What’s on at the Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

Created to celebrate the opening of the Amelia Scott cultural centre, the inaugural Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival looks set to be a bookish extravaganza featuring some of the UK’s leading authors in both fiction and non-fiction.

Taking place over four days during this bank holiday weekend from Friday, April 29 to Monday, May 2 over this bank Holiday Weekend).

For those who may not know, literary festivals are celebrations of reading and writing, offering attendees the chance to meet their favourite authors, illustrators, poets, podcasters and journalists, see them talk live about the wonderful creative work that they do, and take a revealing, behind the scenes look at the inspirations and processes that drive them.

Not only is it a chance for readers to meet their favourite authors but as actor and bestselling author Robert Daws, who is at Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival on Sunday, May 1, explained: “They also give authors a chance to meet their readers and meet and listen to other writers. Writing is a pretty solitary affair, so it’s great to get out and meet others in the same profession.”

Spread across four days, each with its incredible line-up of famous faces and amazing, award-winning authors, Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival promises something for everyone.





James Oswald and Harriet Tyce – All That Lives and It Ends at Midnight (Fiction: Crime)

Tunbridge Wells Hotel – 12:30PM

James Oswald, one of Scotland’s finest authors and creator of the bestselling Inspector McLean series, locked in conversation with formidableformer barrister, and now Sunday Times bestselling author of Blood Orange, Harriet Tyce, as this prestigious pair discuss their respective new books, All That Lives and It Ends at Midnight.

All Inclusive Ticket: £45 including lunch.

Talk at 2pm, lunch at 12 noon. Book signing

3pm Pre-booking is essential.


Ed Patrick – Catch Your Breath (Non-Fiction: Memoir)

Trinity Theatre – 2PM

Comedian Ed Patrick, whose new memoir, Catch Your Breath: The Secret Life of a Sleepless Anaesthetist, highlights the hectic highs, lamentable lows, and hilariously unexpected moments of life on the NHS frontline, all in Ed’s fantastically frank and funny signature style.

Tickets: £15. Running time one hour plus book signing.


Christina Patterson – Outside, The Sky is Blue (Non-Fiction: Memoir)

Trinity Theatre – 4PM

A live recording of Orwell Prize nominated journalist Christina Patterson’s hugely popular podcast, The Art of Work, after which Christina, accompanied by revered research psychologist and trauma expert Dr Sarah Woodhouse, will discuss her achingly emotional new memoir, Outside, The Sky is Blue, written in the wake of a cataclysmic family loss.

Tickets: £15. Running time one hour plus book signing.


David Baddiel – Jews Don’t Count (Non-Fiction: Social/Political)

Assembly Hall Theatre – 8PM

David Baddiel, trailblazing comedian and author of six best-selling children’s books, aims to open your eyes and engage your sense of justice with Jews Don’t Count, a powerful, personal and justifiably angry polemic that highlights and condemns the rampant antisemitism that plagues otherwise progressive spaces. David will be joined by Orwell Prize winning journalist, David Aaronovitch, who will use his interviewing expertise to ask David the big, necessary questions.

Tickets: £20; Under 25 Tickets £12.50. Running time 90 minutes with limited book signing


David Baddiel





Strangeface Puppetry – Beached (Performance/Poetry)

The Amelia Scott – All Day

Join the award-winning master puppeteers of Strangeface, as they perform a series of special renditions of their short play Beached, the charming and powerful tale of Arnold, whose ordinary walk quickly becomes an adventure.

Tickets: not required. Running time 15 minutes


Simon James Green – Sleepover Takeover (Children’s: Middle-Grade)

The Amelia Scott – 10:30AM

Leading Young Adult author and Carnegie Award nominee Simon James Green will be talking about his latest middle-grade book, the fantastically funny Sleepover Takeover, a laugh-out-loud misadventure with friendship, kindness and inclusion at its heart.

Tickets: £5; Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Nick Duerden – Exit Stage Left (Non-Fiction: Biography)

Tunbridge Wells Forum – 12PM

Hear saddening stories from the lives of some of the 80s music scene’s brightest stars, by prolific arts journalist Nick Duerden in his new book Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Popstars.

Tickets: £15; Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


John Walsh – Circus of Dreams (Non-Fiction: History)

Tunbridge Wells Hotel – 12:30PM

The less wild world of the 80s literary scene is experienced first-hand, and now divulged in shocking, sensational detail by esteemed literary industry veteran John Walsh, in his brand-new book Circus of Dreams: Adventures in the 1980s Literary World.

All Inclusive Ticket: £45 including lunch.

Talk at 2pm, lunch at 12 noon.

Book signing 3pm Pre-booking is essential.


Cate Douglas – Poppy’s Tail (Children’s: New Readers)

 The Amelia Scott – 1:30PM

Cate Douglas will be at The Amelia Scott on Saturday, April 30th at 14:00PM to introduce new readers to her adorable picture book, Poppy’s Tail, a charming and colourful story that highlights the value of imagination and creativity.

All tickets FREE. Running time 1 hour.


Darren Shan – Reverse Career Retrospective: Archibald Lox, Zom-B Chronicles, The Demonata, The Saga of Darren Shan (Children’s: YA)

Trinity Theatre – 2PM

Darren Shan has made horror fans out of generations of children with his gloriously grisly tales. In what is sure to be an absolute treat for not just his current readership, but also for those of us who grew up with his formative work. Darren will be performing readings from, and answering questions about, all of his most popular series, starting with his most recent, the surreal and fantastical adventures of Archibald Lox.

Tickets: £12.50; Kids £8; Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Kate Humble – Home Cooked (Non-Fiction: Health/Wellbeing)

Assembly Hall Theatre – 2:30PM

For any food fans who love nothing more than cracking open a new cookbook, beloved presenter and wildlife expert Kate Humble comes bearing the gift of her brilliantly comforting new recipe collection, Home Cooked: Recipes from the Farm, covering ideal seasonal meals for any occasion.

Tickets: £20; Running time 90 minutes with limited book signing.


Simon James Green – Gay Club! (Children’s: YA)

The Amelia Scott – 4PM

Alongside his 10:30AM slot, Carnegie award nominee and trailblazing LGBTQ+ YA author Simon James Green will be returning to The Amelia Scott at 4PM to discuss his hilarious and heartfelt new novel Gay Club!

All tickets FREE. Running time 1 hour.


Polly Toynbee and David Walker – The Lost Decade (Non-Fiction: History)

Trinity Theatre – 7:30PM

The Guardian’s star columnist and contributing editor duo of Polly Toynbee and David Walker look back on the tumultuous events of the 2010s, and their probable impact on the UK’s future, with The Lost Decade: 2010-2020 and What Lies Ahead for Britain.

Tickets: £15.50; Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Jo Brand – Born Lippy (Non-Fiction: Memoir)

Assembly Hall Theatre – 8PM

For anyone seeking sincerity and candour, look no further than Saturday’s headliner, pioneering comedian and award-winning presenter Jo Brand, whose fabulously funny meditation on life and womanhood, Born Lippy: How to do Female, is a frank, unflinching and outrageously entertaining collection of life lessons and knowledge from the first lady of alternative comedy.

Tickets: £20; Running time 90 minutes with limited book signing.






Melissa Fu – Peach Blossom Spring (Fiction: Drama)

The Amelia Scott – 10:30AM

Join Melissa Fu as she lifts the lid on her sensational debut novel, Peach Blossom Spring, a hauntingly beautiful portrait of the history of modern China, the significance of storytelling as a tool for preservation and the impact of being isolated from one’s heritage.

Tickets: £15.00; Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Manjeet Mann – Small’s Big Dream (Children’s: New Readers)

Trinity Theatre – 10:30AM

Manjeet Mann will discussing her first picture book, Small’s Big Dream, a stunning and lyrical ode to aspiration that encourages children to always dream big, no matter how small their world may seem!

Tickets: £12.50; Kids £5.

Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Lloyd Lewellyn-Jones – Persians (Non-Fiction: History)

Tunbridge Wells Hotel – 10:30AM

For those hoping to step further back in time, famed academic and historian Lloyd Lewellyn-Jones has you covered with Persians: The Age of Great Kings, a stunningly comprehensive and, in Lloyd’s words, an authentically ‘Persian version’ of the history of the world’s first superpower.

All Inclusive Ticket: £45 including lunch.

Talk at 2pm, lunch at 12 noon.

Book signing 3pm Pre-booking is essential.


Patrick Jones – Fuse/Fracture (Performance/ Poetry)

Tunbridge Wells Forum – 11:30AM

Join Patrick Jones as he performs a selection of personal favourites from his vast and varied repertoire, while also sharing the inner machinations that inspire and drive his endlessly creative process.

Tickets: £15.00; Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Manjeet Mann – The Crossing (Children’s: YA)

Trinity Theatre – 2PM

Following her 10:30AM slot, actor, activist and multi award-winning children’s author Manjeet Mann will be returning to Trinity Theatre at 2PM to talk about her Costa Children’s Book Award 2021 winning YA novel, The Crossing.

Tickets: £12.50; Kids £5. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.

Alex Von Tunzelmann – Fallen Idols (Non- Fiction: History)

Tunbridge Wells Hotel – 2PM

Author and screenwriter Alex Von Tunzelmann offers, in her new book Fallen Idols: 12 Statues that Made History, a carefully researched and charmingly witty deconstruction of the debate around the toppling of monuments dedicated to slave traders and colonialists, that sprung up in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020.

All Inclusive Ticket: £45 including lunch. Talk at 2pm, lunch at 12 noon.

Book signing 3pm Pre-booking is essential.


Skye McKenna – Hedgewitch (Children’s: Middle-Grade)

The Amelia Scott – 2:30PM

Skye McKenna discusses her marvellously magical authorial debut, Hedgewitch, a fresh new take on a much-loved middle-grade formula, and the first of five books in a stunning fantasy series sure to take the world by storm!

Tickets: £8.00; Kids £5. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Bobby Gillespie – Tenement Kid (Non-Fiction: Memoir)

Tunbridge Wells Forum – 2:30PM

Bobby Gillespie, frontman of psychedelia stalwarts Primal Scream, will be discussing his phenomenal memoir Tenement Kid, a chronicle of his formative years and an honest exploration of his journey from infatuated fan to psych rock figurehead.

Tickets: £15.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Graeme Thomson – Themes for Great Cities (Non-Fiction: Biography)

Tunbridge Wells Forum – 5PM

For a more singular, in-depth take on a musical legacy, join acclaimed biographer Graeme Thomson for a thoroughly comprehensive deep dive into the career of one of Scotland’s greatest musical exports, the incomparable Simple Minds.

Tickets: £10.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Robert Daws – Breaking Legs (Performance/ Poetry)

Trinity Theatre – 5PM

Bestselling author Robert Daws combines snippets of stellar acting with revealing anecdotes about Robert’s exemplary career, from his breakthrough days to the writing of his bestselling Sullivan and Broderick series, it’s sure to be an unmissable experience for long-time fans and newcomers alike!

Tickets: £12.50. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


JJ Bola – The Selfless Act of Breathing (Fiction: Drama)

Trinity Theatre – 8PM

UNHCR Ambassador JJ Bola, whose profoundly moving sophomore novel, The Selfless Act of Breathing, clears the mist of shame and secrecy that so often surrounds the subject of men’s mental health.

Tickets: £12.50. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.







Kiran Millwood Hargrave – Julia and the Shark (Children’s: Middle-Grade)

The Amelia Scott – 10:30AM Children’s author Kiran Millwood Hargrave will talk about her most recent middle-grade release and winner of Waterstones Children’s Gift of the Year 2021, Julia and the Shark.

Tickets: £10.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Patrick Gale – Mother’s Boy (Fiction: Drama)

Trinity Theatre – 10:30AM Patrick Gale, award-winning author, screenwriter and the self-proclaimed ‘last novelist in England’, explores the closely guarded personal life of poet and teacher Charles Causley in Mother’s Boy.

Tickets: £15.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Adam Shaw – How to Grow Your Family (Non-Fiction: Health/Wellbeing)

Trinity Theatre – 1PM

Adam Shaw of At Dad’s Table(@at_dads_ table), along with Mark Woods, author of the bestselling Pregnancy for Men, discuss a delicious portion of the 110 incredible recipes present in Adam’s debut cookbook, How to grow your Family: From pregnancy to New Parents – One Meal at a Time.

Tickets: £12.50. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Olivia Poulet and Laurence Dobiesz – 12 Hours to Say I Love You (Fiction: Romance)

The Amelia Scott – 2:30PM Authors Olivia Poulet and Laurence Dobiesz discuss their terrifically tender, tear-inducing and hilariously heartfelt debut novel, 12 Hours to Say I Love You, an effortlessly charming tale about the nature of romance and the eternally unpredictable glories of love.

Tickets: £15.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Sita Brahmachari – When Shadows Fall (Children’s: YA)

Assembly Hall Theatre – 2:30PM

Award-winning children’s author with a resoundingly lyrical style of Prose, and an undeniable talent for fostering empathy, Sita Brahmachari will be debuting her Raven Treasure Box experience, a fantastic interactive and haptic event based around the plot of the phenomenal When Shadows Fall.

Tickets: £10.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Tom De Freston – Wreck (Non-Fiction: Memoir)

The Amelia Scott – 5PM

Acclaimed artist and author Tom De Freston e discusses the readable result of an internal, profoundly emotional struggle that begins with an obsessive fixation on Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of The Medusa, the harrowing and deeply cathartic Wreck: Géricault’s Raft and the Art of Being Lost at Sea.

Tickets: £25.00. Running time 2 hours plus book signing.


Sarfraz Manzoor – Blinded by the Light (Film) and They (Non-Fiction: Social/Political)

Trinity Theatre – 5:30PM (Screening) and 7:45PM (Q&A)

Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor will be using Monday night to shine a crucial light on the social divides between British Muslims and their fellow countrymen, beginning with a special screening of 2019’s critically acclaimed Blinded by the Light, adapted from Sarfraz’s dynamic debut memoir Greetings from Bury Park.

Tickets: £15.00. Running time 1 hour plus book signing.


Pat Nevin – The Accidental Footballer (Non-Fiction: Memoir)

Assembly Hall Theatre – 7:30PM

If you’re a football fan, or your interests lie in the sporting world, why not join the brilliantly unconventional Pat Nevin as he discusses his storied professional career playing for the likes of Chelsea and Everton, all while remaining a passionately political, indie music loving individual off-field, as is candidly recorded in his electrically unique memoir, The Accidental Footballer.

Tickets: £20.00; Kids £12.50. Running time 1 hour plus book signing. 


Adam Shaw & his family


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