Ilkley Literature Festival 2023: Helen Skelton, Clare Balding, Ray Mears, Polly Toynbee, Jacqueline Wilson and Anton du Beke among speakers for 50th anniversary event

The Ilkley Literature Festival has confirmed a line-up of star names for its 50th anniversary.

The programme now released includes household figures such as Clare Balding, Ray Mears, Jacqueline Wilson and Helen Skelton.

The festival, founded in 1973 and spanning the month of October, includes talks, events and workshops at a number of venues in the Yorkshire spa town.

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Its founder, Michael Dawson, who passed away last year, always intended for Ilkley to attract ‘big guns’ of the literary world and compete with southern book festivals such as Cheltenham.

Ilkley has hosted a literature festival since 1973Ilkley has hosted a literature festival since 1973
Ilkley has hosted a literature festival since 1973

J B Priestley, the Bradfordian writer, was an early supporter, poet W H Auden opened the first festival, and Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, Alan Bennett, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Margaret Drabble, Fay Weldon, Harold Pinter, Bernardine Evaristo and A.S. Byatt have all taken part.

TV explorer and survivalist Ray Mears, whose series have appeared on both BBC and ITV, will talk about The British Woodland on October 6, and the opening weekend also features children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, TV presenter Melanie Sykes and poet Simon Armitage.

Guardian food writer Grace Dent discusses her book Comfort Eating on October 12, while broadcaster Gyles Brandreth talks about his writing on the death of Queen Elizabeth II on October 14.

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Journalist Polly Toynbee’s appearance on October 14 will deal with the topics of social class and privilege, and former BBC Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler is booked to appear on the same day. Other journalists on the programme include Gary Younge on October 13.

One of the most recognisable names on the bill this year is BBC presenter Clare Balding, whose talk on October 15 covers the British love of dogs. BBC historian Tom Holland appears on the same day to discuss his latest work on ancient Rome, as does Strictly Come Dancing star Anton du Beke.

The philosopher A C Grayling is booked for October 19, and on the 21st there are events featuring radio presenter Stuart Maconie and chef Sabrina Ghayour.

Helen Skelton, the popular Countryfile presenter, appears on October 22.

Tickets are available for purchase online from August 29.