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The Times & The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival reveals spectacular line-up for pioneering digital instalment of the world’s oldest literature festival

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The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is thrilled to announce the spectacular programme for 2020, which will be live-streamed from Cheltenham for the first time in the history of the world’s oldest literature festival.

An unmissable autumn highlight, this year’s pioneering hybrid Festival – combining digital and in-person events – features a unique line-up of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, performers and dynamic new voices. From 2 – 11 October, the Festival will include over 160 events with over 100 broadcast live from Cheltenham’s Town Hall and the Everyman Theatre in front of a socially-distanced live audience.

The Festival programming team – joined by Guest Curators British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and Dishoom’s Shamil Thakrar – have pulled out all the stops to celebrate what is set to be an astonishing season of publishing. The line-up offers something for every book-lover, featuring literary greats and fresh talent, travel and adventure, food and drink, lifestyle and psychology, history and science, art and classic literature, alongside a powerful collection of current affairs events drawing in expert insight from the Festival’s title partner The Times and The Sunday Times, with over 24 journalists and columnists from the two papers featuring in the programme.

New for 2020, the Festival will present ‘The Citizen’s Manifesto’, bringing together young activists, politicians and key thinkers with the Festival audience to shine a political, social, economic and cultural light on a year like no other, exploring the ways in which society could and should change in the wake of coronavirus. The audience will be invited to suggest ideas for panellists to discuss on stage and visit the digital Pledge Wall to make a promise to their future self.

Even with world travel restricted, the programme won’t lose its international flavour, with a dedicated series of exclusive interviews with leading writers filmed at home entitled The World is Waiting. Providing an insight into writers’ lives in lockdown and a glimpse into the literary culture of Japan, Australia, Nigeria, the US and more, audiences can hear intimate conversations with writers such as Marilynne Robinson, Sayaka Murata, Tayari Jones, Akwaeke Emezi and Miles Franklin Award-winner Tara June Winch. The World is Waiting will form part of the Festival programme selection set to be broadcast by Official Streaming Partner Marquee TV.

Cheltenham Festivals is also delighted to reveal that partner Sky Arts will return to Cheltenham broadcasting free-to-view highlights, as well as an exciting new partnership with audio innovators Audible and award-winning independent publisher Jacaranda, who this year are publishing 20 works by 20 black writers in a trailblazing initiative. Events will explore the power of the spoken word, giving readers a glimpse into how these powerful audio stories are brought to life, discuss the publishing industry’s response to Black Lives Matter, and showcase Jacaranda’s authors including Tolu Agbelusi, Njambi McGrath and Shola Von Reinhold.

This year, the Festival’s infamous Lit Crawl will be part of Lit Crawl Global, an historic event coordinated by LitQuake San Francisco which will see Lit Crawls around the globe collaborating for a border and time zone-defying celebration of the written and spoken word.

Set to entertain, educate and inspire children of all ages, this year’s digital family, young adult and schools programme gives the opportunity and flexibility to curate your own Festival with almost 40 free events packed with bookish conversation, creative challenges, draw-alongs and read-aloud sessions from the best in the business. There’s even a Create Your Own Festival Pack which includes a Beano Comic Trail, Book Quiz and a recipe for a dapper Festival hat.

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Tickets to attend the Festival in person are available to a limited socially-distanced audience, including Patrons of Cheltenham Festivals. Tickets go on sale online initially to Cheltenham Festivals Gold Members from 10am on Wednesday 16 September, Silver Members on Friday 18 September, Bronze Members on Monday 21 September and 16-25 Members on Tuesday 22 September.