A local literary festival with so much more than words to write home about

Children’s author Michael Rosen at the Festival in 2017
OPEN BOOK Children’s author Michael Rosen at the Festival in 2017

The 21st Sevenoaks Literary Festival takes place from September 26 to October 9. Boasting another stellar line-up – which includes author Peter Bradley, poet Hannah Lowe and TV presenter Susannah Constantine – it promises to be something very special this year. Eileen Leahy finds out more…

The Sevenoaks Literary Festival first launched in 2002 and has grown in popularity and cultural stature with every year.

Its initial aim was to bring the best authors and writers to the local area and having hosted the likes of Hilary Mantel, Kate Mosse, Sebastian Faulkes and Jonathan Coe over the past decades, it has certainly achieved that – and then some.

In addition to a slew of esteemed novelists, the Sevenoaks Literary Festival has also hosted many other types of speakers including biographers, activists, poets, historians, politicians, political commentators and journalists.

Recent festival highlights include events with acclaimed actress Dame Eileen Atkins, journalist Bryony Gordon, crime novelist William Shaw, barrister and author Marina Wheeler and the actress, comic and television presenter Mel Giedroyc.

Run by a small group of volunteers and entirely almost self-funded, the festival takes place across a number of different venues in Sevenoaks including Walthamstow Hall School and Sevenoaks Bookshop. The festival runs from September 26 to October 9.

This year’s event kicks off with best-selling author Bonnie Garmus. She will be talking to journalist Marianne Jones about her book ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ which has been one of the year’s biggest hits.

Former cabinet-minister-turned-writer Alan Johnson returns to the Festival to discuss his latest crime novel, ‘One of Our Ministers is Missing’ with journalist and photographer Matthew Stadlen.

Elsewhere on the bill you’ll find Elodie Harper and Jennifer Saint in conversation about their retelling of ancient myths and history in novels, ‘The Wolf Den’ and ‘Elektra’.

Annabel Abbs will talk about her book ‘The Language of Food’, which explores the life of Victorian cookery writer Eliza Acton.

Poet Hannah Lowe makes her debut at the Festival to discuss her Costa Book of the Year, ‘The Kids’ while in the non-fiction arena, visitors can hear Lucy Ward considering her book ‘The Empress and the English Doctor: How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus’.

You’ll also have the chance to catch Peter Bradley discussing the haunting story of his family’s fate in the Holocaust – ‘The Last Train: A Family History of the Final Solution’ – with local historian Professor David Kilingray.

On the lighter side of things, Sevenoaks-based style guru and TV presenter Kat Farmer (AKA @Does My Bum Look Big in This on Instagram) joins bestselling author Christie Watson to explore the ‘messy magic’ of midlife with their books ‘Get Changed’ and ‘Quilt on Fire’.

Music and cricket fans will enjoy the former Macabees musician and broadcaster Felix White’s talk on his new book ‘It’s Always Summer Somewhere’ which was a recent Radio 4 Book of the Week and is described as a ‘love letter to cricket – and much more’.

For the first time the Festival is being held in association with Wildernesse House which will host the penultimate event when nature writers Ben Dark and Leif Bersweden discuss plants in urban and country settings in their books ‘The Grove’ and Where the Wildflowers Grow. The Festival closes with Susannah Constantine of ‘What Not to Wear’ fame discussing her memoir, ‘Ready for Absolutely Nothing’.

Once again, the long-term partner and sponsor of the festival – the award-winning Sevenoaks Bookshop – will act as book retailer. And of course the festival, supported as always by Sevenoaks Town Council, will organise its free annual literary event for over 450 local primary school children.

“Sevenoaks Literary Festival continues to develop, and no two years are the same,” explains a spokesperson for the annual event.

It’s worth noting that as well as written words, Sevenoaks Literary Festival also celebrates music. Over the years it has welcomed The Milton Consort who accompanied ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ on period instruments, Mercury-prize nominated Kathryn Williams soundtracking Laura Barnett as she discussed her novel ‘Greatest Hits’, and poet and photographer Virginia Astley who read from ‘The English River’ accompanied on the harp by her daughter.

How wonderful to have such an incredible festival welcoming the country’s most prolific artists happening right here on our doorstep?

See you in Sevenoaks…


For more information visit ticketsource.co.uk/sevenoaks-literary-festival-2022

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