All welcome as Literature Festival celebrates Britain’s rich diversity

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Dates: Friday 6 October – Sunday 15 October 2017
Venues: Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham, UK

In a year of extraordinary political turmoil, The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is asking 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.

Celebrating a rich cast of eccentrics and national treasures, the Festival’s umbrella theme: Who Do We Think We Are? encompasses food, art, fashion and comedy and examines cultural offerings from Grime to The Archers in a quest to find out what makes us what we are.

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.

Celebrating and interrogating our remarkable diversity are: Juno Dawson and CN Lester on transgender politics; 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. 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.

Looking at diverse British culture are Martin Parr: Britain Through A Lens and Nadiya Hussain on her British food adventure, the Festival charts the emergence of Grime as Britain’s most significant cultural movement since punk and hears from two generation-defining voices in British poetry Kayo Chingonyi and Andrew McMillan; Shelina Janmohamed examines how the fashion industry has embraced modest fashion in the modern world and rising star Lopè Ariyo celebrates the best of Nigerian cuisine in The Scent of Hibiscus: A Nigerian Night.

Muslim culture and arts are explored in a series of five events supported by Amal – A Said Foundation Project: Sabrina Mahfouz brings together British Muslim women’s voices in Things I Would Tell You:; chef Sumayya Usmani serves up a feast of Pakistani cuisine in An Evening Under The Tamarind Tree accompanied by music and poetry; and Ayisha Malik and Shelina Janmohamed talk about popular romantic fiction in Muslims in Love. Two events explore the historical influence of Islamic culture: In El Andaluz: The Golden Age Of Spain? we learn about a golden age of innovation, learning and religious harmony between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Islamic Spain and discuss the events that led to the expulsion of the Moorish population under the reign of Isabella of Castile.. And we explore the historical influence of Islamic culture on the Victorian designer, poet and craftsman in William Morris And Islamic Design.

Free activities at the Festival

Regardless of ability to pay, there is plenty for all ages to discover on site for free: brain teasers and live music, a daily Times crossword and a daily instalment of brainy soapbox-style 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 (weekends only). For one night only (Saturday 7 October) the Lit Crawl takes over the streets of Cheltenham for a fast-paced evening of quirky literary happenings – all for free.

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.

Tickets are available online at or by phone on 01242 850270.