THERE is nothing like a Dame they say, and the Stratford Literary Festival is this year preparing to welcome no less than four.
Actress Dame Harriet Walter, multi-million best selling author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, historical biographer Dame Antonia Fraser and web supremo Dame Wendy Hall, will all be at the festival running from April 25 to May 3.
The four women lead a programme that includes comedian Paul Merton, political spin doctor Alastair Campbell, actor Simon Russell Beale, best-selling novelists Alexander McCall Smith and Adele Parks, Waterstones Book of the Year winner Jessie Burton, and Sunday Times correspondent Christina Lamb.
With the General Election only a few days later, the Festival gets political with events including The Guardian’s John Crace, journalist Sam Delaney on political adverts and former Observer editor Will Hutton. Tory grandees Lord Waldergrave and Lord Hurd will talk about the lure of politics and there will also be a timely panel discussion about political satire including The Times’ Hugo Rifkind and The Thick of It writer Ian Martin.
Historian Tracy Borman will be giving her angle on the current passion for all things Tudor with her highly-acclaimed book on Thomas Cromwell, Charlotte Green will be looking back on her career in Radio 4 continuity and a panel including The Archer’s Jill Archer, will be discussing the impact of the Women’s Institute, which is celebrating its centenary this year. There will also be insights into comedy with Helen Lederer and the award-winning Francesca Martinez.
For the first time the Festival is also combining music and words with two events – Dame Harriet Walter will be reading The Waste Land with a musical accompaniment, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of TS Eliot, and acclaimed pianist Lucy Parham partners with RSC actor Simon Russell Beale performing and reading from Debussy’s work and diaries.
Those who love to sing can also join in with BBC1’s The Voice coach Juliet Russell to rehearse and perform in one day the winning lyrics in the Festival’s Song for Stratford Competition.
The Festival’s annual Big Issue Lecture will be delivered by Dame Wendy Hall, who will be exploring the future of the internet on communication and creativity.
For 2015, the Festival has partnered with The Guardian Masterclasses to offer writers a series of workshops tutored by leading names in fiction and non-fiction including Mavis Cheek, Dreda Say Mitchell and memoir writer, Sally Cline. Regarded as one of the leading UK Festivals for writers, the programme will also include free ‘New Voices’ events for debut writers to showcase their work.
Programme director, Annie Ashworth said: “We are really excited by this year’s line up, and it’s packed with great themes and events.
“We’re touching on subjects as diverse as surviving teenagers and research for crime writing, the power of poetry to heal and the life of Maynard Keynes! I’m especially thrilled that this year we are in residence at Stratford ArtsHouse which will have a Baillie Gifford Festival Hub Cafe, exhibitions and activities for pre-school children every morning.”
The Festival finishes with its annual Children’s Day on Sunday May 3 with a stellar line up of authors and illustrators, including Percy The Park Keeper creator Nick Butterworth, illustrator Chris Riddell, writing partners Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve as well as a puppet show written by Michael Rosen, and workshop activities including comic bookmaking and storytelling.
Visit www.stratlitfest.co.uk for full programme details.
Jacqueline Wilson. (s)
Antonia Fraser. (s)
Wendy Hall. (s)