Star lineup revealed for Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival from Lee Child to Simon Mayo

Once dubbed the nation’s most bookish town, genteel Harrogate has for some years been forging a rather more illustrious reputation as an escape for literary intrigue.

Now, as an eminent line up is revealed for the ninth Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, it seems the spa town is holding its own against the greats once again.

Drawing some of the best known writers from historical fiction to the fables of modern politics, its prestige, it seems, is now firmly fixed among the nation’s literary elite.

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And as it moves to a digital festival for the first time since its formation, its cultural reach in enhancing the arts may prove a draw to a wider audience.

Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival chief executive Sharon Canavar launches this years virtual event with Rachel Tunnicliffe from sponsors Raworths Solicitors which will take place next month. Picture Tony Johnson

“It’s not a big city, but people choose Harrogate,” said Sharon Canavar, chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals (HIF) which founded the event.

“That’s partly because of the welcome.”

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Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival chief executive Sharon Canavar launches this years virtual event which will take place next month. Picture Tony Johnson

This mystery soon unravelled as it emerged she had been living the high life in one of the spa town’s hotels, but it was to set the scene for coming intrigue.

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is now the world’s biggest, with JK Rowling once making an exceedingly rare appearance under pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Last year’s literature festival also hit the headlines, as former Prime Minister David Cameron debuted his controversial memoirs.

The upcoming digital Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, over a long weekend from October 23, is free to access with a mission to deliver the arts.

David Lammy MP. Harrogate International Festivals

Headliners revealed

Among the headliners this year are historical fiction royalty Bernard Cornwall and Ken Follett, crime thriller writer Lee Child, best-selling authors Victoria Hislop and Natalie Haynes.

Activist Elif Sharak is due to appear, as well as non-fiction writer Hugo Vickers, while former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman and New York Times bestseller Ariana Neumann will discuss their memoirs. There is a duo of interviews with British Labour Party politicians Jess Phillips and David Lammy MP, bringing time for reflection.

Broadcasters turned authors include Jeremy Vine, Simon Mayo, Loyd Grossman and Rory Bremner, while the matriarch of Britain’s most musical family Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason is to share her experience.

Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival chief executive Sharon Canavar launches this years virtual event which will take place next month. Picture Tony Johnson

Until a few short weeks ago there had been hope for some in-person events, Ms Canavar said, but it wasn’t to be.

What is crucial, she added, is that communities have access to culture which can so enrich the soul, as it “bottles a taste” of its usual offering to bring audiences together while supporting authors, creators and suppliers in a celebration of literature.

Digital festival

“Reinvention has come out of necessity to ensure survival of our arts charity and to continue in our mission to bring the very best of our events to audiences,” she said.

“We haven’t gone dark. We are a charity, with a reputation to ensure there is some light in the arts.”

Alongside the digital festival there will be ways to participate, Ms Canavar said, with ‘blind date books’ wrapped in brown paper, and stories to tell in 10 words.

Acclaimed author Bernard Cornwall. HIF

“We’ve got a huge literary history here, that has become a legacy to carry,” said Ms Canavar. “We have never needed stories that explore what it means to be human, more than we do now.”

Zoe Robinson, managing partner of Raworths which is sponsor to the festival, said: “The content and delivery may have gone digital, but the inspiration that literature brings will continue to shine through.”

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