Big literary line-up for Ilkley

Nadiya Hussain will be launching her latest book Bake Me a Celebration Story at a special event.
Nadiya Hussain will be launching her latest book Bake Me a Celebration Story at a special event.
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Ilkley Literature Festival has just announced its full programme for this year’s event. Yvette Huddleston takes a look at some of the highlights.

One of the UK’s most prestigious and long-established literary events, Ilkley Literature Festival returns this autumn for a packed programme of talks, readings, discussions, workshops, fringe performances and much more.

With 240 events across 15 venues over the course of 17 days, it promises to be another enticing mix of big name literary stars, politicians, poets, journalists, academics and experts on a wide range of subjects.

Festival favourites returning include Alan Bennett who will be reading from his work and talking about his life and writing, poet Simon Armitage who is presenting a special candlelit reading of his acclaimed modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and broadcaster and longtime host of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Jenni Murray will be celebrating great women from around the world – and sharing with the audience anecdotes about some of her most challenging interviewees.

Strands which will be running through the festival include the celebration of two important bicentenaries this year – the birth of Emily Bronte and the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s seminal novel Frankenstein. Events coming under these banners include an exploration of the links between the science of Frankenstein and climate change, and a lecture on the life and work of the intriguing author of Wuthering Heights.

“Another of the important strands is the marking of 70 years since the arrival of the HMS Empire Windrush,” says festival director Rachel Feldberg. “We will be looking at the impact that Windrush has had on British culture and on the literary canon.”

This year the festival has once again been able to support four micro-commissions which between them combine poetry, photography, cello and flamenco guitar. “It is brilliant to be able to give people the opportunity to experiment,” says Feldberg. “All of the micro-commissions have been so interesting and they are addressing some of the issues in our rapidly changing world situation.” One of the quirkier events is a collaboration with the #Found Fiction project. “We have a special version for Ilkley,” says Feldberg. “There will be envelopes left in festival venues and public spaces for people to find which will contain short stories by writers from around the world. We are also running a competition where anyone can submit a 500 word short story, the winners will become part of the project and we will have a found fiction desk where people are invited to add a line to a composite story.”

BBC presenter and Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain is one of a number of cookery writers, also including Jack Monroe and Ruby Tandoh, who will be coming to the festival. Hussain will be launching her latest family cook book Bake Me a Celebration Story in a special event outside the main festival on September 20.

Ilkley Literature Festival, September 28-October 14. Festival Friends priority booking from August 20, general booking August 28. Full details and to book visit ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk