The last word in festivals

Vaccine-creators, multi-million-selling novelists, political leaders, Children’s Laureates and stars of stage, screen and social media will be among the speakers at this year’s Henley Literary Festival.

The festival returns between 2 to 10 this October in-person and online with around 150 events for adults and children.

Star guests include Joanna Lumley, Michael Morpurgo, Tom Allen, Candice Brathwaite, Jeffrey Archer, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, food writer Grace Dent, Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, Elizabeth Day, Twitter poet laureate Brian Bilston, Nikesh Shukla and cricketer Michael Holding.

In a unique event this October, two of the leading scientists behind the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, Dame Sarah Gilbert and Dr Catherine Green, will share the inside story of this era-defining achievement.

Health, both physical and mental, will also be covered by doctors Rachel Clarke, Alex George, Lucy Pollock and Emma Hepburn.

Speakers from the entertainment world attending include Gavin and Stacey co-creator and star Ruth Jones, Peep Show’s Robert Webb, singer Tracey Thorn, pop star Sophie Ellis Bextor, radio presenter Simon Mayo, Oscar-winner Hayley Mills, Hamilton star Giles Terera and comedians Tom Allen, Jack Dee, Ruby Wax, Rob Beckett, Mel Giedroyc and festival favourite Gyles Brandreth.

There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss current affairs and politics with Ed Miliband, Lord Michael Heseltine and Sebastian Payne, William Waldegrave, Sir Vince Cable, Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell and Ed Balls appearing on the line-up alongside broadcasters Jon Sopel, Tom Bradby, James O’Brien and John Simpson.

After John Grisham’s appearance last year the title of bestselling ever author at the festival is taken by Jeffrey Archer, with an estimated 300 million book sales.

Other novelists featured include Alexander McCall Smith, Cecelia Ahern, Nikesh Shukla, Women’s Prize nominee Brit Bennett, Sebastian Faulks, Rodham writer Curtis Sittenfeld, Kate Mosse and debut authors Naomi Ishiguro, Neema Shah and Salena Godden.

Speakers with local connections include Dame Stephanie Shirley, BBC weather presenter Carol Kirkwood, Death in Paradise creator Robert Thorogood, Royal expert Ingrid Seward, scientist Richard Fortey, Instagrammer Laura Brand, actor Simon Williams, author-illustrator duo Sarah Bell and Nicola Sutherland, and novelists Susanna Beard, James Scudamore, Rachel Edwards and Jenny Quintana. History will be covered by Max Hastings, Jeremy Paxman, Lucinda Hawksley and others. 

In a unique post-festival pop-up event, actress, comedian and presenter Joanna Lumley comes to Henley on 28 October to talk about her new book A Queen for All Seasons in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.

Events for younger readers include the nation’s PE teacher Joe Wicks, the much-loved former Children’s Laureates Sir Michael Morpurgo, with a special event surrounding Carnival of the Animals, and Chris Riddell, who also designed this year’s programme front cover, as well as Rob Biddulph, who kept audiences entertained during lockdown with his #DrawWithRob illustrations and returns to Henley after achieving a Guinness World Record.

And all the family are welcome at events with broadcaster Clare Balding with her first non-fiction children’s book Fall Off, Get Back On, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Be at the Top of Your Game and Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence, offering inspiring words for young people as he discusses Silence is Not An Option: You Can Impact the World for Change.

The festival features more than130 events for adults and children, around 50 of which will be streamed online. Tickets are on sale now at:

TV comedian and travel writer Dom Joly

Kings Arms Barn, Kings Road

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