Big names for bookworms
It’s October, so that means Cheltenham Literature Festival time! We give you a few pointers to help you plan your visit to this year’s brilliantly bookish event
With Hillary Clinton making a late appearance to the Cheltenham line-up just as we are going to print, excitement is running high for this year’s The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, which takes place over 10 days in October (6-15)
The UK’S oldest Literature Festival (established 1949) brings some of the brightest minds, most incisive commentators, literary greats, fresh new voices and stars of stage and screen to Cheltenham for 10 days of debate and celebration of the written and spoken word. Under the umbrella theme: Who Do We Think We Are? sessions will cover key questions about British identity and celebrate Britain’s rich literary and cultural heritage.
Celebrating a rich cast of eccentrics and national treasures, it will examine cultural offerings from Grime to The Archers in a quest to find out what makes us what we are. British food from Nadiya Hussain’s British Food Adventure, to Queen Victoria’s favourite fare; iconic British fashion from designer Alice Temperley; Simon Jenkins extolls Britain’s best railway stations; and we get a glimpse into the private gardens of British creatives from Anish Kapoor to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Irons to Julian Fellowes.
But the Festival will also look at another side of British identity and give a voice to diverse communities: Juno Dawson and CN Lester on transgender politics; Sabrina Mahfouz brings together British Muslim women’s voices in Things I Would Tell You; and Alan Johnson and Hashi Mohamed discuss social mobility. There’s a rare chance to see two of the country’s best-loved poets Lemn Sissay and Jackie Kay in a powerful discussion about race, identity and what it really means to truly belong and Inua Ellams performs his acclaimed touring show An Evening With An Immigrant.
Some of the biggest names in fiction will be there: Salman Rushdie, Bernard Cornwell , Paula Hawkins , Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Waters and Roddy Doyle and the annual shortlist celebration of the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Celebrating anniversaries are international bestselling author Philippa Gregory, Ian Rankin marks Thirty Years Of Rebus and Joanne Harris raises a glass to Chocolat, the novel that captured the hearts and imaginations of book, film and chocolate lovers alike. There’s the customary stars of stage and screen: comedians Matt Lucas, Sarah Millican and Robert Webb will talk candidly about their lives; Richard Osman invites the audience to play along with The World Cup Of Everything; and there’s a glimpse behind the scenes of Netflix’s lavish royal drama The Crown. BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, one of this year’s five Guest Curators, selects 10 key artists – from Blake to Banksy – through which he charts British art and social history including the Pre-raphaelites, Gainsborough, Turner, David Hockney, Martin Parr and Tracey Emin. Celebrating the extraordinary life and work of Cecil Beaton are Joanna Ling, head of the Cecil Beaton archive at Sotheby’s, curator Robin and style guru Lisa Immordino Vreeland.
As ever, there is a strong current affairs strand. A cast of experts on America, Russia and China convened by Robin Niblett, head of the internationally-renowned think tank Chatham House, is joined by agenda-setters including Justin Webb and Nick Robinson celebrating 60 years of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme; Newsnight’s Evan Davis; Andrew Marr; Peter Hennessy and John Sergeant.
Culinary stars speaking at the Festival include Nadiya Hussain, Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry, Tom Kerridge and Hugh
Fearnley-whittingstall, and in the art deco surroundings of The Daffodil you can enjoy the experience of lunching at Claridge’s with the hotel’s Executive Chef Martyn Nail. afternoon tea with Princess Michael of Kent; and dinner with Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers. Victoria Moore shares tips from The Wine Dine Dictionary and Damian Barr presents his popular A Book and Bottle while Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley give travel advice on where to find the best cocktail joints
With a Cheltenham focus Robin Oakley talks to former Racecourse Director Edward Gillespie and trainer Martin Pipe on 60 Years of Jump Racing sharing stories of the owners, jockeys and trainers who have dominated the sport. Talking about Getting Back in the Saddle and their unshakeable love of riding are jockey Declan Murphy and Clover Stroud who have both survived immense trauma.
The Festival will give a platform to some local voices including the Cheltenham Poetry Society celebrating 300 years of the town as a spa, the Gloucestershire Writers Network presenting a collection of writing on the Festival’s theme Who Do We Think We Are and five free readings under the Cheltenham Writes banner. One event that’s always great fun is the Cheltenham Booker where a panel fight it out to decide who would have won the Man Booker Prize had it existed in 1937. This year Ernest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck and J R R Tolkein are among the contenders.
There is plenty for all ages to discover on the Festival site for free: brain teasers and live music, a daily Times crossword and a daily instalment of brainy soapboxstyle talks. There’s the opportunity to swap books in the cosy outdoor lounge The Bookstand or see Festival-inspired art at the Gardens Gallery. New this year is the after-dark Festival Club at the centrally-placed Hotel du Vin for music, conversation and late-night literary revelry. For one night only (Saturday, October 7) the Lit Crawl takes over the streets of Cheltenham for a fast-paced evening of quirky literary happenings.
The Den will be filled with free book-related activities for families on Saturdays and Sundays, from helping Maisy Mouse creator Lucy Cousins create a mural to a Harry Potter quiz and learning to draw animals with Abbie Cameron. In The Woodland Trust Wild Wood families can settle down in the picnic area while youngsters build a den, dress up, follow The Famous Five story trail, listen to storytellers and meet their favourite book characters. For more on The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, visit www. cheltenhamfestivals. com; or call the box office on 01242 850270.
Alice Temperley, by Tomo Brejc
How Not To Be a Boy, by Robert Webb
Joanne Harris, by Jonathan Jacobs