A STELLAR line-up for the 16th Stratford Literary Festival includes three of the UK’s leading actresses, TV stars, best-selling authors, leading journalists and opinion formers.
The festival – which runs from May 2 to May 7 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stratford – will feature headline names including stars of stage and screen Dame Judi Dench and Dame Penelope Wilton. Pointless presenter Alexander Armstrong and Dame Harriet Walter will lead a celebration of the genius of PG Wodehouse, and actor Anton Lesser will read from the Booker-winning novel Wolf Hall accompanied by the TV series music composer Debbie Wiseman in a tribute to the late Hilary Mantel.
The festival kicks off early with a special event with its Patron Maggie O’Farrell on April 13 at Holy Trinity Church. She’ll be talking about the staging of Hamnet which opens at the Swan Theatre in April in a live and live streamed event. The main festival then plunges into a packed programme that covers a range of issues including the environment in events with the award-winning journalist George Monbiot and bushcraft expert Ray Mears.
Political shenanigans are brought into focus by the sharp pen of Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, and PM watcher Sir Anthony Seldon assesses Boris Johnson’s tenure at No.10. DJ and best-selling author Stuart Maconie retraces Priestley’s steps to discover what it means to be English in 2023.
Leading Stand-up to the Classics comedian and radio broadcaster Natalie Haynes defends the much maligned Medusa, and best-selling authors Jennifer Saint and Janina Ramirez reassess the lives of forgotten women who have impacted the world throughout history.
TV’s Repair Shop’s leather expert Suzie Fletcher shares her moving life story and extreme runner Nick Butter describes the challenges of running the entire coastline of Britain. Times columnist India Knight discusses her debut novel, and Pub Landlord-turned-writer, comedian Al Murray, reveals his excellent history of WW2.
Veteran broadcaster Edward Stourton shares a career at the forefront of BBC news, and the poet Pam Ayres returns to Stratford after having to cancel her event in November.
And to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio this year, there will be events with leading experts Emma Smith and Chris Laoutaris, and the outgoing RSC Artistic Director Greg Doran shares the highlights of a career that has had him titled ‘one of the great Shakespearians of his generation’.
In a first for the festival, there will be a Fringe Festival programme that takes place in a Big Top marquee on the grassed area in front of the Crowne Plaza hotel. The line-up will include a brilliant Comedy Night with Mark Maier, Shazia Mirza, Otis Cannelloni and Mike Gunn.
The festival will also be celebrating the Coronation on May 6 with a free screening and a host of Coronation related events for children with crown making and storytelling.
There will also be staged subsidised events for schools with Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Janina Ramirez and illustrator Alex Paterson during the festival week.
Festival Director Annie Ashworth said: “This year’s festival has one of our most exciting line-ups. We’ve managed to pack in a mass of events and there will be something to please everyone whatever your interests. We are embracing the Coronation and look forward to the town being busy and people being on holiday.
“In what has been a tough couple of years’ for everyone we are enormously grateful to our sponsors and supporters that they have continued to value the festival as a leading UK book festival and a beacon in the local cultural calendar.”
Tickets start at £12 and £6 for children’s events, and go on general sale on February 17 from www.stratlitfest.co.uk