STRATFORD Literary Festival will have a tale or two to tell as it marks its tenth anniversary.
The festival, running from April 23 to 30, will be returning to its beginnings in 2008 with the theme of ‘Sharing Stories’.
“That is what a Literary Festival should be all about,’ said founding director Annie Ashworth. “Whether we are giving a platform to a novelist, a biographer, a poet or a memoir, it is all about telling and sharing our stories.”
The tenth anniversary will be celebrated with the largest and most diverse programme yet with events ranging from the Romantic poets to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, wartime spies to The Great British Bake Off.
Headline speakers include queen of cookery Mary Berry, journalist and writer Andrew Marr, historians and former politicians Paddy Ashdown and Roy Hattersley, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, former head of the British Army Richard Dannatt, Beirut hostage Terry Waite and Waterstones Book of The Year author Sarah Perry.
The Festival will look at the impact and reaction to globalisation with leading economist Bill Emmott and share the career of cultural curator Roy Strong.
In a strand looking at the link between writing and mental health, food writers William Sitwell, Waitrose magazine editor, and Bee Wilson will ask why food can be so embracing and so divisive, and Guardian columnist Alys Fowler and Observer Food Magazine editor Allan Jenkins will consider why gardening can have such a positive impact on mental health.
Poetry too plays a leading role in this year’s programme with acclaimed poet Simon Armitage reading from his latest collection, The Unaccompanied, and the Emergency Poet Deborah Alma leading a workshop on the importance of writing for well being.
To celebrate the centenary of the death on the Western Front of the landscape poet Edward Thomas, the talented Oxford Bach Soloists will perform a brand new arrangement of some of his work by the acclaimed writer Robert McFarlane and composer Colin Riley.
Music meets words again with the return of pianist Lucy Parham, presenting her latest ‘Composer Portraits’ with actor Henry Goodman to celebrate the exiled composer Rachmaninoff.
Simon Ings analyses Stalin’s ambition to create a “scientific state”, and historian Giles Milton explores what Churchill was up to on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
In another first, the festival will host the launch of Tracy Chevalier’s reworking of Othello ‘New Boy’ – the latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project and programmed in association with the RSC. It will also host the first Accessible Book Group, organised by Heart of England Mencap, designed for people with learning disabilities.
The anniversary festival will also build on its acclaimed workshop offering with masterclasses in historic fiction, self editing, how to write to be published and hands-on practical workshops in paper cutting and calligraphy.
And it will also welcome leading names in the publishing industry, including Society of Authors Chair Nicola Solomon to advise writers on publishing success, and will host an event showcasing some of the most exciting debut fiction.
There will be plenty of laughs as well with Radio 4 star Natalie Haynes sharing her take on the Classics, and thepopular Austentatious improv troupe returns to mark irreverently the Jane Austen bicentenary. Keen singers can once again join a scratch choir and sing a composition written specially for the Festival’s anniversary by ITV’s The Voice coach Juliet Russell.
To kick it all off, keen quizzers are invited to pit their wits at the Lit Fest’s annual General Knowledge Quiz night held this year on April 5, with tickets including supper.
An extensive programme of events for children includes the former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, and many award-winning authors and illustrators including Nick Butterworth and Sarah McIntyre, CBeebies Jess French and philosopher Peter Worley, as well as two major projects to encourage children to read and to create bedtime stories with their parents.
Children’s Day will round off the Festival with the Horrible Histories Barmey Britain Show hot foot from a run in the West End, a show for younger children with Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, Playbox Theatre’s latest performance, plus events and workshops with Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown, Philip Reeve, Rob Biddulph, Steven Lenton, Jonny Duddle, Anna Wright and Judy Reaves, bringing to life everything from Pirates to funfairs with something for everyone from three to 13.
Visit www.stratlitfest.co.uk for full programme details.