TALK at this year’s Stratford Literary Festival will include much on the town’s famous son.
The festival, running from April 24 to May 1, will feature over 100 events at venues around the town.
To mark the 2016 festival theme, For All Time – Ben Jonson’s elegy to Shakespeare – the festival will look at the legacy of Shakespeare, from a hip hop Sonnet Marathon to an historical exploration of Anne Hathaway’s garden, to a consideration of the bard with Michael Rosen.
Marking the Hogarth Press’s Project for which some of the world’s most acclaimed writers have reworked Shakespeare’s stories, the Booker Prize winning author Howard Jacobson will talk about the challenges of reworking The Merchant of Venice in his novel My Name is Sherlock, while the RSC’s Rhetoric Coach Benet Brandreth will chair a discussion on the global reach of Shakespeare and the themes of his plays with the academics and writers Edward Wilson Lees and Gabriel Josipovici.
Keen singers are encouraged to join composer and BBC’s The Voice coach Juliet Russell in her scratch choir who will learn, rehearse and perform in just five hours one of Shakespeare’s sonnets put to music by Juliet – following the success of last year’s performance-in-a-day.
The festival will be marking some other notable anniversaries.
Actor Martin Jarvis and his wife Rosalind Ayres will be reading from the works of Beatrix Potter, 150 years after her birth, while crime writers Sophie Hannah and Jill Dawson will have daggers drawn over who was the greatest crime queen, 40 years after the death of Agatha Christie.
Elsewhere talk at the festival will stretch from the countryside to the high street – including appearances by naturalist and Springwatch presenter Chris Packham and champion of the high street Mary Portas.
Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini will describe the traumas of being under suspicion in Operation Yewtree, Masterchef’s John Torode will have some tales to tell from the kitchen; while best-selling writer Julia Donaldson will be performing her favourite stories.
Veteran writer Hunter Davies will share memories of growing up in Cumbria, and journalist and broadcaster John McCarthy will be giving his view of events in the Middle East 25 years after his release as a hostage.
The BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera will be giving an insight into espionage in the internet age, and biographer Sir Anthony Seldon and Today editor Peter Snowdon will be assessing David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister
Looking back at history – Coast presenter Alice Roberts will be exploring the Celts, Simon Sebag Montefiore looks at the legacy of the Romanov Empire, and historian and TV presenter James Holland explains how a rag-tag bunch of British soldiers defeated Japan’s finest infantry in the Second World War, and scientist and writer Professor Steve Jones will describe how a generation of geniuses was wiped out by the French Revolution.
The fiction line-up includes Costa First Novel winner Andrew Hurley, Pulitzer prize-winner Rod Norland, former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis with her first novel, and a return of the free events series, New Voices, which gives a platform for new and self-published authors.
There will also be a series of masterclasses in fiction, poetry, self-publishing and writing for business throughout the week, tutored by writers including AL Kennedy and Kathryn Heyman, and, new for 2016, will be a Writer’s Bootcamp – an hour each morning of the festival week for writers to get help and advice, with a free event at the end of the week with an editor from a leading publisher.
There’s also comedy with Austentatious who improvise Jane Austen novels with ideas from the audience, and an evening with Henry Normal, the writer behind Gavin and Stacy and The Sketch Show.
To mark the 2016 festival theme, For All Time – Ben Jonson’s elegy to Shakespeare – the programme also takes a look at the legacy of Shakespeare, with a hip hop Sonnet Marathon, historical exploration of Anne Hathaway’s garden, and an exploration of the bard with Michael Rosen.
Festival director Annie Ashworth said: “This year’s festival is a real mix of new and old, with plenty to fascinate Shakespeare fans, but also a host of events around other topics from food to the economy, farming to psychology.
“Writers really enjoy coming to Stratford, which this year will be an even more special experience with the Birthday celebrations, and they appreciate the response from our Stratford audience. This is helping to make the festival one of the most important in the country.”
Visit stratlitfest.co.uk for ticket and full programme details.