Join Chiddingstone’s culture club

Nusrat Ghani

The Chiddingstone Literary Festival began in 2016 and for the past few years it has attracted a wealth of famous authors and journalists including Ian Banks, Chris Riddell, Kate Mosse, Lauren Child, Alexandra Shulman and Sir Terry Waite.

Pre-Covid it was held over three days in the glorious grounds of 16th-century Chiddingstone over the first May Bank Holiday weekend and attracted hundreds of visitors.

Last year, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival had to be cancelled as an in-person event and instead went totally online.

For 2021, organisers decided to do a series of talks over the summer months instead of hosting just one weekend, as that way numbers could stay lower and literary lovers would have several opportunities to hear their favourite authors and writers discuss their work.

The 2021 Collection: Books linked to this summer’s festival events


“Book lovers will be treated to a series of renowned author talks and have the opportunity to picnic and purchase books,” say the event’s organisers.

“The author-led talks will take place in a large marquee set amidst the sprawling lawns, pretty gardens and woodland of Chiddingstone Castle. There will also be an opportunity to meet the authors.”

The 2021 event has a more fringe-style feel to it.

The summer dates started in July with author Anne Sebba who hosted a talk on her biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the first woman in the US to be executed for a crime that wasn’t murder.

Royal biographer Hugo Vickers and journalist Simon Heffer also spoke that evening, discussing the diaries of Henry ‘Chips’ Channon and Cecil Beaton (Malice in Wonderland). The event was chaired by James Lee with readings by actor Geoffrey Streatfeild.

A few weeks later, Amanda Owen – TV’s Yorkshire Shepherdess – hosted a talk on how she combines life on her farm with raising nine children alongside filming and writing.

Ben MacIntyre has also appeared at the festival, discussing his book on the life of Agent Sonya; Lover, Mother, Soldier, Spy. Ticket-holders had the chance to hear the remarkable true story of World War II’s most extraordinary spy – Ursula Kuczynski Burton, who combined rural motherhood with being a spymaster, saboteur, bomb-maker and secret agent.

Natalie Haynes: Thursday August 19


Now the third event in the Chiddingstone Literary Festival’s calendar takes place tomorrow evening [Thursday August 19].

Classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes will take to the stage, turning the spotlight on the remarkable women of Greek myths in her talk titled Pandora’s Jar, which runs from 5-6pm.

“Natalie will take the women of Greek myths, who are often side-lined, vilified, misunderstood, or ignored, and put them centre stage,” explains the Chiddingstone Literary Festival spokesperson.

Later in the evening, from 7-8pm, the art critic Martin Gayford will present an illustrated talk on Hockney’s latest paintings Spring Cannot be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy. Gayford is a long-time friend and collaborator of Hockney.

“Art critic Martin Gayford presents an illustrated talk based on Hockney’s latest paintings (currently exhibiting at the Royal Academy) and a wealth of new conversations and correspondence with Hockney, his long-time friend and collaborator.”

Sebastian Faulks: Thursday September 2


The final date for this year’s festival takes place on Thursday September 2, when Chiddingstone Castle will welcome acclaimed novelist Sebastian Faulks. He will talk about his new novel Snow Country – described as a ‘landmark novel of exquisite yearnings, dreams of youth and the sanctity of hope’. He will be talking between 2pm and 3pm, and organisers say the novel ‘sweeps across Europe as it recovers from one war and hides its face front the next’.

Sebastian Faulks will be at the castle on the very day his new novel is published, so this is sure to be an extra-special event. The award-winning writer will be chatting with Cathy Rentzenbrink, a fellow author and much-loved interviewer at Chiddingstone Literary Festival.

Later that day, from 4-5pm, Deborah Moggach – author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – unveils her new novel The Black Dress, which is described as a ‘beautifully observed, darkly funny, tender and surprising novel about life changes and the unexpected twists and pleasures of being alone’.

Deborah will be in conversation with Rowan Pelling, a Daily Telegraph columnist and Editor of Perspective Magazine.

To purchase tickets, priced £16 per event, or to find out more for all the remaining dates in August and September, please visit:



Natalie Haynes Photo: © James Betts

Sebastian Faulks Photo: © Still Moving

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