Full programme announced The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

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Dates: Friday 6 October – Sunday 15 October 2017
Venues: Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham, UK
Website: www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature

Salman Rushdie, Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Waters, Miranda Hart, Matt Lucas, Robert Webb, Russell Brand, Ian Rankin, Sarah Millican, Nadiya Hussain, Simon Schama, Amit Chaudhuri, Paula Hawkins, Bill Nighy, Roddy Doyle, Michael Morpurgo, Judy Murray, Harry Enfield, Alison Steadman, Michael Parkinson, Lauren Child, Armando Iannucci, Nigella Lawson, Twiggy, Brian May, Jackie Kay, Hollie McNish, Robert McCrum, The Famous Five, Where’s Wally, Philippa Gregory, Nikesh Shukla, Peggy Seeger, Scarlett Moffatt, June Sarpong, Charles Spencer, Ali-A and Al Murray to headline.

Tens of thousands of book-lovers of all ages, including over 7,000 schoolchildren, will head to Cheltenham in October for the UK’s oldest literature festival, for ten days of literary celebration, discussion and debate. Around 1,000 speakers will take part in more than 550 events at the family-friendly Festival Village, in the heart of Regency Cheltenham, 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.

The programme, available in full at cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature, brings together some of our brightest minds, most incisive commentators, literary greats, fresh new voices and stars of stage and screen. The diverse programme covers history, current affairs, visual art, sport, food, fashion, lifestyle, psychology, science and business as well as fiction, poetry and a Family programme packed with events and workshops for toddlers to teens.

Five Guest Curators will bring fresh perspectives and voices to the Festival. They are: Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor; Sarah Moss, novelist, travel writer and academic; Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley; and Nikesh Shukla, author, editor and campaigner.

As well as the revamped Festival Village, a series of themed events and fine dining takes place in The Daffodil, a sumptuous art deco venue, and free after-hours comedy, spoken word and music at the Festival Club @ Hotel du Vin. On the first Saturday night of the Festival, last year’s highly successful Lit Crawl returns– transforming a bar crawl into a fast-paced night of free literary delights.


Festival theme: Who Do We Think We Are?

In a year of extraordinary political turmoil the Festival asks what it means to be British in 2017 – bringing the best and brightest thinkers to address the problems that divide us, debate the opportunities that lie ahead and ponder Britain’s place on the world stage. Giving voice to diverse communities, and celebrating a rich cast of eccentrics and national treasures, it will encompass food, art, fashion, comedy and examine cultural offerings from Grime to The Archers in a quest to find out what makes us what we are.

Robin Niblett of Chatham House brings together panels of international experts to debate the European political scene and British foreign policy; Rod Liddle muses on the status of the British stiff upper lip while ex-Arts Council boss* Peter Bazalgette* and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan ask what makes us better humans?

Celebrating and interrogating our remarkable diversity are a raft of speakers: Juno Dawson and CN Lester on transgender politics; Sabrina Mahfouz brings together British Muslim women’s voices in Things I Would Tell You: Nikesh Shukla describes being considered ‘other’ in your home country; June Sarpong calls for the power of diversity to be harnessed as a force for good; and Alan Johnson and Hashi Mohamed discuss social mobility.

British food will be chewed over – from lunch at Claridges, via Nadiya Hussain’s British Food Adventure, to Queen Victoria’s favourite fare; Patrick Barkham explores the islanders of Britain; Simon Jenkins extolls Britain’s best railway stations; Marcus Brigstocke gives a shout-out to the liberal metropolitan elite and Philip Collins advises non-Brexiteers in What Should Remainers Do Now?


Literary giant Salman Rushdie talks about his new novel, The Golden House; and there’s an interview with bestselling author Bernard Cornwell as he steps off the plane from the US. Discussing their new books are Paula Hawkins (Into the Water),* Amit Chaudhuri* (Friend of My Youth) and*Roddy Doyle* (Smile), while Alan Hollinghurst talks about his new novel, The Sparsholt Affair as well as celebrating The Line of Beauty.

Sarah Waters is this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence and the Festival celebrates the 2017 Man Booker Prize with its annual shortlist event. And this year the Festival will launch the Borough Press First Novel Prize.

Children’s author and illustrator Judith Kerr, creator of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and her writer son Matthew Kneale (English Passengers) talk about their highly creative family.

In a lavishly illustrated lecture, Sarah Dunant shows the paintings and places that inspired her latest novel, In The Name of the Family; International bestselling author Philippa Gregory reflects on her 30-year career and Joanne Harris raises a glass to Chocolat, the novel that captured the hearts and imaginations of book, film and chocolate lovers alike.

Alexander McCall Smith discusses three new novels to be published this autumn including The House of Unexpected Sisters, A Time of Love and Tartan and A Distant View of Everything.

Ian Rankin talks to James Naughtie to mark Thirty Years Of Rebus – one of crime fiction’s best-loved characters. Former MI5 Director General Stella Rimington joins author Allan Mallinson and BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera to discuss how true to life spy novels and films really are and Minette Walters talks about ending her decade-long hiatus from writing and shifting genres with The Last Hours.

Classic Literature

Robert Harris and Mike Poulton talk to Mary Beard about their adaptation of Harris’ Cicero trilogy for the Royal Shakespeare Company while Edward St Aubyn discusses his contemporary reimagining of King Lear; John Carey introduces his new version of John Milton’s Paradise Lost; and Jenny Uglow looks at the great nonsensicalist Edward Lear. Michael Rosen tells the little known story of Émile Zola’s year in exile in London; comedian Viv Groskop looks for life lessons in The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons From Russian Literature. The acclaimed biographer of Austen, Dickens and Hardy, Claire Tomalin turns her critical eye to another fascinating literary life: her own and in a specially-commissioned lecture, Harriet Walter (Brutus and Other Heroines) discusses playing Shakespeare’s male and female leading roles.


There’s a rare chance to see two of the country’s best-loved poets in conversation when Scottish Laureate Jackie Kay and Lemn Sissay discuss race, identity and what it really means to truly belong and give solo performances of their new work. Leading poets John Burnside, Michael Symmons Roberts, Daljit Nagra and Pascale Petit present new collections while we welcome the stars of the next generation: Kayo Chingonyi, Andrew McMillan, Luke Wright, Hollie McNish, Rob Auton, Inua Ellams, Anthony Anaxagorou and Sabrina Mahfouz. Harry Enfield and Alison Steadman perform war poetry from Shakespeare to the present day selected by Allie Esiri, whilst literary critic Erica Wagner, poet Clare Pollard and Faber Poetry Editor Matthew Hollis discuss the landmark publication of Volume One of The Letters of Sylvia Plath.

Stage and Screen

Russell Brand shares his experiences of fourteen and a half years of recovery from addiction, while comedians Matt Lucas (Little Me: My Life From A–Z…), Sarah Millican (How To Be Champion) and Peep Show star Robert Webb (How Not to be a Boy) talk equally candidly about their lives; Emma Freud interviews actor Bill Nighy and also meets swinging sixties cultural icon Twiggy; Michael Parkinso*n sits on the other side of the interviewer’s chair, this time occupied by his son Mike. The Archers’ *Timothy Bentick reveals all about life on radio’s longest-running soap opera; Armando Iannucci and BBC Radio 3’s Clemency Burton-Hill discuss classical music; legendary folk singer Peggy Seeger discusses a rich life at the forefront of folk and protest, as documented in her memoir, First Time Ever, and Gogglebox’s Scarlett Moffatt reveals her new book, Me Life Story: Sofa, So Good.

There’s a glimpse behind the scenes of Netflix’s lavish royal drama The Crown with key production staff and a well-known actor from the series and a unique opportunity to view guitarist Brian May’s personal snapshots in 3D from over four decades with Queen including moments from backstage, on the road and on stage.

Michael Whitehall, witty agent father of Jack Whitehall presents his memoir, Backing Into the Spotlight joined by his friend and presenter of Channel 4’s Countdown Nick Hewer; Richard Osman invites the audience to play along with The World Cup Of Everything, comedian Andy Hamilton presents his debut novel The Star Witness; music journalist David Hepworth (Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars) fronts a rock and roll brunch and Jeremy Vine divulges what he has learnt from his listeners.

Art & Design

Responding to the Festival’s key theme “Who Do We Think We Are?” is BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, one of this year’s five Guest Curators. In The Story of British Art, Gompertz 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 and the YBAs.

Architect Richard Rogers discusses the power of buildings in creating a better and fairer society; Peter Brookes talks satire with David Aaronovitch; and Tristram Hunt, former politician and new Director of the V&A, talks about his role. Drawing on his experience of learning to paint again following his stroke in 2013, Andrew Marr tackles the subjects of inspiration, creativity, politics, beauty and form. Sotheby’s director Philip Hook takes the lid off the world of art dealing, and the Bolton Forger, Shaun Greenhalgh, discusses his astonishing story.

History/Historical fiction

Distinguished historian Simon Schama introduces the second instalment of The Story of the Jews; Alison Weir reveals how historical Queens wielded and secured their power; and in the Festival Lates strand, comedian Natalie Haynes delivers a stand-up show exploring what ancient civilisations can offer modern life. Historians Peter Snow and his wife Ann MacMillan (War Stories) share stories of ordinary people caught up in the turmoil of war; Charles Spencer (To Catch A King) and Linda Porter (Royal Renegades) discuss the repercussions following the 1649 execution of Charles I.

Current Affairs

The cast of experts on America, Russia and China convened by Robin Niblett, head of the internationally-renowned think tank Chatham House, are 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.
John Witherow, Editor of The Times gives a rare interview talking about his role; MPs Jess Phillips and Jacob Rees Mogg discuss unlikely political friendships; the last British governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten talks about his autobiography; debut novelist Vince Cable (Open Arms) and Stanley Johnson (Kompromat) give the inside scoop on two of this year’s hottest political thrillers while political strategist Alastair Campbell gives a candid interview. We hear from Gary Younge, author of Another Day in the Death of America and from Financial Times columnist Tim Harford on modern economics.

Food and Drink

Culinary stars speaking at the Festival include Nadiya Hussain, Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The Daffodil, a beautiful art deco former cinema is the new venue for the Festival’s food events. Gastronomic adventures around the globe include the taste of Japan with former Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth, Catalonian tapas with Jose Pizarro and African dishes from rising star Lopè Ariy*o from her new cookbook Hibiscus. Festival-goers can enjoy lunch with *Kirstie Allsopp, Miles Jupp and Henry Blofeld, afternoon tea with Princess Michael of Kent and dinner with Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers. Executive Chef Martyn Nail brings the extraordinary experience of dining at Claridge’s to Cheltenham; Victoria Moore shares tips from The Wine Dine Dictionary while Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley give travel advice on where to find the best cocktail joints.


Exhausted parents have an excuse to fob the kids off on each other: Knackered Mums Night Out takes an hilarious journey through the emotional highs and lows of motherhood with Cherry Healey, Clemmie Hooper, Hurrah for Gin’s Katie Kirby and The Unmumsy Mum Sarah Turner. In the dads’ corner A Night Out For Knackered Dads sees Man vs Baby blogger Matt Coyne, columnists Stuart Heritage and Tim Dowling and comedian Miles Jupp telling it like it is.

In The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morri*s examine how special words describing nature are disappearing from children’s vocabularies while bestselling author *Amanda Owen describes her farming year as the Yorkshire Shepherdess.

In Fashion, Anna Murphy, Fashion Director at The Times, hails the trends that are causing waves on the front rows this season, the Festival explores how the industry is embracing modest fashion and Emma Freud talks to the original supermodel, Twiggy.

YouTube superstar Jim Chapman (147 Things) presents a whistle-stop tour of the best bits of everything; and host of BBC Radio 4’s I’ve Never Seen Star Wars, Marcus Brigstocke holds the hands of several nervous panellists including BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s Nick Robinson as they take a literary leap into the unknown.


Olympian Tom Daley talks about his career and his new book Tom’s Daily Plan and Judy Murray shares her inspirational story. Cricket fans are spoilt for choice: Yorkshire and England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow discusses his moving memoir, England cricketer Mike Brearley talks to journalist Matthew Syed and there’s the chance to tuck into Sunday Lunch at The Daffodil in the company of Henry Blofeld, the unmistakeable voice of Test Match Special.

Four Mums in a Boat tells the true story of four ordinary working mums from Yorkshire who took on an exceptional challenge, rowing across the North Sea and breaking a world record in the process, while nearer to home, former Director of Cheltenham Racecourse Edward Gillespie spills the beans on 60 Years of Jump Racing.


Award-winning travel writer, author and Wanderlust Editor, Phoebe Smith guides on how to get started in travel writing and advises how to fit microadventures around the daily 9 to 5. Modern nomads Calum Creasey and Lauren Smith share their experiences of life on the road. Beating the drum for the solo traveller are leading travel publisher and author Hilary Bradt, Jan Leeming and Hannah Stuart-Leach, while an inspiring panel of female adventurers Lois Pryce (Revolutionary Ride) and Antonia Bolingbrooke-Kent, (Land of Dawn-Lit Mountains: A Journey across India’s Forgotten Frontier) discuss the highs and lows of being a solo woman on the road.
Chris Bonington recounts his greatest mountaineering challenges; motorcycle explorer Charley Boorman talks about a life on two wheels and broadcaster Michael Portillo recounts his Great American Railway Journeys.


Robert Crampton and Andy McNab delve into masculinity; Marisa Bate unpicks the problem of loneliness; Victoria Derbyshire gives an honest and open account of her experience of breast cancer and presenter and campaigner Katie Piper shares her advice on how we can all become braver and more confident. Robert McCrum and brain surgeon Henry Marsh discuss what it means to approach the ‘end game’ and Maggie O’Farrell recounts a series of near-death experiences. Rowan Williams and Salley Vickers discuss tragedy; Philosopher A.C. Grayling (War: An Enquiry) examines and challenges the concept of war; BBC Foreign Correspondent Fergal Keane *(Wounds) tells the devastating history of murder and betrayal that tore an Irish town apart. And *Brendan Cox (Jo Cox: More in Common) talks to his friend Jess Phillips (Everywoman) about life without his wife, and gives a very human portrait of an extraordinary woman.

Festival Lates and Off the Page

The Festival Lates strand presents the very best of poetry and spoken word, interactive quiz nights, live podcasts and performances galore. Pushing the boundaries of spoken word and poetry are the Out-Spoken and Burning Eye collectives featuring poets Anthony Anaxagorou, Sabrina Mahfouz and Kate Fox; and there are individual performances by leading names of the scene including Luke Wright, Hollie McNish, Rob Auton, Vanessa Kisuule and Inua Ellams
Plenty of laughs are in store from comedy favourite Al Murray, The Pub Landlord; HogWhats Quiz Night promises wizarding fun for grown-up Potterheads; John Lloyd presides over a QI Quiz; and competitive cult comedy hit Pundemonium takes over the Town Hall. One of the UK’s leading spoken word shows Tongue Fu featuring saxophonist Soweto Kinch makes its Cheltenham debut and international phenomenon The Moth brings first-person true life storytelling. Live podcasts include No Such Thing As A Fish and Science(ish); and gigs by writer and musician Malachy Tallack, Joanne Harris’ #Storytime Band and Inua Ellam’s specially-curated club night.


Perfect for families who love books, storytelling and days out, the Festival has two new areas for families, buzzing with free activities and pop-up performances.

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.

Programme highlights include new Children’s Laureate Lauren Child in conversation with CBBC Controller Cheryl Taylor; award-winning actress and Queen of Comedy Miranda Hart; Great British Bake Off sensation Nadiya Hussain with her new festive family cookbook; Festival favourite Michael Morpurgo; best-selling author of Framed and Millions Frank Cottrell-Boyce, the mistress of mystery Robin Stevens; actor Adrian Edmondson, with his first children’s novel, the launch of YouTube superstar Ali-A’s first graphic novel; comedian Harry Hill with his hilarious new kids’ book; and word play, improvisation, participation and musical wizardry in Tongue Fu for Kids.

Two much-loved children’s classics have major anniversaries this year: marking the 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five there’s a special theatre event and free story trail. Celebrating 30 years of Where’s Wally? local primary schools have worked with the Festival to create a Where’s Wally? Trail around Cheltenham’s town centre.
There are workshops in partnership with RSC on A Christmas Carol and from the Royal Academy of Dance inspired by West End sensation Matilda.

For the little ones, Kes Gray and Jim Field (Oi! Cat), Rachel Bright (The Koala Who Could) and Kristina Stephenson (Sir Charlie Stinky Socks) bring their stories to life. Meet Hip and Hop, the characters in the new book by MOBO award-winning rapper and poet Akala and illustrator Sav Akyüz. Big names and rising stars from the YA world at this year’s Festival include* Melinda Salisbury, Patrice Lawrence, Michael Grant, Gemma Cairney and Anna Day.*

Education and Outreach

7,000 children and young people at are the heart of the Festival on weekdays, receiving ideas and inspiration from writers and illustrators including Tanya Landman, Michael Rosen, Piers Torday and Alexis Deacon.

The Festival provides both a launch-pad and showcase for year-round outreach programmes.
2017 Highlight events include:
• Words That Burn National Launch, with Kate Allen, Amnesty UK Director
Developed in partnership with Amnesty International UK and The Poetry Hour, this national poetry project will enable young people to explore human rights and self-expression through poetry.
• Beyond Words Exhibition
The writer-in-residence programme for young people with severe mental or physical illness culminates in a moving exhibition of word, sound and image at the core of the Festival village.
• Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils Launch, with Professor Teresa Cremin
The inspirational event to launch the coming year of the Festivals’ flagship project which enables teachers and their pupils to (re)discover the joy of reading.
• Young Writers Showcase, with Anthony Anaxagorou
The event which celebrates the talent of local young people unlocked through year-round outreach programmes: Cheltenham Festivals First Story and Beyond Words

Through the support of funders and individuals, the Festival offers free tickets to schools with 30% Pupil Premium or which are rurally isolated.

Free activities in the Festival Village and beyond

As well as free entertainment in The Den and The Wild Wood, there’s plenty for all ages to discover on site for free: fun pop-up events, brain teasers and live music, a daily Times crossword and a daily instalment of brainy soapbox-style talks in OUP’s A Very Short Introduction To… There’s the opportunity to swap books in the cosy outdoor lounge The Bookstand or head over to the Gardens Gallery for some Festival-inspired art.

New this year is the after-dark Festival Club at the centrally-placed Hotel du Vin for music, conversation and late-night literary revelry (weekends only). And for one night only (Saturday 7 October) the Lit Crawl once again takes over the streets of Cheltenham for a fast-paced evening of pop-up events and quirky literary happenings.


To buy tickets on the first day of public booking (1pm on Wednesday September 6), create a Wish List in advance at cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature. Thereafter, book events online or by phone on 01242 850270. Booking for Cheltenham Festivals Members opens at 1pm on Wednesday 30 August.
Further information can be found at www.cheltenhamfestivals.com.

*Ends *

Press contact: Bairbre.lloyd@cheltenhamfestivals.com

Notes to editors:
• Press and speaker images are here – Cheltenham Literature Festival press images
• The link to the Main programme is here – Main brochure
• The link to the Family programme is here – Family brochure
• For press accreditation and press tickets please fill out the Press Accreditation form
• For more information about Cheltenham and the surrounding area, including details of local hotels and restaurants, visit www.visitcheltenham.com

Title Partners – The Times and The Sunday Times
About The Times
The Times is the oldest national daily newspaper in the UK, founded in 1785. It was one of the first newspapers in the world to launch a subscription website in 2010 and now has over 430,000 members. In December 2014, Times Newspapers Limited delivered their first operating profit in 13 years. In 2015, The Times was named Newspaper of the Year for the second time in three years at the British Press Awards and scooped seven other major awards including best supplement for the Saturday magazine, best news journalist, political writer, feature writer and cartoonist of the year.

About The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times, founded in 1822, is Britain’s biggest-selling quality newspaper. It celebrated its 10,000th edition in May 2016 and has won a clutch of awards for its Insight team investigations unit, its foreign reporting and its magazine features and interviews, in particular.

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