10 literary festivals for your diary this spring and summer

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Catherine Eade seeks out 2017's best panel discussions, author Q&As and book-themed celebrations

Literary festivals seem to be going from strength to strength in the UK, with a growing number running throughout the year, from John O’ Groats to Land’s End (well almost).

Boundless rounds up the Top 10 Literary festivals of 2017… but check your local events calendar if none of these are within striking distance, you might be surprised to find one nearer than you think.


Various venues, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

27-30 April 

Joanna Trollope, Armando Ianucci and Ian Rankin are among the authors at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, which takes place in half a dozen or so venues, (such as the little theatre, above) in this charming Cotswolds market town.

The usual array of publishers, booksellers and literary agents will entertain, inform and celebrate the written word, with book swaps, reading corners, workshops and discussion forums.

We've been and we can say that the workshops for budding authors are particularly excellent and there's a bit of fun in the evenings with talks and quizzes in the local pubs too. Also plenty of workshops for children so you can bring your little ones along.


Brighton Festival

Brighton, various locations and venues
6-28 May

Not strictly a literary festival but the largest arts-based event of its kind in England, so well worth a mention.

Now in its fifth decade, the month-long extravaganza has become one of the major milestones in the cultural calendar, with an international mix of exclusive events, world and UK premieres, special one-off commissions and hours of entertainment for visitors and residents.

There's a book and debate thread in the programme, which this year is directed by current darling of the cultural world, wordsmith Kate Tempest (pictured). Tempest’s programme celebrates what she calls the ‘Everyday Epic’ – art that helps us connect to ourselves and others.



Bristol, Marriott Royal Hotel

18-21 May 

This annual convention has been running since 2008 and has become one of the biggest crime fiction events in Europe.

Drawing top crime novelists, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world, the festival for the criminally minded gives delegates the opportunity to celebrate the genre in a friendly, informal and inclusive atmosphere. Sounds like a true cloak and dagger affair...


Words in the Park Festival

Opera Holland Park, London 

May 18-20

Despite the plethora of book festivals springing up around the UK, here’s another one: a brand new event with PD James, Alain de Botton and Andrew Marr speaking alongside journalist, politicians and other creative types. Rub shoulders with a hip London crowd of wannabe writers as well as connecting with a wide range of authors. 


Hay Festival

May 25-June 4

Founded at a kitchen table in 1987, the first –and arguably most famous of modern literary festivals –- continues to attract some of the most exciting writers, comedians, film makers, politicians and musicians around, and has a children’s festival running alongside it.

This, the 30th festival is bound to keep up the quality, with the full line-up yet to be confirmed.


Bradford Literature Festival

Bradford locations in and around the city
June 30 - July 9

Founded in 2014, Bradford Literature Festival has in the past featured more than 200 events packed into iconic venues across 10 days. The aim of the festival is to help take literacy out of the classroom, by inspiring parents and children, through innovative festival and outreach programmes.

Although programme details have yet to be released the festival will celebrate the written and spoken word in all its forms, and promises world-renowned authors, poets, musicians and artists visiting to share their expertise and passions, watch this space.


Hebden Bridge Arts Festival

23 June – 2 July 
St George Street, Hebden Bridge

Music, art, spoken word, family friend performances: Hebden Bridge Arts Festival appears to have it all. The festival brings together locals and visitors to enjoy a feast of creativity in magical places around this buzzing West Yorkshire town (above). 

WIth literature a firm favourite among organisers and attendees, the variety of performance art, music and other creative pursuits makes this a festival which ticks many boxes.


Port Eliot Festival

28 July- 3 August
St Germans, Saltash Cornwall

“Celebrate words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration, fun and all that is good in the world.”

The legendary music and arts festival (top picture) with boutique camping and multiple stages offers an always eclectic mix of writers, poets, filmmakers and comics as well as bands and artistes.

This year award-winning novelists Ali Smith, A.L. Kennedy and Geoff Dyer feature in the programme, alongside a profusion of iconic musicians, led by Nick Lowe and Squeeze's Chris Difford.. 


Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh central
August 12-28 

Each summer Charlotte Square Gardens in the heart of Edinburgh is transformed into a tented village for this three-week celebration of the written word – the largest of its kind in the world.

Soak up the atmosphere, browse the bookshops, enjoy refreshments from the cafe or bar and choose from a programme of over 800 events.

Many events are free to attend, including daily readings, signings, workshops and children’s activities. Look out for the full programme in June.


Cheltenham Literary Festival

October 6-15

The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is a celebration of award-winning writers, world-renowned thinkers and international star names - with more than 450 events over the ten-day Festival. Cheltenham has hosted some of the biggest names in fiction, politics, television, art, food and sport.


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