First edition of literary festival a new leaf for town

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

The festival took place over the bank holiday weekend, from April 29 to May 2, at the newly-opened Amelia Scott building, The Assembly Hall Theatre, The Forum, Trinity Theatre, and the Tunbridge Wells Hotel.

David Baddiel and Jo Brand, both well-known as presenters, comedians and writers, headlined the programme, but there was something for everyone, with music lovers, culinary enthusiasts and sports fans all treated to big names like Bobby Gillespie (pictured above), Kate Humble and Pat Nevin. Bobby appeared at The Forum while the others were at the Assembly Hall Theatre.

Less than a week after opening, The Amelia cultural centre hosted many of the children’s events, with Nicky Carter, TWBC’s head of HR, customer service and culture, commenting: “We have had the honour of meeting so many lovely people over the four days, it’s also been fabulous to see children having such fun participating in the events designed for them.”

The Forum leveraged its cultural and musical standing to host events such as the predictably sold-out out appearance of Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie on Sunday.

Event organiser Isobel Dormon said: “The Forum team were proud to be part of the Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival and to host such a variety of literary professionals who have the art to provoke long-form thought and explore issues that promote reflection and action.

“A poet with the gift of expressing grief, the injustice of war and domestic violence in a few select phrases. A journalist eloquently describing the yearning within some for fame and the pitfalls of it with profound consequences on mental health and self-worth. A pop star stressing the cultural resonance of music and its importance to human existence.”


David Baddiel & Jo Brand


Literary lunches hosted by co-sponsors the Tunbridge Wells Hotel featured five authors at four events. Proprietor Julian Leefe-Griffiths said the festival is just what the town needs and has been a fantastic success.

“It’s great to see new cultural events being created in the town. It’s essential that Tunbridge Wells builds on this and the opening of the Amelia Scott to make the town vibrant, entertaining and a great place to live.”

And at Trinity Theatre, artistic director Sean Turner said: “This whole weekend has felt like a real critical juncture for culture in Tunbridge Wells. The opening of the Amelia Scott alongside the Literary Festival has left me personally feeling hugely optimistic about the future.

“This festival is a real asset to our town and I for one cannot wait to start working with the team on the 2023 line-up.”

Jo Stocker of Waterstones Tunbridge Wells told the Times: “The festival has been incredible, numbers were really good and there was such a wonderful range of events. All have been really well attended and sales for us have been absolutely brilliant.

“It’s been so lovely watching people enjoy books and talking about books and seeing people come from all over to see and meet some incredible authors.

“It’s a really lovely thing for the town and we can’t wait to do it again!”

Festival events were also supported by RTW Together’s events grant scheme, said Business Improvement District director Sarah-Jane Adams.

“It is such a logical fit for our town to have an event of this nature, and we have been impressed with the high-profile line up and the positive benefit for residents and businesses alike. We look forward to seeing the event grow in coming years.”

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