19/04/2023 - 23/04/2023

Cambridge Literary Festival returns with a blockbuster line up for 20th anniversary year

In its 20th anniversary year, Cambridge Literary Festival is delighted to announce the programme for its Spring 2023 edition, bringing the best writers, thinkers and speakers together in beautiful historic venues across the City of Cambridge. Alongside established and emerging writers of fiction and poetry, there are household names from the world of politics, food, music, television, art, environment, and wellbeing. With a range of talks to entertain, inspire, and shine a light on pressing current issues, the festival leads the cultural conversation across five days with over 50 events and 74 speakers.


A standout element for this April’s festival is the inaugural A Room of One’s Own Lecture, a joint initiative of Cambridge Literary Festival with Newnham College, Cambridge. It offers an annual opportunity for the foremost women writers of our day to share their work and to ask how far we have come since Woolf said: ‘lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind’. Ali Smith will deliver the first lecture on the evening of Sunday 23rd April, to be introduced by Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson. All attendees will receive a commemorative pamphlet containing Smith’s text.


Also new for spring 2023 is the Cambridge Series, launching with a stellar line up to lead the conversation for the intellectually curious. Distinguished physicist and Professor Athene Donald offers a refreshing look at why we need more women in science and makes the case for greater diversity in modern research. Professor Chris Clarke gives an exhilarating reappraisal of 1848 as one of the most dramatic years in European history. In partnership with the British Academy, British Academy Book Prize Winner Sujit Sivasundaram reimagines the British Empire from the perspective of indigenous peoples in the Indian and Pacific oceans to see afresh the connections and divisions shaping our environments and cultural identity.


Amongst the leading writers joining the festival for the 20th anniversary year is a special evening with former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Maggie O’Farrell introduces her latest novel The Marriage Portrait, bringing Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life. Curtis Sittenfeld, critically acclaimed and bestselling author of American Wife and Rodham, joins Alex Clark to share Romantic Comedy, her most searingly contemporary novel yet. Literary lunches and Afternoon Tea at luxury hotel partner University Arms are back for 2023, with a discussion between leading crime writers Janice Hallett and Sophie Hannah; and another with Bonnie Garmus, whose debut Lessons in Chemistry shot to bestselling success in 2022. Matthew Hollis delves into T.S. Eliot’s timeless masterpiece in discussion on his book The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem, and literary biographer Claire Harman joins the line up to discuss and re-examine the legacy of modernist writer Katherine Mansfield to mark the centenary of her death. Visitors can also discover the hottest new talent through Ali Smith’s Debut Writers’ Panel and Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists panel.


Jack Monroe and Kit de Waal share first-hand experiences demonstrating that the current cost-of-living crisis is nothing new. Doctor and campaigner Louise Newson sheds light on the menopause and perimenopause. Julia Hollander explains the benefits and joys to be found in singing. Manni and Reuben Coe tell their life-affirming story of hope, resilience and repair; Reuben, who has Down’s syndrome, lived in a home for adults with learning disabilities during COVID, leading to a transformative moment in the brothers’ relationship.


This year, the festival’s New Statesman Debate tackles the timely and controversial motion: "This house believes it is time for Britain to abolish its monarchy". Speaking for the motion are award-winning journalist Tanya Gold, historian author and Professor Anna Whitelock, and author, broadcaster and academic Gary Younge (who will also host a separate event to discuss Dispatches from the Diaspora). Speaking against are journalist and author Robert Hardman; broadcaster, author and The New Statesman’s political editor Andrew Marr; and Tomiwa Owolade, author and contributing writer to The New Statesman. Marr will also deliver the inaugural State of the Nation Lecture, reflecting on where we are politically after the last few chaotic years. Dr Jim Down (ICU consultant) and Polly Morland (A Fortunate Woman: A Country Doctor’s Story) discuss the NHS in 2023 and beyond to mark its 75th anniversary, and Paul Johnson from the Institute for Fiscal Studies interrogates the ramifications of bad politics and damaging policy decisions on Britain’s economy. The New Statesman have two additional political offerings, through their Podcast Live – giving an unrivalled analysis of the latest in Westminster – and in Breakfast with the Editors, discussing the big news stories of the day. To help visitors stay engaged without becoming enraged by these issues, Rafael Behr joins Jackie Ashley to present Politics: A Survivor’s Guide.


Jon Snow – the face of Channel 4 News for 30 years - brings The State of Us, his personal rallying cry for tackling inequality, fighting injustice, and recovering our sense of community. Influential poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson delves into Time Come, his first prose selection bringing together his most powerful writings. Pattie Boyd (My Life in Pictures) – the inspiration behind timeless Beatles classics Layla, Wonderful Tonight and Something - shares fascinating recollections of her life and changing times with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Twiggy, David Bailey and more. Author, historian and critic Colin Grant introduces his new memoir I’m Black So You Don’t Have to Be. The moving accounts of Yeva Skalietska and Katya Hudson show the personal effect of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Timothy Garton Ash presents his Personal History of Europe, and Tania Branigan shares her expertise on the China’s Cultural Revolution. Tim Marshall meanwhile presents space as the biggest geopolitical story of the 21st century.


Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of LEON and Director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and food writer Bee Wilson come together to discuss the big issues around food, farming, diet and health. Sarah Raven (A Year Full of Veg) meanwhile gives her expert advice on growing reliable and bountiful seasonal produce all year round. Gaia Vince (Nomad Century) promotes the idea of migration as a solution to the climate crisis, whilst Peter Wohlleben – rock star of foresters and a committed advocate for tree conservation – spotlights The Power of Trees. Biologist and wildlife filmmaker Tom Mustill recounts the life-threating encounter with a whale whilst on a kayak which led to his thrilling scientific investigation into the pioneering world of animal communication. The Baillie Gifford Prize, which rewards excellence in non-fiction writing, hosts a ‘Winner of Winners’ event with journalist Razia Iqbal.


A jam-packed programme with household names will keep children and families entertained throughout. Dame Jacqueline Wilson discusses how she started her writing career, how she created some of her best-loved characters, and details about her brand-new book. Michael Morpurgo returns with a brand-new story celebrating the new monarch, King Charles III. Both Wilson and Morpurgo will also be presented with a Cambridge Literary Festival award for their outstanding contribution to children’s reading. A special free schools event – Refugee Tales – will be hosted by Ali Smith and Bernardine Evaristo. There are writing and drawing tips from Cressida Cowell, an interactive session with author and performance poet John Agard, and a talk from Emma Carroll. Di Redmond discusses Rucksack, a book which paints a vivid picture of displaced children in light of the war on Ukraine. Peter Wohlleben introduces What's Wild Outside Your Door?, an informative and interactive guide to wildlife in our cities and suburbs. Activities to test sleuthing skills are presented by Robin Stevens, author of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize winning and bestselling Murder Most Unladylike series, and Sam Copeland hosts a hilarious storytelling event.

Priority booking opens: Thursday 9th February. General sale: Monday 13th February. All details can be found online at https://www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com/