NOVELIST Philippa Gregory is to take part in a panel discussion on the importance of local journalism.

The best-selling author, whose historical novel Three Sisters, Three Queens is at the top of the current bestsellers list, will be in the Sunderland on Friday, March 24.

Her previous books about life in Tudor England have included The Other Boleyn Girl, which was adapted into a major movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman.

Ms Gregory, who lives on the North York Moors, is also a broadcaster, and a contributor to local radio and television programmes.

She will be joining Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, award-winning Northern Echo columnist Mike Amos, and a team from Sunderland University’s Media and Cultural Studies department for the free event.

There will also be an extract from the play Five Dead No Bodies, a local journalism comedy written by former Sunderland Echo and Shields Gazette editor Rob Lawson and Port of Tyne corporate affairs director Susan Wear.

The event is part of the National Union of Journalists’ week-long campaign Local News Matters, and has been organised by the union’s Sunderland, Shields and Hartlepool branch.

It will be chaired by David Baines, a former daily newspaper journalist who now lectures in journalism at Newcastle University and sits on the NUJ’s professional training committee.

Panellists will be welcomed by Sunderland football writer, freelance and branch chairman Graeme Anderson, and there will be a chance for audience members to join in the debate.

The event starts at 1pm in Sunderland City Council’s Civic Centre council chamber. Admission is free, and light refreshments will be available from 12.30pm.