The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is delighted to announce the unmissable line up for 2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the world’s oldest literature festival, which is leading the way in engendering a love of reading in young people.
The Festival will bring more than 900 of the best writers, thinkers and performers of our time to the vibrant Regency town, setting the scene for once-in-a-lifetime conversations to take place over ten extraordinary days of unique experiences, critical debate and literary revelry.
From 4 – 13 October, the Festival Village will host an unparalleled literary line-up including this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, Colm Tóibín, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the highly anticipated Booker shortlist, as well as the most exciting emerging talent on the scene. Dynamic debut novelists include Candice Carty-Williams, Ronan Hession, Elizabeth Macneal, Jessica Andrews and Season Butler as well as the Festival’s showcases of the best new writing in Fiction at 7, Debuts and Cocktails and Proof Parties.
As part of the ‘Seven at Seventy’ anniversary celebrations the Festival welcomes Chris Tse, Kanako Nishi and a raft of international authors to the Cheltenham stage, as well as showcasing unearthed archive audio content, introducing a literary audio trail of Cheltenham, and street art courtesy of Cheltenham Paint Festival on the theme ‘Hurrah for Books’.
There will be up-to-the-minute political analysis fresh from the party conference season courtesy of David Cameron and David Lammy, with The Times debate – joined by Jess Phillips and Rory Stewart – questioning the future of our political parties, and The Sunday Times considering White House contenders with Adam Boulton and Sarah Baxter.
From current affairs to food, history to fashion, sport to art, science to travel, the Festival guarantees something for everyone with the fun extending long after dark with the eclectic Off The Page series of curated events, including a Game of Thrones quiz night, US story-telling sensation The Moth, jazz and poetry fusion group Tongue Fu, an evening celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell and a vibrant spoken word strand. And for one night only the irreverent Lit Crawl returns to take over the streets, pubs and bars of Cheltenham.
The perfect family day out, this year’s Festival includes a packed programme of world class authors and illustrators to inspire toddlers to teens, with The Woodland Trust Wild Wood filled with beloved characters, storytellers and activities, plus a Secret Seven Mystery Trail celebrating 70 years of the world’s favourite detective club. The Festival’s year-round education programmes, inspiring a love of reading and creative writing, also culminates in October with 9,000 school children on site taking part in Literature for Schools.
New partner Sky Arts will broadcast across the final week with live coverage, interviews and events from a bespoke Sky Arts Studio on site. The venue will be a free pop-in space where festival attendees can be part of the filming and take part in other creative activities. Elsewhere on site there will be free events for all ages around the Festival village, The Huddle, hosting an array of talks and brains teasers, including Daily Crossword, Cheltenham Writes and Very Short Introductions, and The Chatterbox, where guests can become secret agents by decoding mysterious messages around the Festival.
Booking for the Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals Members at 10am on Wednesday 28 August and general booking opens at 10am on Wednesday 4 September.
This year marks 70 years since Cheltenham Town Hall hosted the world’s first literature festival and started a global, cultural phenomenon. As part of ‘Seven at Seventy’ celebrations, the Festival welcomes Guest Curators Max Porter, Yomi Adegoke & Elizabeth Uviebinené, Dominic Sandbrook, Tessa Hadley, Anthony Anaxagorou, Leslie Vinjamuri and Robin Stevens. Lending their unique voices and wealth of expertise to the programme, events include Sandbrook’s selection of the seven most influential British novels of the last 70 years, Anaxagorou’s rising stars in poetry and spoken word, a series of mystery events by Stevens, and a curated acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today from Max Porter.
Seven high profile authors will be reflecting on their breakout book in a special series of Cheltenham trademark ‘Celebrate With…’ events: Howard Jacobson on The Finkler Question; Robert Harris on Fatherland; Jessie Burton on The Miniaturist; Herman Koch on The Dinner; Tracy Chevalier on The Girl With a Pearl Earring; Alexander McCall Smith on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; and Jung Chang on Wild Swans. There will also be seven showcases celebrating new writing talent, including Jessica Andrews and Ronan Hession, as well as looking ahead to the breakout names for 2020 such as Deepa Anappara and Evie Wyld.
Literature festivals around the world have joined the celebration bringing their leading authors to Cheltenham including Chris Tse, Wana Udobang, Kanako Nishi, Esme Wang, Nicole Flattery, Sarah Henstra and Hernán Ronsino. The celebration of international literature continues with 70 global book festivals recommending one title they would like Cheltenham audiences to add to their bookshelves to form a ‘Reading the World’ reading list.
Building on last year’s inaugural ‘Podcast in Residence’ role, Literary Friction take on the 2019 residency and there will be seven unique podcasts featuring archive audio content from the past seventy years, as well as partnerships with seven further bookish podcasts.
Fiction fans will be spoilt for choice with a stellar line-up of literary superstars including Colm Tóibín, Ian McEwan, David Nicholls, Jung Chang, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, Jojo Moyes, and Bernardine Evaristo. The Cheltenham audience will enjoy a celebration of the biggest books of the year such as Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), Bridget Collins (The Binding) and Damian Barr (You Will Be Safe Here) as well as new reads from Howard Jacobson, Victoria Hislop, Kevin Barry, Jessie Burton. George Alagiah, Tom Bradby and Peter Hanington will draw upon their frontline experience to share fiction as thrilling as their day jobs, Richard Roper and Beth O’Leary celebrate feel-good fiction, Deborah Moggach and Jenny Éclair examine the baggage of inheritance and family ties, Chris Power and Sarah Hall will reveal the art of the short story, plus last year’s Guest Curator Sebastian Faulks becomes our latest literary castaway as he returns with ‘Desert Island Reads’. There will also be the opportunity to hear from The Times and The Sunday Times Literary Editors, Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate.
The Festival welcomes a host of killer women at the top of the crime and thriller genre including* Patricia Cornwell, Clare Mackintosh, Louise Doughty, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Denise Mina* and Erin Kelly, with Jessica Fellowes and Kate Weinberg discussing the secrets to plot a thrilling mystery. For further suspense, Alex North and CJ Tudor explore the dark side of human nature; Herman Koch and Louise Candlish discuss the appeal of writing toxic characters; the husband and wife writing duos behind pseudonyms Nicci French and Ambrose Parry will be revealed, and masters of the genre Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Stewart Neville and Luca Veste discuss the future of the crime writing.
There is also plenty for historical fiction fans, including Philippa Gregory on her period page-turner Tidelands, Tracy Chevalier on her beautifully orchestrated new book, A Single Thread, set between the two Great Wars; as well as Robert Harris (The Second Sleep), Stacey Halls (The Familiars) and Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale).
From George Eliot to Orwell, Chaucer to the Moomins, we are celebrating some of our most-loved classics as well as revealing the answers to burning questions such as: who are literature’s worst parents, which dystopian thrillers are most relevant now, and can words still pack a punch in the age of Twitter with Simon Schama. BBC Radio 2’s Book Club with Mariella Frostrup and guests will be exploring how novels have always been a revolutionary agent of social change ahead of the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Tessa Hadley, Colm Tóibín and Bernardine Evaristo are explaining the pleasures and motivations of re-reading.
Acclaimed actors Christopher Eccleston will be joining Allie Esiri to celebrate Shakespeare’s dazzling body of work, actress Maureen Lipman remembers the inimitable Joyce Grenfell and her Hurrah for Books performance at the first ever Cheltenham Literature Festival in 1949, Kathy O’Shaughnessy, Juliette Atkinson and Rebecca Mead mark George Eliot’s bicentenary by delving into her fascinating life and work, plus Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia Jansson will share readings from the intimate letters of the beloved Moomin creator. Lara Prescott is joined by Boris Pasternak’s great niece Anna Pasternak to discuss the startling true story behind one of literature’s most memorable love stories Doctor Zhivago, and the Festival celebrates the life and writing of the much-loved literary figure Patrick O’Brian with his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.
STAGE & SCREEN
The Festival is thrilled to welcome a multitude of music superstars including the masterful Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blondie legend Debbie Harry, Status Quo front-man and founder Francis Rossi and WHAM’s Andrew Ridgeley who will reflect on his life-long friendship with George Michael. Mark Radcliffe shares how music can transform our lives, Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis reveals the untold stories from the festival, one of the most successful pop groups of all time, Madness, will discuss their astonishing career, and there will be an evening of musical magic to celebrate Joni Mitchell.
Screen icon Helena Bonham Carter will discuss her exceptional and singular career, and there will be secrets from behind the scenes with Richard Curtis discussing his love of The Beatles, Oscar-winning Dustin Lance Black on his deeply personal story of coming out to his Mormon mother, plus screenwriter Julian Fellowes and producer Gareth Neame on the much-loved Downton Abbey. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, creators of beloved comedies Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet will look back on their long careers, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper will discuss the BAFTA winning success of This Country, David Suchet will reflect on a career spent behind the camera, and beloved documentary maker Louis Theroux will share his strangest times in television. Comic Relief co-founder Lenny Henry will be leading the laughs, with more to come from the likes of David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade, Katy Brand and Paul Merton.
POETRY, SPOKEN WORK & OFF THE PAGE
In an exclusive Festival commission, Guest Curator Max Porter brings together K*erry Hudson, Niven Govinden, Momtaza Mehri* and Rachael Allen with musicians Alula Down to create an acoustic portrait of our complex and troubled country today. Guest Curator, poet and Out-Spoken founder Anthony Anaxagorou presents his Dream Team of Mona Arshi, Jack Underwood, Caroline Bird, Wayne Holloway-Smith and* Kei Miller*. The Cheltenham audience will hear from further vibrant voices in the poetry and spoken work scene including Rob Auton, Matt Abbott, Ben Norris, Rachel Nwokoro, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, alongside Chris Tse, Paul Muldoon, Brian Bilston, Pam Ayres, Julia Copus, Joe Dunthorne, new Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay will be selecting her top ten of the most exciting BAME writers working in the UK today. The literary revelry continues after dark with a Game of Thrones Quiz Night, music from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, some wonderfully and wildly misinformed insight from character comedian Christopher Bliss, and more from the much-lauded Bang Said The Gun, Tongue Fu and The Moth.
David Cameron will appear in the first event for his memoir For the Record, discussing his life, career and perspectives on the EU referendum and the future of Britain’s place in the light of Brexit. Joining Cameron on the exceptional Current Affairs line-up is David Lammy, Jess Phillips, Caroline Criado-Perez, James O’Brien, Gina Martin, Laura Bates, Nimko Ali, The Times editor John Witherow, The Times and The Sunday Times journalists Daniel Finkelstein, Rachel Sylvester, Matt Chorley, Sarah Baxter and Phillip Collins, with a glimpse behind the broadcast scenes from Emily Maitlis, John Humphrys, Nick Robinson and Ed Stourton.
The Festival looks outwards to Erdogan’s Turkey with Hannah Lucinda Smith and novelist Elif Shafak, to Trump’s America and his approach to global affairs with Chatham House’s Leslie Vinjamuri, to China and opportunities for women with Carrie Grace, the challenges India faces with Robin Niblett and Champa Patel; and to Putin’s Russia with Mark Galeotti, Peter Pomeranstev, and BBC Newsnight International Editor Gabriel Gatehouse.
Mostly Lit podcast host Derek Owusu and Jeffrey Boakye consider the experience of black men in Britain today, and Guest Curators Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené explore how it feels to be a black woman in a predominantly white space. Anthony Anaxagorou is joined by Mariam Khan and Chimene Suleyman to discuss how art and activism can be best combined to create positive social change, Jérôme Tubiana, David Constantine and Hashi Mohamed explore astounding accounts of human endurance and faith against overwhelming odds and terrible injustice, and Aeham Ahmad will be playing the piano on stage as he shares memories of performing in the streets of war-torn Syria.
HISTORY & ANCIENT WORLD
Moving individual stories of the Windrush generation will be shared from Colin Grant and Amelia Gentleman, literary critic Bart Van Es and biographer and historian Jeremy Dronfield will chronicle how the trauma of the holocaust gave rise to astonishing stories of courage and survival, plus there will be further historical insight from Guest Curator Dominic Sandbrook, William Dalrymple, Giles Milton, with Anthony Seldon and polling expert Deborah Mattinson asking who was the most disastrous prime minister in British history. Virginia Nicholson considers the experience of women in the 60s, The Favourite author Ophelia Field and Anne Somerset explore Queen Anne’s life, and the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth II is given a fresh take by author, historian and television presenter Kate Williams, plus novelist Katie Hickman will reveal the extraordinary lives of the British women who made their way to India and changed history. For ancient history aficionados, Mary Beard and Llewellyn Morgan will join author and classicist Peter Stothard to celebrate the power of Roman poetry on lifestyle and philosophy, whilst Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Daisy Johnson and Natalie Haynes will explore how we relate to myths in the modern life.
FOOD & DRINK
Cheltenham’s famous Art Deco restaurant The Daffodil will be transformed into a mecca of global foodie delights. Audiences will be transported around the world with mouth-watering Middle Eastern recipes from Yasmin Khan, sumptuous Moorish cooking courtesy of Ben Tish, Dishoom chef Naved Nasir and co-founder Shamil Thakrar cooking up a feast of Indian delights, and native Russian flavours from Alissa Timoshkina. Festival favourite Tom Kerridge will be sharing his foodie tips for a happier lifestyle and Valentine Warner records his journey through grief told in recipes of love and memories. There will be flavour mash-ups from Bake Off’s Liam Charles, Rukmini Iyer (The Quick Roasting Tin) will demonstrate the art of hassle-free cooking, Pam Corbin shares her pioneering jams, pickles and preserves and there will vegan delights from Rachel Ama (Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats) plus Henry Firth and Ian Theasby Johnson (BOSH). Plus, Jancis Robinson (The World Atlas of Wine) will be revealing the art of pairing a delicious three-course meal with matched wines.
Queer Eye will meet Bake Off with Tan France and Nadiya Hussain discussing their upbringings and new memoirs and Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer will talk life, friendship and the joys of fishing. Comedian Jen Brister (The Other Mother), Christine Armstrong (The Mother of All Jobs) and Matt Coyne (Man Vs Toddler) will share hilarious anecdotes and chart the ups and downs of sharing life with tiny humans.
Emily Dean and confirmed cat lover David Baddiel will be discussing tales of grief and recovery, The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen will share tales from the farm, and Jordan Stephens, Clementine Inti Chavez Perez and Capser Walsh will discuss what it means to be a man in society today. Tom Bradby, Marina Benjamin and sleep scientist Nicola Barclay will anatomise the cause, consequence and potential cures for insomnia, plus Guest Curators and authors Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (Slay in Your Lane), vegan chef Rachel Ama, pilates and wellness coach Isa-Welly and Amy Thomson will help the audience strike the perfect balance in our busy lives, ranging from our approaches to digital health, to what we eat.
There will be gardening tips galore from Anne Chambers, Vanessa Berridge, Clare Foster, Rowan Blossom and Caroline Donald, and the doyenne of English interior design, Nina Campbell, will impart her wisdom. Lovers of classic fashion will be taken on a beautifully illustrated tour through the V+A’s blockbuster DIOR exhibition by curator Oriole Cullen and Condé Nast chairman Nicholas Coleridge will reflect upon his thirty-year career. There will be an exploration of feminist art and fashion from V&A curator Jenny Lister and drag queen Crystal Rasmussen and drag king Daisy Hale will explain how the art of pushing gender boundaries has taken hold of pop culture. The Times Fashion Editor Anna Murphy advises on how not to wear black and three of the country’s top names in beauty – facialist Alexandra Soveral, make-up artist Hannah Martin and hair stylist Kiki Koh – will be on hand.
A host of sporting legends will grace the stages of Cheltenham this year kicking off with Welsh rugby titan Sam Warburton, and for cricket fans there will be England’s greatest batsman Alastair Cook, plus Prashant Kidambi and Philip Collins. The Festival will celebrate inspirational women who have pushed themselves to the limits of their endurance, including record-breaking ultra-running phenomenon Mimi Anderson, the first woman to complete the infamous Transcontinental Race, Emily Chappell and Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win The Mongol Derby.
ART & DESIGN
This year’s Art & Design series explores everything from the architecture to illustration, including a very special discussion about Lucian Freud with his daughter Esther Freud, revered British illustrator Charlie Mackesy on his favourite pieces, Turner Prize-nominated artist Tai Shani celebrates rebel female muses, and ‘Cold War Steve’ Chris Spencer explains why we need satirical art now more than ever. Grant Wilson and Naomi Wood will examine the Bauhaus movement’s cast of characters in its centenary year, Andrew Hill and Emilie Taylor take a look at Ruskin’s contemporary legacy, and Jason Webster and Claudia Hopkins show how Spanish art is inescapably intertwined with the country’s turbulent history. Kate Bryan shares the dazzling and explosive stories behind some of art’s most influential romantic relationships, Ossian Ward illuminates the Old Masters as well as the dramatic vibrancy of contemporary art, Marit Paasche and Clare Hunter recognise the political and protest power of sewing, Jackie Bennett studies the intimate relationship between artist and garden, plus Angela Summerfield and Christiana Payne look at the role of trees in inspiring some of our greatest artworks.
FAITH & PHILOSOPHY
The Cheltenham audience will find enlightenment and fascination in all schools of philosophical thought, with Richard Dawkins expanding further on atheism in Outgrowing God, Peter Stanford exploring the reasons behind why so many of us still believe in angels, and historian Tom Holland describes Christianity’s transformative legacy on Western thought. Author Karen Armstrong will argue the importance of rediscovering global scriptures, and A.C Grayling will take the audience through the epic journeys and traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy – from Buddha, Confucius and Socrates to Mill, Nietzsche and Sartre.
In this year’s Science line-up, Martin Rees offers a provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity, and Arthur I. Miller contemplates on what it means to have original thought, creativity and consciousness in the age of machines. Rick Edwards and Michael Brooks will explore the science of death and mass destruction through some of our best-loved Hollywood blockbusters, and Angela Gallop, one of the world’s most eminent forensic scientists, will discuss her ability to reconstruct violent events and how she solved so many intractable cases. David Nott shares his extraordinary experience as a trauma surgeon in the world’s most dangerous war zones, Christie Watso*n reflects on twenty years in nursing, and *Nicci Gerrard alongside Wendy Mitchell ask important questions about how we love, care for and value those who suffering from dementia.
NATURE, TRAVEL & ADVENTURE
An inspirational list of speakers will share their unique journeys including Sue Perkins on the Mekong, Adam Weymouth on his solo canoe odyssey along the Yukon River, Raynor Winn will revisit her 630-mile walk on the South West Coastal path, comedian Dom Joly will trace his hike across Lebanon, and Monisha Rajesh will recount her 45,000-mile adventure on the world’s most remarkable railways. Great historical adventures will be retraced by travel writer Alastair Humphreys who reflects on Laurie Lee’s iconic journey from the Cotswolds through Spain, and author and filmmaker Jacki Hill-Murphy recounts the achievements of early female explorers including Victorian nurse Kate Marsden’s epic trip across Siberia.
BAFTA winning naturalist, writer and television presenter Steve Backshall will share his exploration of undiscovered worlds and former British Army Officer and explorer Levison Wood will whisk the audience through the heart of Middle East. Writer* Luke Turner* and journalist Emma Mitchell will demonstrate the healing power of nature, editor Clare Gogerty and explorer Erling Kagge will show us how to travel in a way that enhances your connection to the world, adventurers Mark Boyle and Ben Fogle will explore the joys of life without modern technology, plus writers Philip Marsden and Dan Richards will discuss fulfilling life-long travel ambitions and why we remain drawn to the wild, and The Sunday Times travel team, including Susan D’Arcy, will be sharing their expert knowledge.
Activist, journalist and curator Scarlett Curtis will be joined by an exciting line-up of inspirational contributors from her new anthology It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) to discuss what their mental health means to them; Chief Survival Instructor to the British Military, John Hudson, gives lessons for everyday life taken from the first-hand accounts of near disaster experiences;* Matthew Syed* shares his radical blueprint for creative problem-solving; Ella Risbridger and Bella Mackie share how alternative therapies of cooking and jogging helped them in their mental health recoveries; and YouTubers Hannah Witton, Khalaf and Instagram star Megan Jayne Crabbe encourage discussions about body image, imperfections and being confident in your own skin.
The packed Family programme has more selection on offer than ever including the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, with a world of mythical creatures and a special event with festival friends revealing what lies inside their notebook pages. The incredible programme also welcomes the legendary Malorie Blackman and her highly anticipated new Noughts & Crosses novel, presenter Dermot O’Leary and illustrator Nick East with the latest escapades of Toto the Ninja Cat, and some horrendously horrid fun with Francesca Simon. There will be crime capers with Guest Curator Robin Stevens, adventures galore with Helen Skelton, Abi Elphinstone and Candy Gourlay, plus much more from the likes of Danny Wallace, Dougie Poynter and Konnie Huq.
For littles ones there will be family fun with multi-award-winning Oi Puppies! duo Kes Gray and Jim Field, and the Festival will be marking the birthdays of some famous characters including Kipper, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elmer, as well as the 30th anniversary of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with the great Michael Rosen. There will be family shows I Believe in Unicorns, The Rainbow Fish, The Greatest Comic-Making Show On Earth and Maisy Mouse, for spoken word and music lovers the Tongue Fu for Kids band will be performing, while Mark Llewelyn Evans introduces the thrilling story of opera.
Budding young creatives can take top tips from the best in the business with workshops on everything from fairy-tale animation to writing adventures and detective movie making. Plus the Festival is hosting its first ever ‘Big Family Book Quiz’ to challenge book knowledge, creativity and nonsense know-how! And if that’s not enough for YA fans Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne, Matt Abbott, Jenny Downham and Dean Atta will be taking to the Cheltenham stage.
EDUCATION & YEAR-ROUND OUTREACH
This year’s extraordinary ‘Literature for Schools’ programme includes Cressida Cowell, Francesca Simon, Chris Riddell, Hilary McKay, Kit De Waal, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Anthony Anaxagorou amongst many others, including Guest Curator Robin Stevens leading a series of mystery events. Spoken word artist Sophia Thakur will be performing with students from the Festivals’ year-round outreach programmes – Beyond Words, Write Now and Amnesty’s Words that Burn – in the Young Writers’ Showcase, and authors taking part in Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils – the Festival’s flagship education project supporting teachers with a national network of free reading groups – will be igniting creativity with workshops from Vashti Hardy, Joe Todd-Stanton and Emma Carroll. Plus the first of the new books selected for the 2019/20 programme will be revealed during the Festival!