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Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 1st March 2019

Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival is an absolute treat for book lovers of all types, and for me it is an event I just have to attend, in fact as soon as the tickets become available, I have booking frenzy! I have really fond memories of last year, such glorious weather and fascinating talks, and of course I waxed lyrical about the festival for our blog. This year the festival organisers have added an extra day, and it runs from Saturday 4 May through to Tuesday 7 May, the Saturday and Sunday are adult programmes, the bank holiday Monday is Family Day, while Tuesday is the Schools Day. LoveReading and LoveReading4Kids are thrilled to be sponsoring three events at the festival, including two Writing Workshops with author Sarah Salway on Sunday 5 May, the Debut Novelists’ Panel featuring Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), Harriet Tyce (Blood Orange), and Richard Lumsden (The Six Loves of Billy Binns) on Sunday 5 May, and an event with Guy Parker-Rees to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Giraffes Can’t Dance on Monday 6 May.

The festival organisers say: 'This is the Festival’s most ambitious programme yet, spilling over with riches and diversity, subjects this year include: true crime at the Old Bailey, powerful women’s poetry, new insight on Henry VIII, soldiers’ stories from World War II, terrorism in Africa, cutting edge forensic science, 12 months of applied self-help books, cookery from home and abroad, adventures in wine, 300 years of British Prime Ministers, revealing memoirs, thrilling new fiction, the origins and future of humanity, letters between mothers and sons, the inside track on Brexit and the current political turmoil, television personalities, and much, much more.

A lifestyle strand features some familiar faces from television; Giles and Mary from Gogglebox, wine expert Oz Clarke and the queen of Middle-Eastern cookery, Sabrina Ghayour. To mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day Giles Milton will shed new light on the day’s events through the tales of survivors from all sides and TV historian Tracy Borman will expose the secrets behind the Tudor throne; the men who surrounded, influenced and sometimes plagued Henry VIII.

Fiction writers include bestselling author Joanne Harris who will divulge the inspiration behind her compelling new Chocolat novel, The Strawberry Thief, published 20 years after the original bestseller. Novelist Emma Darwin will reveal her struggle with her Darwin-Wedgewood heritage and her identity as a writer in This Is Not A Book About Charles Darwin, and in a new feature the Debut Novelists’ Panel features Elizabeth Macneal, Harriet Tyce and Richard Lumsden; all fresh new voices discussing their road to publication.

BBC TV’s Horizon geneticist Dr Giles Yeo will join Vybarr Cregan-Reid to consider how our genes affect what we eat and what our future holds in this age of technology. Marianne Power will discuss her quest to find out if self-help books really can change her life with Jessica Pan who spent a year forcing her introvert self to become more extrovert – both with funny and moving consequences. At the age of 11, Tom Gregory became the youngest person ever to swim the Channel, he will tell his remarkable story of endurance, hardship and record-breaking triumph. Writer, journalist and widower of Margaret Forster, Hunter Davies now in his 80s, will explain how to live a long life and really enjoy it.

ITN’s Channel 5 news editor Andy Bell will be in conversation with the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer John Crace, author of I, Maybot about life after Brexit. The BBC’s Africa Editor Mary Harper will discuss her new book on Al Shabaab, one of the century's most successful violent jihadist movements with Edward Paice, Director of Africa Research Institute. Historian and political commentator, Sir Anthony Seldon will offer the inside track on the last 300 years of British Prime Ministers.

A fascinating insight into true crime is offered by forensic scientist Angela Gallop, talking to barrister Thomas Grant, about how she has solved many high-profile murders, and his history of the most sensational criminal dramas at the Old Bailey. Festival favourite Anna Pasternak returns with her new, surprising look at Wallis Simpson, drawing comparisons with divorced American Megan Markle. Local author David Lough and Donald Sturrock will be discussing the insights and intimacies contained in letters sent between two mothers and their famous sons; Winston Churchill and Roald Dahl.

Acclaimed Scottish Poet Laureate (Makar) Jackie Kay will talk to BBC Poetry Editor Emma Harding about her life and work, and Ana Sampson will discuss her new anthology of brave, bold and beautiful poems by women. Emma will also be hosting a new Poetry workshop for adults. Additional workshops include Creative Writing for Wellbeing and How To Get Published with author and poet Sarah Salway, and more Life Drawing classes from Eddie Armer. There’s a chance to take part in a Poetry Exchange podcast recording and a concert from local choir The Beech Green Singers

Children’s Programme: Celebrating 30 years of Wallace and Gromit, there’ll be modelling workshops for children with Aardman Animations and a chance to watch the iconic films. Family favourites, Pericles Theatre Company will present musical performances of the much loved The Little Mermaid in The Orangery. Children can learn how to make a film with Press Play Films. Guy Parker Rees will entertain little ones with his classic illustrated book Giraffes Can’t Dance, and older children can enjoy hearing A F Harrold and illustrator Emily Gravett talking about their new book The Afterwards.

Schools Day Programme: Once again, the Literary Festival offers a special programme for local schools and home-educated children. This year it features bestselling authors Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Dan Freedman, Maz Evans, award- winning poet Joseph Coelho and performances from festival favourites Really Big Pants Theatre Company.

Throughout the festival the bookshop will once again be manned by Sevenoaks Bookshop and there will be a host of delicious food and drink available from local suppliers over the Bank Holiday weekend, as well as the Castle’s own Tea Rooms. All tickets to the festival include free entry to the Castle and its collections.

For those who can’t wait until May, visit the Castle’s podcast page to listen again to some of the highlights from last year’s author talks.

Festival Organiser Victoria Henderson said ‘We are thrilled with the line-up for this year’s festival; it offers such a wide variety of subjects and speakers, giving our visitors this wonderful opportunity to hear from so many high calibre authors, to take part and really immerse themselves in the joys of the spoken and written word. All are welcome, and as ever we aim to offer something for everyone.’

Tickets are available online from 1st March 2019:

Ticket prices:

Individual adult events £13.50,

Children’s events £6.00.

Day tickets will be available on Saturday and Sunday,

Workshop tickets vary in price, see booking page for details. 

Keep up to date with the Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival:

Facebook: @chiddingstonecastleliteraryfestival

Twitter: @chiddlitfest


Comments (3)

Dominika O - 29th March 2019

I'm looking forward to attending the festival with my family

Yolanda D - 24th March 2019

I'd love to hear TV historian Tracy Borman who will expose the secrets behind the Tudor throne; the men who surrounded, influenced and sometimes plagued Henry VIII.

Marion G - 21st March 2019

Very much looking forward to hearing Hunter Davies speak.

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