported on the death of Donald Campbell, who broke the world water speed record in the boat The Bluebird
Peter Williams reported on the death of Donald Campbell, who broke the world water speed record in the boat The Bluebird
Peter Williams documented the remarkable efforts of quadriplegic Hilary Lister, who sailed solo around the UK in 2019
Peter Williams documented the remarkable efforts of quadriplegic Hilary Lister, who sailed solo around the UK in 2019

Professor Michael Irwin, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Kent, writes: “This is a terrific book. Each chapter features new drama, espionage, murders, war crimes, world records speed, nuclear disasters, and Peter Williams was indeed ‘This is an enthralling read, often surprisingly.’

Being There is available from Waterstones, Amazon and direct from the author at [email protected], priced at £ 16.99.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury


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