Featuring an astonishing variety of book-themed events, from spoken-word gigs, tarot reading, improv comedy and inspiring conversations, to storytelling sessions, family fun trails or just enjoying The Times crossword with a cup of coffee, everyone is welcome to explore the Festival village and events across the town. 

VOICEBOX in Montpellier Gardens will put young people at the heart of the conversation, using creativity as a force for change. Today’s hottest issues will be explored, from mental wellbeing and self-care to activism, Drag Queen Bingo and a film night hosted by film critic and Guest Curator Clarisse Loughrey. Olympic gold medallist Tom Daley, mental health campaigner Dr Alex George, TikTok star Francis Bourgeois, bestselling author Florence Given, Guest Curator Inua Ellams, confidence coach Tiwalola Ogunlesi and fashion guru Felicity Heyward appear alongside local talent from The Music Works, University of Gloucestershire and Cheltenham Education Partnership.  

…around town 

The fun starts on Friday 7 October at 3.30pm when bestselling children’s author Lydia Monks paints a Waterstones shop window with artwork inspired by her new book Adoette. On Saturday 8 October from 5pm till late, the popular Lit Crawl returns with pop-up events and quirky happenings all over the cafes, pubs, shops and businesses of Cheltenham in association with Cheltenham BID. The late-night literary fix includes spoken word performances, comedy, readings and even floristry and Dungeons and Dragons sessions, finishing up at VOICEBOX for a riotous finale, followed an after party at The Tavern.  

The Wild Wood in the Festival Village in Montpellier Gardens has plenty of free family-friendly activities, including storytelling from around the world in Story Shack, Halloween-themed spook-tacular drawing sessions, make-and-take craft sessions in The Den and picnic area, meet and greets with favourite costumed book characters, brainteasers and puzzles, tree-tastic discoveries with the Woodland Trust and a news quiz courtesy of The Week Junior Global News Trail with a free copy of the magazine for everyone who completes it. 

The Huddle is the place to hear readings and performances from local writers and musicians, plus lots of events dedicated to the Festival’s ‘Read the World’ theme. Literary Explorer in Residence, Ann Morgan hosts a range of reading recommendation sessions from across the globe with writers including South Africa’s Damon Galgut, Brazil’s Paulo Scott, Japan’s Junko Takekawa and more from Ireland, Wales and Italy. Language experts will give introductory sessions to Korean, Arabic, Norwegian and more and to complement the Ukraine Day programme co-curated with The International Book Arsenal Festival, Kyiv as part of the British Council’s UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, Huddle audiences can enjoy free introductory sessions to Ukrainian literature and language – and even take part in a collaborative translation of a Ukrainian picture book.  Meanwhile, the most prestigious award in UK poetry, The T. S. Eliot Prize will have its 2022 shortlist announced live from the Huddle stage on Thursday 13 October at 3pm. 

View the full free programme below: