Cheltenham Literature Festival starts today!

9 10 2009

Friday 9th October 2009

Today is the start of the Cheltenham Literature Festival and more than 100,000 people are expected to enjoy two weeks of events in the town.

The 60th annual festival, which runs until October 18 at venues across town, includes more than 440 talks, readings and activities.

Authors, gardeners, comedians, chefs, politicians and explorers and Man Booker Prize winners are all heading to Cheltenham to discuss their work.

With so many stellar names – today alone Sebastian Faulks, Ben Fogle and James Cracknell,Jo Band Simon Armitage host events – it’s difficult to pick out highlights for the week ahead.

Tomorrow is an interesting day if you are captivated by politics.

Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Vince Cable discusses the global financial crisis and Cherie Blair recalls life in Downing Street.

Former MP Martin Bell is speaking about the expenses row, Jeremy Paxman is explaining how the Victorians shaped modern society. John Humphrys is also in town although the Today programme’s inquisitor talks about restoring a cottage in Greece.

It is not all heavy going tomorrow.

Michael Palin is discussing his diaries, Judi Dench is talking about her long career and Andy Williams is discussing seven decades in show business.

There are sure to be some big laughs on Sunday when Harry Hill arrives in town to discuss the TV Burp book, and Richard Hammond reflects on his hair-raising stunts on Top Gear, while comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb provide their own brand of wit.

If you’re looking for culinary inspiration, visit on Monday.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will be giving tips on thrifty cooking while Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers will be serving up some of the River Cafe cuisine.

The stars of The Big Impression, Alistair McGowan and Ronni Ancona, are in town on Tuesday along with leading novelists Katie Fforde and Robert Harris.

History enthusiasts can hear Paddy Ashdown’s account of the Bosnian conflict on Wednesday.

And Andrew Marr will talk about the history of modern Britain.

On Thursday, adventurers Ranulph Fiennes and Charley Boorman are in town.

And Hilary Mantel, who picked up the Man Booker Prize For Fiction on Tuesday for her book Wolf Hall, joins Tracy Chevalier on Thursday. James Naughtie, declared Wolf Hall’s prose “thrilling”.

“Wolf Hall has a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail,” Naughtie said.

There’s also a chance to hear Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, talk about her new work.

Tickets are selling fast but Cheltenham Festivals staff have come up with a new way for visitors to keep an eye out for seats.

The festival’s Amy Hulyer said they would be tweeting on Twitter throughout the festival.

“We started it at the Science Festival this year just to see if it would be useful,” she explained.

“It got a good response so we’re hoping to make use of it for the Literature Festival now.

“We’ll be giving ticket updates and news throughout the festival, as well as little snippets about who we’ve seen doing what.”

If you use Twitter, the name to follow is Chelt Festivals.

Daniel Pountney




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