Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021

Cheltenham festival

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 8 – 17 October reveals this year’s programme of events, setting the scene for an international literary celebration like no other.

From Friday 8 to Sunday 17 October, the world’s foremost writers, thinkers and performers will descend on the vibrant spa town when the Festival village returns to the heart of regency Cheltenham.

The world’s first literature festival continues to blaze a trail with unique experiences and the unparalleled line-up is set to create even more unforgettable memories for book lovers this autumn.

Showcasing literary legends, fresh new voices and the biggest books of the year, there is something on offer for everyone: from stars of the stage and screen to incisive political debate. The programme spans history, food, travel, poetry and spoken word, art and much more.

Family Day out at Cheltenham Literature Festival

The lively Festival village is the perfect setting for a family day out with a bumper programme of events, free activities, workshops, and story trails featuring the greatest storytellers and illustrators, sure to inspire a love of reading in children of all ages and stages. The Literature for Schools programme will also give school children the chance to meet their literary heroes.

Cheltenham Festivals’ YouTube channel

The Festival is harnessing digital technology as part of its drive to create a world in which everyone can explore culture. Cheltenham Festivals’ YouTube channel will broadcast highlights from each day of the Festival, including filmed talks with international writers as part of the Read The World theme. In addition, recordings of over 140 events will be available on demand until 31 December 2021 via the #CheltLitFest Player.

The Cheltenham Lit Crawl

Charging into its 6th year in Cheltenham, for one night only Lit Crawl sees the town’s bars, record stores, cafes, tattoo parlours and barbershops packed with literary revellers sampling everything from flash fiction to ghost stories, music to comedy, pop-up readings to spoken word.

Cheltenham Festival Litcrawl


VOICEBOX will bring youth voices to the forefront through a completely free programme of talks, workshops, panels, DJ sets and more, shining a light on the topics that matter to young adults. Events will feature the best established and emerging local and national young writers, artists and creatives and digital audiences will be encouraged to join in the conversation through the Festival’s social media channels, continuing discussion and debate beyond the 10-day event.

Booking for the Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals Members on Friday 3 September and general booking opens on Friday 10 September.

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This October will see the launch of a major new three-year theme for the Festival:

‘Read the World’ features a greater range of international writing offering an incisive guide to key global issues. With the Festival’s new digital capabilities developed for the FutureBook award-winning hybrid edition in 2020, this year’s programme will see writers and thinkers appearing from across the globe and reaching audiences around the world.

‘Read the World’ themed sessions can be found in every event strand: whether that’s celebrating world cuisines in Lifestyle, tracking the cultural influence of international writers and artists in Classic Literature and Art & Design; the History and Current Affairs strands covering global events or the Family programme introducing younger bookworms to issues and stories from around the world.

Highlights of the theme’s inaugural year include:

  • A dedicated ‘Literary Explorer in Residence’, Ann Morgan, with various events and activities to help expand reading habits and uncover amazing international writers
  • A commissioned series of career-spanning interviews with five major world writers: Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, double Pulitzer winner Colson Whitehead, the Australian Lifetime Achievement in Literature Award winner Helen Garner, doyenne of Latin American literature Isabel Allende and Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk, filmed in collaboration with a range of international festival partners including Ake Arts and Book Festival in Nigeria and Melbourne Writers’ Festival
  • Major world writers and thinkers will dial into live on-stage panels, including a trans-Atlantic conversation between Rebecca Solnit and Deborah Levy; Jonathan Franzen speaking from his US home on his new novel, Crossroads, and a new mini-series Conversations Without Borders exploring key concepts, themes and issues including feminism and LGBTQi rights from global perspectives
  • A rebranded Huddle stage featuring leading authors enthusing about their favourite world writers, translation pop ups, international writing showcases, a chance to hear authors read in their native language and international book doctors dispensing advice
  • Working with a range of international partners including the Australian High Commission, Auckland Writers’ Festival, The Dutch Foundation for Literature, Creative New Zealand, the Japan Foundation, Culture Ireland, The Icelandic House for Literature and the Goethe Institute to introduce new international writers to Festival goers
  • International spins on popular Festival features, such as ‘Meet the International Literary Editors’ with head Books writers from The New York Times, Germany’s Die Zeit and The Irish Times
  • This year’s Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence will go to Elena Ferrante, the phenomenally successful Italian novelist and one of the most widely-read writers in translation
  • Celebrating a major world book shop for each of the three years of the theme, beginning with Paris’ legendary Shakespeare and Company, including an exclusive interview with owner Sylvia Whitman live from the bookshop and a live panel of UK based writers for whom Paris has played a key part in their literary lives featuring Sebastian Faulks, Lauren Elkin and Alex Christof
  • A film strand celebrating world cinema and the tropes and themes unique to different traditions

Cheltenham Literary Festival


This year’s Fiction programme includes literary names with their new books include Jonathan Franzen, Leïla Slimani, Elif Shafak, Colm Tóibín, Ruth Ozeki, Sebastian Faulks, Katherine Heiny, Lauren Groff, Sarah Hall and Jeanette Winterson, plus Cheltenham-goers will be getting an exclusive preview event with Sarah Moss around her new novel, The Fell and Amor Towles’ first UK event for The Lincoln Highway.

Desert Island Books Castaway

Meanwhile the bestselling and multiple award-winning Maggie O’Farrell will be this year’s Desert Island Books Castaway and will reflect on the six books that have shaped her reading and writing life.

Guest Curator Bernardine Evaristo

Guest Curator Bernardine Evaristo will be reflecting on her three decades as a trailblazing writer and activist through to Booker Winner in Manifesto, as well as curating a panel featuring Mary Jean Chan, Paul Mendez, Andrew McMillan and Richard Scott in a celebration of queer writers. Louise Kennedy, winner of The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award, will be in conversation with The Sunday Times Literary Editor, Andrew Holgate, and Meg Mason, author of the summer reading sensation Sorrow and Bliss dials in from Sydney to discuss her hit novel.


Women’s Prize shortlisted Claire Fuller and Rónán Hession will explore what it means to rebuild a life after shattering news in middle age while Detransition, Baby author Torrey Peters will discuss the similarities of detransition and divorce with Elizabeth Day – who will also present her anticipated new novel Magpie in conversation with Caroline O’Donoghue.

Emily Itami and Chandler Baker delve deep into the pressures of contemporary motherhood, Megan Nolan and Raven Leilani explore intoxicating first love and the pain and pleasures of millennial lives. Lize Spit and Nancy Tucker will discuss the influence early trauma can have on adult lives, Imogen Hermes Gowar and Catriona Ward explore the enduring appeal of the gothic and Jessie Greengrass and Oana Aristide discuss their role in a generation of new writers boldly tackling the climate emergency in their fiction.

From comedy writing to fiction

Robert Webb, Mel Giedroyc, Dawn French and Miles Jupp all join for conversations about turning their hand from comedy writing to fiction and the beloved Marian Keyes returns to discuss both her latest novel and revisit Rachel’s Holiday in the Festival’s popular ‘Celebrate With…’ book club sessions. Also revisiting landmark books in front of intimate book-loving audiences will be Colm Tóibín discussing Brooklyn and Paula Hawkins on The Girl on the Train.

Adding a global flavour to the Festival’s fiction strand, Costa Book Award winner Monique Roffey and Leone Ross present their acclaimed Caribbean-set novels, Chris Power and Calla Henkel share their thrilling novels set in Berlin’s underbelly, German writer Daniela Krien and Dutch novelist Jaap Robben discuss their lauded new novels, Granta en español co-founder Valerie Miles introduces the next generation of Spanish language writing talent and host of BBC Scotland’s The Big Scottish Book Club Damian Barr curates a line-up of contemporary Scottish writers to watch.

Contemporary takes on ancient Greek myths

Elsewhere, Jennifer Saint and Sarvat Hasin present their contemporary takes on ancient Greek myths, the grandson of Gabriel García Márquez Mateo García Elizondo joins Karina Lickorish Quinn and Leone Ross to track the magic realist genre from its Latin American roots and 2021 The Stella Prize winner Evie Wyld revisits her winning novel The Bass Rock and reflects on contemporary Australian women’s writing with Tam Zimet.

Discover amazing world literature

Meanwhile our first ever Literary Explorer in Residence Ann Morgan will be on hand to help audiences discover amazing world literature and our panel of esteemed literary translators Polly Barton, Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Jeremy Tiang explore their life-changing language learning.

Crime aficionados will be treated to a killer line-up featuring Pointless star turned phenomenally bestselling novelist Richard Osman, the masterful Mark Billingham, and multi-million copy selling author of The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins on her new novel A Slow Fire Burning. A panel of John Le Carré’s closest friends and admirers including Mick Herron and Charlotte Philby come together to celebrate the publication of his last unpublished, complete novel Silverview, former MP Alan Johnson and broadcaster Robert Peston will introduce their debut thrillers, and the much-loved Ann Cleeves will share the latest in her Two Rivers series, whilst two of the hottest names in cold crime, Will Dean and Ragnar Jónasson, will be in conversation, with Jónasson also joining a panel of international crime experts including The Times’ Mark Sanderson to explore how the genre differs around the globe. Lisa Jewell and Kia Abdullah reveal how to keep a reader on the edge of their seat, and Festival goers will be among the first to discover new generation crime and thriller voices Saima Mir, Janice Hallett and Zakiya Dalila Harris.

Debuts and Cocktails session

A number of today’s biggest writers got their first break at Cheltenham and the Festival’s support of the next generation of writing talent continues. The popular Debuts and Cocktails session returns, with Anna Bailey, Caleb Azumah Nelson and Salena Godden as this year’s handpicked writers in conversation with Programme and Commissions Manager Lyndsey Fineran. Three publishers present proof parties this year, giving Festival audiences a first look at the exciting new talent publishing in 2022 with Picador, Penguin Michael Joseph and Hutchinson Heinemann, while a panel of successful young writers – Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year winner Raymond Antrobus, Eliza Clark and Gabriel Krauze – offer their tips about how to survive and thrive as a young writer.

Booker Prize Winners


This year’s line-up celebrates some of our best-loved classic works, from these shores and beyond. In a twist on the Festival’s long-running Shakespeare Lecture, Olivier-award winning Hamilton star Giles Terera will illuminate the surprising parallels between The Bard and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit rap musical; Countdown’s Dictionary Corner doyenne Susie Dent gives an insightful and amusing tour through the English language; and Sebastian Faulks will chair a jury including Caroline O’Donoghue and Elizabeth Day exposing literature’s greatest bores, with Faulks also joining Lauren Elkin and Alex Christofi to celebrate the literary life of Paris – featuring a linked interview with Sylvia Whitman, owner of Paris’ legendary Shakespeare and Company. As part of her Guest Curatorship, Bernardine Evaristo presents a panel featuring Judith Bryan, Jacqueline Roy and Nicola Williams, part of her ‘Writing Back’ series with Penguin of rediscovered Black writers writing about Black Britain.

Life and work of James Baldwin

The legendary Colm Tóibín, biographer James Campbell, and novelist Robert Jones Jr, will celebrate the life and work of James Baldwin; Kate Mosse, academic Tim Kendall and Judy Golding will recognise Nobel Prize Winner William Golding; leading American activist and scholar Rebecca Solnit and Deborah Levy will discuss their shared special interest, George Orwell; Frances Wilson and Alison Macleod will reflect on one of the most complex and divisive modernist writers, D.H. Lawrence; Alex Christofi and Viv Groskop will explore the life of Fyodor Dostoevsky; Jonathan Bate and Lucasta Miller will explore Keats’ influence on F. Scott Fitzgerald, in conversation with Sarah Churchwell; and Connie Palmen and Nuala O’Connor will offer their experiences of writing the bio-fiction of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and wife and muse of James Joyce, Nora Barnacle.


Explore fraught relationships between mothers and daughters with Gwendoline Riley

Joan Bakewell, in her role as Guest Curator, will interview Deborah Levy about her trilogy of memoirs, talk to David Kynaston about the year 1962, when Britain stood on the cusp of a social and cultural revolution, and explore fraught relationships between mothers and daughters with Gwendoline Riley, Susie Boyt and Lorraine Candy, as well as introducing her own new memoir confronting ‘the next segment of life.’

Explore the complicated legacy inherited by descendants of both slave owners and the enslaved

Actor David Harewood and Alex Renton will explore the complicated legacy inherited by descendants of both slave owners and the enslaved, presenter Anita Rani will recall growing up as a second-generation British Indian up north, whilst Nikesh Shukla considers the world into which his young daughters are growing. Reverend Richard Coles will explore the tragedy – and unexpected comedy – of bereavement, with Adam Buxton; journalist Hadley Freeman and Meriel Schindler will unpack complex Jewish family histories; and Gavanndra Hodge and Sarah Aspinall will recall their unconventional childhoods and their complex feelings towards their parents.


Off the Page collection

The Festival’s renowned Off the Page collection will present an unrivalled line-up of world-class performers and the most dynamic up-and-coming talent, including the incomparable Hollie McNish with a funny and refreshing look at modern life, two of poetry’s brightest stars, Raymond Antrobus and Kayo Chingonyi together on stage, and the award-winning Allie Esiri spanning 3,000 years to introduce the work of leading global poets performed by well-known actors. T.S. Eliot Prize nominee Anthony Anaxagorou will deliver a poetry writing masterclass and in a new collaboration between Cheltenham and the T.S. Eliot Prize, the 2021 Prize winner Bhanu Kapil gives a special reading and the 2022 shortlist of the prestigious award will be exclusively announced in a Festival event. In an Un Nuevo Sol showcase, the Festival will welcome UK based writers of Latin American heritage Leo Boix, Juana Adcock and Patrizia Longhitano, alongside next generation Irish poetry talent, Seán Hewitt, Nidhi Zak and Aoife Lyall.

Folk favourite Beans on Toast

Making Festival debuts this year are folk favourite Beans on Toast with a unique and unpredictable evening of wild songs and stories and viral TikTok sensation Nathan Evans with his favourite sea shanties, plus Festival favourite Tongue Fu are back by popular demand.

Cast of Impromptu Shakespeare

Further literary and linguistic magic comes courtesy of the cast of Impromptu Shakespeare with a brand new one-act hit, author Harry Freedman will explore the context behind Leonard Cohen’s spiritual sources, and linocut artist Amy Jeffs will present a rich hour of music, storytelling and art inspired by Britain’s oldest stories. As ever, the literary revelry continues after dark with unconventional comedy on hand from the Alternative Book Club, plus quiz maestro James Walton will test Cheltenham’s bookish know-how.


The red carpet will be rolled out for a host of world-class comedians, musicians, actors, directors, and national treasures. Bringing the laughs will be Jack Dee with some tongue-in-cheek problem solving; Katherine Ryan offering some intimate observations of life; Phil Wang reflecting on his experience of race and belonging; Josh Widdicombe celebrating the TV shows that shaped his childhood; Julian Clary on the bond between man and dog; Michael and Hilary Whitehall discussing how to avoid the pitfalls of family holidays; Adam Buxton makes his Festival debut reminiscing on parenthood, boarding school, music and friendship; Rob Beckett examining the conflict between his working class roots in South London and the middle class world of TV; Mel Giedroyc and Marian Keyes exploring the connection between comedy and novel writing; and Sanjeev Bhaskar reflecting on a life both on screen, and behind the camera.

Helena Bonham Carter

Award-winning international cellist Steven Isserlis

From the world of music, the Festival will welcome Skunk Anansie’s trailblazing frontwoman Skin, Led Zeppelin’s iconic Jimmy Page, popstar and lockdown kitchen disco genius Sophie Ellis-Bextor with her thoughts on men, music and motherhood, award-winning international cellist Steven Isserlis offering his personal observations on Bach’s cherished 6 Suites, musician, actor and author Will Young sharing his experiences as a gay man, Strictly’s Shirley Ballas will reveal how she danced her way from the Wirral to the glamorous world of ballroom, and Craig Brown will be discussing his acclaimed kaleidoscopic biography of The Beatles.

The unapologetic Joan Collins will give an uncensored glimpse into the pages of her outrageous diary, Eileen Atkins charts her life from humble beginnings to Broadway fame, Disney star Hayley Mills will reflect on her dazzling career, and Hugo Vickers will divulge some hair-raising excerpts from his personal diaries chronicling his biography research of the legendary Cecil Beaton.

Dawn French and Bernardine Evaristo will discuss their best-selling novels narrating women’s experiences, Ruby Wax will provide a blueprint for how the world can shift for the better, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Bimini Bon Boulash will give a drag queen’s guide to life, and Ian Hislop will mark the 60th anniversary of Private Eye. And if that’s not enough, there is even more entertainment from Gyles Brandreth, former politician and Strictly royalty Ed Balls, Bob Mortimer with his first autobiography, award-winning broadcasters Fi Glover and Jane Garvey, plus Julia Wheeler and Catherine Miller will celebrate the nation’s best-loved village and legendary drama, The Archers.


The Festival scene is set for ten days of unmatched, incisive political and topical debate. In a series exploring the pandemic’s impact, economist and broadcaster Dharshini David, co-developer of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine Sarah Gilbert, and behavioural psychologist Susan Michie consider how we can avoid another; policy expert Bobby Duffy, economist Grace Blakeley and psychologist Bruce Hood explore how a generation of young people have been affected; and Chatham House Director Robin Niblett leads a discussion on the long-term implications on patterns of economic globalisation.

Jess Phillips will lift the lid on what a career in politics is really like, the Election Generals return to Cheltenham as Peter Hennessy and John Sergeant join Paddy O’Connell with their thoughts on the hot political topics of the day, Peter Cardwell, Tom McTague and Ayesha Hazarika will examine the power of personality in politics, and The Times columnist and Times Radio presenter Matt Chorley is back with an hilarious show exploring who really calls the shots in Westminster.

Brenda Hale looks back on a trailblazing legal career, Alexandra Wilson will share her powerful account on the front line of justice and prejudice, and Musa Okwonga opens up about his experience as young black man studying at Eton College. Ed Miliband will consider a once-in-a-generation appetite for change while Amika George, founder of the Free Periods movement, and entrepreneur Jeremiah Emmanuel show how to be an effective activist. Nova Reid and Sophie Williams will provide a guide on how to become a good ally in the fight against racial injustice, and Remi Adekoya, Georgina Lawton and Ijoma Mangold will be exploring the mixed-race experience.

As Britain begins a new era outside the EU, John Pienaar, Anne McElvoy and William Hague assess the global potential of post-Brexit Britain; Mark Leonard, Alice Billon-Galland, and Luuk van Middelaar debate the failure of the EU project; Anand Menon and Catherine Philp look at what’s next for the union; Feargal Cochrane reflects on what this means for the future of Northern Ireland; broadcaster John Kampfner and Sophie Pedder join The Times Diplomatic Editor Roger Boyes to assess the UK’s relationship with France and Germany; and Royal Correspondents for The Times and The Sunday Times Roya Nikkhah and Valentine Low will be contemplating the Royal Family’s future under King Charles III. Ahead of COP26, climate policy specialist Rebecca Peters and sustainability strategist Ben Tuxworth will join a panel of leading experts to consider a watermark moment in climate change, plus environmental activist, model, actress and filmmaker Lily Cole will show how we can make changes to create the future we want, and Gillian Tett will be in conversation with business psychologist Clive Lewis on the impact of human behaviour on the future of organisations.

With a global perspective, Tim Marshall presents the ten regions set to shape the world’s politics in a new age of rivalry; Lisa Nandy and Leslie Vinjamuri debate the challenges China poses to the West; former US ambassador Matthew Barzun and Daniel Finkelstein assess Joe Biden, the quiet revolutionary leading America in the post-Trump era; Julia Gallagher, Professor in African Politics at SOAS, political sociologist Simukai Chigudu and author Peace Medie examine the key challenges and opportunities facing Africa in this critical next decade; and as part of Bernardine Evaristo’s Guest Curatorship, Emma Dabiri and Minna Salami will discuss African feminism. As part of the Read the World theme, ‘Conversations Without Borders’ events will examine key concepts and themes through a global lens, with South African journalist Mark Gevisser, London-based writer Amelia Abraham, founder of Queer Youth Uganda, Letiticia Opio and performance artist Travis Alabanza exploring the LGBTQ+ experience, and Egyptian-American journalist and feminist commentator Mona Eltahawy, Everyday Sexism Project founder Laura Bates, and author Sara Collins considering the future of a more inclusive feminism that works for all women around the world.


Sarah Sands, former editor of the BBC’s Today, will share her experience of trying to ‘de-stress’ and why we may have much to learn from monasticism, philosophers Rebecca Buxton, Kate Kirkpatrick, Suki Finn and Amia Srinivasan will discuss out of date theories behind feminism and who we should be looking at for contemporary philosophical insight, plus author Irving Finkel will draw on evidence from pre-human archaeology and our earliest writing and literature to look at ghosts from a new standpoint.


BAFTA award-winning filmmaker and rights activist Hassan Akkad

As part of a stellar line-up exploring what it means to be human, critically acclaimed actor David Harewood will share a deeply personal and provocative exploration of race and identity, government ambassador for youth mental health Alex George will provide an invaluable guide for wellbeing, and actor Evanna Lynch will explore body image and the pressures of perfection whilst living in the public eye. Through their moving personal stories of breakdown and recovery, Horatio Clare and Oliver Kamm will consider what happens when the mind unravels, and Syrian refugee, BAFTA award-winning filmmaker and rights activist Hassan Akkad will recount his journey of hope and human connection with novelist Elif Shafak.

War correspondent Anthony Loyd, who tracked down British ISIL bride Shamima Begum, will be joined by former SAS solider, combat medic and former drug addict Ben Timberlake to discuss living life at the extremes, former director of GCHQ, David Omand, will show how the big decisions in your life can be made easier by thinking like a spy. Journalist and author Annie Ridout will be joined digitally by US-based psychologist Laurie Helgoe for a transatlantic exploration of quietness, essayist Roisin Kiberd and author and critic Lauren Oyler will consider how we construct our sense of self in the age of the internet, plus journalist Will Storr together with Matthew Barzun, former US Ambassador to the UK and an integral cog to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, will explore the power structures at play in both our personal and professional lives.


Alan Turing’s nephew, Dermot Turing, and mathematical biologist Natasha Ellison will explore the science of patterns in nature, Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green will reveal the gripping story of how they created the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and the cutting edge science behind it, epidemiologist David Spiegelhalter and the statistician Anthony Masters will crunch the data to expose the misconceptions about COVID19 and the vaccine, and Rory Cellan-Jones will be joined by Exponential View editor Azeem Azhar to give their predictions about the future of tech.

The formidable Richard Dawkins will offer an electrifying celebration of science writing, mortician Carla Valentine will illuminate the gruesome forensic world of Agatha Christie’s infamous murders, and psychiatrist Mark Freestone, author Bella Mackie and forensic psychiatrist Gwen Adshead will come together to discuss what makes psychopaths tick.


There will be a veritable feast of first-class foodies tantalising tastebuds with flavours from around the world, including the much-loved Raymond Blanc with memories of a life spent in the kitchen, one of the nation’s all-time favourite chefs Ainsley Harriott, a Dishoom dinner with co-founder Shamil Thakrar, an afternoon tea with baking sensation Jane Dunn, plus Ravinder Bhogal will be cooking up a storm, Masterchef maestro Monica Galetti will showcase the everyday dishes she enjoys at home, Claudia Roden will channel the warm glow and tastes of the Med, the award-winning Anna Jones will blaze the trail for quick, sustainable and stylish snacks, renowned chef Emily Scott will be joined by musician Gerry Smyth in a celebration of Cornish food and shea shanties, and Mandy Yin will share her love of Malaysian cuisine.


Gardening grandad ‘Veg King’ Gerald Stratford and horticulturist Alys Fowler

Food historian Pen Vogler is set to reveal the fascinating history of British eating habits, Giles Coren and Esther Walker will discuss their chart-topping podcast, and Giffords Circus Head Chef Ols Halas will recreate the Circus Sauce restaurant alongside stories of circus life. Gardening grandad ‘Veg King’ Gerald Stratford and horticulturist Alys Fowler will share their knowledge of growing your own food, Jay Rayner and Britain’s leading food historian Annie Gray will take us on a lively tour of the British year in food, restaurant critic Grace Dent and actress Katy Wix will discuss the central role food plays in either bringing us together or driving us apart, plus Frank Wynn and Jack Guinness of The Queer Bible will host a brunch club celebrating queer history.


Renowned DJ and broadcaster Annie Macmanus and bestselling author Candice Brathwaite will be discussing love, loss, trauma and belonging, and national treasure Michael Rosen and novelist Kate Mosse will share intimate stories of caring, and being cared for. Exploring our life choices from parenthood to how we spend our cash will be Sophie Beresiner, Pragya Agarwal and Margaret Reynolds on building a non-traditional family, Slay in Your Lane’s Elizabeth Uviebinené and career coach Selina Barker on how to find success and balance in a new work landscape, Otegha Uwagba, Bola Sol and Clare Seal on our complicated relationship with money, Lucy Kellaway and Laura Friedman- Williams on starting again later in life, and Oliver Burkeman on how we choose to use our time.

As part of the Guest Curatorship from the Keep the Receipts podcast, hosts Tolly, Audrey and Milena will invite the Festival audience to join them for a great night out as they get super honest about their life experiences and lessons, and Tolly will talk to author Chelsea Kwakye and psychotherapist Anna Mathur about feeling empowered, comforted and validated in every emotion you experience, decision you make and opinion you share.

For fashionistas, Anna Murphy, Fashion Director at The Times and Prue White, Style Director at The Times Magazine will be sharing their autumn tips, the country’s leading beauty experts, founder of Skin Nerd Jennifer Rock and skincare specialist and aesthetics Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme will reveal their not-to-be-missed trends, tips and beauty hacks, author Nina-Sophia Miralles will be delving into the glossy pages of Vogue with former editor Alexandra Shulman, plus interiors expert Kate Watson-Smyth and Hill House Vintage’s Paula Sutton will be on hand with tips to style your home.


For football fans, the larger-than-life Peter Schmeichel will look back on a world-leading career and his life playing the beautiful game, and England legend John Barnes will share his powerful testimony on society’s ongoing battle with racism and prejudice.

Rugby star James Haskell will disclose his outrageously funny lessons on how (not) to retire gracefully, and former rugby pro Ed Jackson will reflect on his extraordinary journey from paralysis to summiting Mount Snowden and his latest challenge, climbing Nepal’s Mera Peak, with fellow Tokyo Paralympics presenter, broadcaster and disability advocate Sophie Morgan.

Gold-medal winning Olympian Tom Daley will reveal the moments that have shaped him and the perspective that family life has brought, and undefeated professional and Olympic boxer, humanitarian and Vogue ‘Force for Change’ Ramla Ali will join writer-turned-power lifter Poorna Bell to celebrate women’s strength and explore the relationship between the mental and physical.


Female artists will take centre stage for this year’s Festival with critic Jennifer Higgie discussing 500 years of women’s self-portraits, art historians Ferren Gipson, Katy Hessel and Kate Bryan exploring how Linda Nochlin kickstarted the feminist revolution in art with her essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?, and the prize-winning illustrator Jackie Morris will be mesmerising the audience with an evening of live drawing.

Tying into the Read the World theme and celebrating the rich history of great art from across the globe, renowned expert Janis Tomlinson will present an illustrated lecture on Goya’s extraordinary life and work against the backdrop of a tumultuous period of Spanish history; in a year of events taking place throughout Italy to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, Dante expert David Bowe and art historian Martin Kemp will examine the profound influence of the writer’s depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven on the visual artist’s imagination; artist Richard Mark Rawlins and curator Aindrea Emelife will recognise the vibrant and evocative work of artists from the Caribbean who have made their home in Britain, and curator and street art expert Rafael Schacter and queer art specialist Fiona Anderson will delve into the 1980s New York Scene as they recognise the enduring legacy of Keith Haring’s short and vibrant life.

Journalist and critic Charlotte Jansen and photographer and author Caleb Azumah Nelson will share some of the most exciting photographers from around the world who are redefining the art for the modern age, and photographer Martin Parr will turn his camera’s gaze on Ireland to share his portrait of a country that has changed dramatically over the course of 40 years.

Most famous for his depictions of Tudor Court and his defining portrait of Henry VIII, Hans Holbein the Younger will be discussed by author and producer Franny Moyle; William Morris’s influential designs in Victorian England will be celebrated by designer Anna Mason as she reflects on his legacy 125 years since his death; from Vincent van Gogh to Jean-Michel Basquiat, broadcaster and art historian Kate Bryan takes us on a dazzling tour of the lives and legacies of great artists who died too young; delving into previously unpublished personal correspondence, Willem-Jan Verlinden will bring Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters out from their brothers’ shadow to share a spellbinding family history; Susan Owens will look at how the British landscape has been reimagined through the eyes of artists and writers throughout history and Jed Mercurio will join forces with actor, writer, and director Prasanna Puwanarajah and illustrator Coke Navarro to present their hotly anticipated graphic novel series.


Mythical origins of the Olympics

This year’s collection will take the Cheltenham audience on a time-travelling journey beginning in the ancient world with classical archaeologist Judith Barringer and Peter Fiennes offering an insight into the mythical origins of the Olympics, journalist Charlotte Higgins sharing a new retelling of the Greek myths and the women so often overlooked, and the country’s best known classicist Mary Beard will be asking, against a background of today’s ‘sculpture wars’, what the face of power looks like.

Picking up on the Festival’s theme, a mini-series will focus on countries poised to become global superpowers, and trace their extraordinary stories: historian and broadcaster Michael Wood will illuminate the narrative of China’s 4,000 year old civilisation; Mayak Intelligence founder Mark Galeotti and Carnegie Moscow Center Director Dmitri Trenin will explore the Russian psyche and the ambition that has driven it to become one of the most powerful nations in the world; former foreign secretary David Owen will discuss 200 years of Britain-Russia relations; and former international diplomat Shashi Tharoor and barrister Marina Wheeler will explore India’s identity as it approaches the 75th anniversary of its independence.

Exploring the history of Britain

Exploring the history of Britain, Alison Weir and Sarah Gristwood will explore how Katharine Parr has been portrayed though the ages, Andrew Roberts will argue that, far from being an incompetent tyrant, George III was one of our most admirable monarchs, and Thomas Otte and Heather Jones will discuss the role King George V and Sir Edward Grey played both before and during the WWI. Marc Morris, John Preston and printmaker Amy Jeffs will explore the society, culture and mythology of Anglo-Saxon England; broadcaster Fatima Manji and Christos Kefalas, World Cultures Curator for the National Trust, will reveal how the art, objects and architecture found in our heritage sites point to Britain’s longstanding appreciation of unfamiliar cultures; and Sathnam Sanghera will show how much of modern Britain is actually rooted in our imperial past.

Contemporary historian Anthony Seldon and political journalist Steve Richards will explore what it takes to be a successful prime minister and why so few have been up to the job; and Simon Heffer and Sasha Swire will talk to Michael Gove about what motivates the political diarist and what it takes for a diary to achieve immortality.

Wartime analysis comes courtesy of Max Hastings, who will recount one of the Royal Navy’s most audacious missions, the operation to save Malta in 1942; Jonathan Dimbleby will examine how Operation Barbarossa caused Hitler to lose WWII; historian Margaret MacMillan, former special adviser to the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy Michael Clark and Nick Carter, Chief of Defence Staff, will show how an understanding of history can help shape contemporary statecraft; surviving veterans Betty Webb and Jean Argles will share their memories of being young, female and at war in the 1940s with Tessa Dunlop; and Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames and historian Rachel Trethewey will draw on unpublished material from the family archives to shine the spotlight on Churchill’s daughters.


Outdoors legend Ray Mears will tell his favourite tales of adventure and survival over Sunday lunch, Nepalese mountaineer and former elite soldier Nimsdai Purja and extreme TV adventurer Aldo Kane will recount their stories of making the impossible possible, Colin Thubron will look back on an astonishing career writing about other cultures for more than five decades, and adventurer Phoebe Smith will delve into the life of Captain Robert Scott’s photographer Herbert Ponting.

Exploring contemporary farming, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen

Exploring contemporary farming, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen will describe the seasonal rhythm of life at Ravenseat, photojournalist Bella Bathurst and fell farmer James Rebanks will expose how both nature and our farming industry have reached breaking point, and BBC Countryfile presenter Matt Baker will take the audience through a year on his country farm and offers a glimpse into family life.

White landscape of rural Britain

Author and journalist Anita Sethi and British Bangladeshi birder and activist Mya-Rose Craig discuss the identity and predominantly White landscape of rural Britain, and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and Mercury Prize-nominated folk singer Sam Lee explore the place of the nightingale in our cultural heritage. Travel writing aficionado Tim Hannigan and Black Girls Take World author Georgina Lawton will discuss how travel writing has changed.

Matthew Beaumont and Annabel Abbs will investigate the connection between walking and sense of self as they trace the footsteps of walkers and writers from Charles Dickens to Cheryl Strayed, and Gail Muller shares her inspirational journey from overcoming chronic illness to embarking on of the world’s toughest treks, in what will be a love letter to the healing power of the outdoors.


This year’s bumper Family programme invites children and young adults on an unforgettable literary adventure around our own world and beyond.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Festival favourite Lenny Henry unveils his first book for children, and the nation’s favourite storyteller Michael Morpurgo introduces his first new novel in two years. Bringing even more magic, mayhem, and mishaps galore will be current Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, Tom Gates’ creator Liz Pichon, the legendary Jacqueline Wilson, record-breaking Rob Biddulph, TV vet Luke Gamble, comedians David Baddiel and Ben Miller plus Nadia Shireen, Anna James, Alex Milway, Ross Montgomery and Amy Wilson.

This year’s non-fiction programme is supercharged, including four special events from Guest Curators The Week Junior: Ben Davis, Stuart Lawrence and Isabel Thomas on how small actions can change the world; Maz Evans, M G Leonard and Katherine Woodfine will decide who is the vilest villain of them all; Cath Howe, Anna McNuff and Matthew Syed will share tips and tricks for How To Be Happy; and The Week Junior editorial team will reveal what it takes to produce their award-winning magazine. Sports presenter Clare Balding will show how to develop resilience; CBeebies presenter Maddie Moate will share mind-boggling facts about the stuff we use every day; Lucy Letherland will tell all about the most iconic animals and impressive landscapes across the globe; award-winning author Nicola Davies will divulge fun facts about biology and DNA; palaeontology pro Dr Nick Cumpton will be digging up the truth about fossils; Tracey Turner and Andrew Donkin will tell the story of human civilisation through a series of stunningly illustrated city maps; Craig Glenday provides a fascinating snapshot of the world today via the Guinness World Records; A. M. Dassu and Joseph Coelho will recognise the empathy-boosting power of books; Mike Barfield brings his anarchic and quirky humour to a family quiz covering the Neolithic times and the dawn of the internet; and the original QI Elf, Molly Oldfield, will be providing the answers to the most curious questions.

Winner of CLiPPA Poetry Prize will be revealed

Poets, musicians and performers pop up across the programme with word-play maestro Jonny Fluffypunk bringing poetry, puppetry, story, song, and a healthy dose of ramshackle anarchy, Blue Peter Award winning Gareth P Jones will be solving a mystery or two, James Mayhew will tell stories from the orchestra, acclaimed poet Simon Mole will help unlock creative powers, stand-up poet Joshua Seigal will perform, Tongue Fu for Kids will showcase the power of poetry and music in the fight against climate change, and the winner of this year’s CLiPPA Poetry Prize will be unveiled.

Plenty of workshops for all ages

There will be workshops aplenty for all ages and stages with Jennifer Killick helping find ideas for scary stories, Mary Richards encouraging interactive nature-journalising, Neill Cameron bringing comic books to life, and go story-hunting with Emma Carroll. Andy Jones will show how to write stories with a serious bite, Helen Stephens will reveal how to draw with sticks and twigs for environment-themed drawings, Freya Hartas will enlist the audience’s help to create a woodland scene, Amy Wilson will share the secret to building magical worlds, plus the team at The Week Junior will divulge their journalist tips.

Little ones will be in for a treat with events from the nation’s favourite PE teacher Joe Wicks, the award-winning illustrator and designer Dapo Adeola, performance poet and author Joseph Coelho and illustrator Fiona Lumbers, the extraordinarily talented Spanish author-illustrator Anuska Allepuz, blockbuster Supertato creators Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet plus even more creative escapades from the likes of Tom Percival, Steven Lenton, Caryl Hart, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Lucy Christopher, Chris Haughton and Jane Riordan, who will celebrate the 95th anniversary of the much-loved children’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

And for YA fans, Femi Fadugba will present his highly addictive sci-fi debut The Upper World, soon to be a Netflix film produced by and starring Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya, Malorie Blackman will celebrate 20 years of Noughts and Crosses, Alex Wheatle and Phil Earle will examine turning fact into fiction, Holly Jackson and Sue Wallman will form a deadly duo discussing killer plots and slippery characters, and the Festival audience can meet this year’s top Young Adult debuts Natasha Bowen, Jason Cockcroft and Caroline O’Donoghue.

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