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Stratford Lit Fest 2021: the line-up

There are so many fantastic headliners at Stratford Literary Festival’s brilliant Spring Festival (May 8-16), I don’t know where to begin…

This year’s festival will feature pre-recorded events, live and interactive online streaming, and in-person workshops the following week.

Major headliners

  • Presenter of BBC’s hugely popular The Repair Shop, Jay Blades, discusses his inspirational memoir Making It.
  • Nick Crane, presenter of Coast and Great British Journeys, recounts the extraordinary 18th century expedition to discover the shape of the world.
Maggie O’Farrell. Photo by Murdo Macleod
  • Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Maggie O’Farrell, discussing her latest novel Hamnet and the central role  Stratford-upon-Avon plays in the story, and Women’s Prize founder, Kate Mosse, will also be discussing her latest novel The City of Tears.
  • The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton, shares the challenges and hilarity of working with animals revealed in his new book All Creatures.
  • Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, will be reading from his latest collection.

On a lighter note

Photo by Laurie Fletcher (c)

This year’s programme includes several top UK comedians:

  • Writer and former Bake Off presenter, Mel Giedroyc, introduces her deliciously warm and funny first novel, The Best Things.
  • David Baddiel talks to Edward Stourton about the failures of identity politics outlined in his new book Jews Don’t Count.
  • One half of the Peep Show comedy duo, Robert Webb discusses his fiction debut Come Again which follows the huge success of his memoir How Not to Be a Boy.

Current issues

Mental health campaigner, author and vlogger Johnny Benjamin
  • Penguin will be showcasing their new Black Britain: Writing Back series and celebrating three authors, Jacqueline Roy, Judith Bryan, and Nicola Williams, whose novels have been overlooked until now.
  • In the wake of the Sarah Everard case, women’s voices are also central to the line-up this year. MP Jess Phillips will be discussing domestic violence.
  • Jane Monckton Smith, while journalists Mary Ann Sieghart and Annabelle Williams ask why women are still struggling for equality in the workplace.
  • On the other side of the gender debate, Martin Robinson and Johnny Benjamin will consider the crisis in men’s mental health and why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.

Debut authors

New York writer Robert Jones, Jr, author of The Prophets. Photo by Alberto Vargas (c)
  • It’s been a difficult year to bring out your first book, so publisher Quercus and Riverrun will be presenting two debut panels: one representing the best of their Spring fiction debuts and another showcasing what the US has to offer.
  • Plus, representing the best of British, Catherine Menon and Neema Shah discuss their historical fiction debuts around family secrets.

Lifestyle: gardening & pets

Graeme Hall
  • During lockdown many of us have turned to gardening and pets and gardens for comfort and legendary and multi award-winning garden designer, Arabella Lennox Boyd, will reflect on the gardens she’s admired most over her career.
  • The dogfather himself, Graeme Hall, will be answering questions on how to train your pooch.

Politics, psychology & tech

Frank Gardner
  • BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, will be discussing his latest novel Outbreak.
  • Leading psychologist Thomas Erikson takes us inside the mind of a psychopath and will ask what personality we are.
  • Leading writer and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, will look back over the best science writing of a generation, or professional futurist Tracy Follows provides insight into how technology and global brands will affect our personal identities.
  • After a year glued to our screens and living in the virtual world, BBC Technology Reporter, Rory Cellan Jones, explores how the smartphone has already and will evolve to rule our lives
  • BBC US Reporter, Nick Bryant tries to make sense of the divisions carving up the US, while former Sky News Diplomatic Editor, Tim Marshall, explores geopolitics in The Power of Geography, the follow up to his best-selling Prisoners of Geography

Fiction

  • Acclaimed author Sally Bayley shares her Shakespearean-inspired memoir.
  • Kate Mosse and Josh Cohen discuss what life lessons we can learn from our favourite characters in fiction.
  • Caroline Lea and Alan Judd will talk about how far a novelist should fictionalise when a story is based on real people and events.

Kids

  • Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, Sir Michael Morpurgo, and Liz Pichon, amongst others, will be sharing their latest books and author Christopher Lloyd will be running a Family Quiz to challenge old and young minds alike, plus the return of the brilliant Aardman team for clay modelling classes.

Live creative writing workshops

Stratford Lit Fest has teamed up with Caroline Lea, tutor at the University of Warwick and Sally Bayley, tutor at the University of Oxford, in the week of May 17 once restrictions permit.

Festival favourites

…will be back including a local writers’ showcase, the annual Festival Book Club featuring The One Hundred Years of Lennie and Margot by Marianne Cronin (with free copies for the first 20 to book), and the – online – General Knowledge Quiz with the chance to win a bottle of the Poet Laureate’s sherry donated by Simon Armitage!

The festival is also partnering with Kenilworth Books so audiences can buy a signed copy after each event. Tickets start at £6 and are available now.

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