Names announced for Winter 2023: Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th November

Theresa May | Timothy West | Polly Toynbee | Mike Brearley | Grace Dent | Sebastian Faulks | Afua Hirsch & Elif Shafak | Lemn Sissay | Bee Wilson | Jonathan Coe | Rick Stein | Hadley Freeman | Chris Bryant | Janina Ramirez | Mark Cocker | Nina Stibbe

Cambridge Literary Festival announces the programme for its Winter Weekend 2023 edition to close its 20th anniversary year, hosting the best writers, thinkers, and speakers 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, television, sport, art, environment, and wellbeing. With a range of talks to entertain, inspire, and shine a light on pressing current issues, the festival continues to lead the cultural conversation with over 44 speakers due to appear across the weekend.


The successful Cambridge Series continues with two highly respected Cambridge academics to lead the conversation for the intellectually curious. Distinguished historian Professor David Reynolds talks to Cambridge Alumni Andrew Marr about his new book Mirrors of Greatness, which offers a fresh look at Churchill through the lens of the leaders who shaped him. Professor David Runciman makes the case for how we gave control of our lives to corporations, states and AI.


Amongst the leading writers joining the festival for this Winter Weekend is Sebastian Faulks, who will deliver a special event reflecting on his writing life 30 years on from the publication of Birdsong and introducing his latest novel, The Seventh Son. Jonathan Coe shares his new book, Bournville, a thought-provoking commentary of Britain across a period of seventy-five years of social change, from wartime nostalgia to post Brexit Britain and the pandemic. Audiences can also discover the hottest new talent through the Debut Writers panel which introduces Yomi Adegoke, Tom Crewe, and nature writer Helen Macdonald with their first novel. Poetry enthusiasts will be warmed by Lemn Sissay as he reads from his new collection Let the Light Pour In. Closing the festival weekend is the winner of the Goldsmiths Prize which aims to reward fiction at its most novel. Former winners include Ali Smith, Kevin Barry and Eimear McBride.


Celebrated actor Timothy West shares the story of his 60-year marriage to Prunella Scales, including caring for her following Pru’s dementia diagnosis 20 years ago. One of our most respected and prolific commentators, Polly Toynbee, joins friend and former colleague Jackie Ashley about her life spent on the privileged side of a class divide that she dedicates her professional work to eradicating. Mike Brearley, hailed as England’s greatest cricket captain, discusses his cricketing and practice as a psychoanalyst with former cricketer Ed Smith. Nina Stibbe delves into the endearing story of moving back to London (with her dog Peggy) and lodging with fellow writer Deborah Moggach, who joins us to give her side of the experience! Laura Freeman talks to historian Ruth Scurr about Jim Ede and the Kettle's Yard Artists; Hadley Freeman, journalist and bestselling author of House of Glass, discusses her powerful memoir recounting her experience with anorexia with journalist Helen Lewis.


This year we have a trio of food writers to whet appetites. Offering food for thought and making his debut appearance at the festival is TV chef Rick Stein, who will present his latest book Simple Suppers, a joyful collection of over 100 easy and delicious recipes paired with stories that celebrate the simple things in life. Restaurant Critic for the Guardian and a regular on MasterChef UK Grace Dent’s Comfort Eating takes us on a tour of the foods we turn to behind closed doors – often deeply personal, nostalgic, joyous, and topped with a healthy dollop of guilty pleasure. One of our very best food writers, Bee Wilson, has written her first recipe book. The Secret of Cooking is packed with 140 recipes that are doable and delicious, filled with ideas for cooking ahead or cooking alone and the kind of unfussy food that makes everyday life taste better.


Politics and Current affairs are always important to us, so we’re hosting two excoriating examinations of codes of conduct in parliamentary life from both sides of the political divide: Theresa May MP with The Abuse of Power and Chris Bryant MP with Code of Conduct. We turn our attention, once more, to our 75-year-old NHS with GP Dr. Phil Whitaker and journalist Isabel Hardman, who will discuss the threats to one of the UK’s most beloved institutions. As the war in Ukraine continues, former foreign policy chief of the EU Catherine Ashton and Guardian foreign correspondent Luke Harding interrogate the diplomatic causes and reverberations of this ongoing crisis. Best-selling writers and activists, Afua Hirsch and Elif Shafak discuss Afua’s empowering book, Decolonizing My Body, to help us better understand the link between beauty and politics.


The natural world is always high on our agenda and joining us are prize-winning nature writers Mark Cocker (One Midsummer’s Day) and Charles Foster (Cry of the Wild) for a profound and important conversation with the author of H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald, about life on earth and how we are all inextricably linked and mutually dependent. Turning from wildlife to plants, writer and gardener Alice Vincent (Why Women Grow) and therapist, writer and gardener Marchelle Farrell (Uprooting) will have a nurturing conversation about why women turn to the earth as gardeners, growers and custodians.


We’re looking at histories in an unconventional way this Winter Weekend. Dr Roma Agrawal, the engineer who designed The Shard, joins us to present her book Nuts & Bolts, which explores the history of seven tiny but fundamental inventions: the nail, spring, wheel, lens, magnet, string and pump. Along a similar vein, historian Janina Ramirez will speak on her electrifying new history of women in the Middle Ages, Femina, a ground-breaking study which rehabilitates the women struck from history, forging a path towards a fairer future for us all.

These unmissable conversations will be held in equally stunning venues: The stately Cambridge Union Debating Chamber and the elegant Old Divinity School at St. John's College.

Festival Director,Cathy Moore said:

The festival has come a very long way since I met Ali Smith in Waterstones in May 2002 where I worked as a bookseller and invited her in to sign copies of Hotel World. We got chatting about the Hay Festival and wondered why Cambridge never had a literary festival. On my cycle home that evening I asked myself ‘how hard could it be to set up a festival?’ and decided ‘not very’. I launched Cambridge Wordfest in March 2003 and it now proudly takes its place in the top tier of UK festivals. We mark the end of our 20th Anniversary year with a festival that welcomes back old friends and invites new ones to produce a rich mix of outstanding talent. We are committed to championing debut writers alongside literary greats, sharing personal stories and immersive narratives. As midwinter approaches I look forward to sharing a festive feast of words to warm the soul and stimulate the mind.

Priority booking opens: 10am Tuesday 29 August.

General sale: 10am Tuesday 5 September

Tickets can be purchased: www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com