This image: The cast of Austentatious
A new festival, from the team behind Cambridge Literary Festival
Whether it’s Vikings or The Last Kingdom, historical fiction has never been so popular. Non-fiction looking back at the past is always high in the bestseller lists, too, not to mention the period dramas on our small screens, often adapted from the classic novels of Austen and co.
This perhaps makes it inevitable that while walking through the beautiful Wimpole Hall estate one summer evening, Cathy Moore, director of Cambridge Literary Festival, had an idea. What better setting to stage a celebration of history than the backdrop of a country mansion, rolling parkland and a library of more than 10,000 books? Two years later and the result is Wimpole History Festival, all set for three days in July.
Featuring Andrew Marr, Lucy Worsley and Stephen Poliakoff among many more, history is guaranteed to come to life.
“Hosting a history festival right now makes wonderful sense,” says Cathy. “In volatile times, there is comfort to be drawn from an understanding of history which allows us better to understand the world we live in. Added to our two literary festivals each year, it makes a great trio and a year-round offer.”
Historian and founding patron David Reynolds added: “It’s been great fun to help prepare this feast of history for all the family in such beautiful surroundings.”
The festival is run in a unique partnership between the Literary Festival team and the National Trust.
Former National Trust director general Fiona Reynolds explains that people are enthralled and challenged by history, saying, “there couldn’t be a better time or place to explore its meaning and relevance to us all today.”
The programme includes the show Austentatious, which riffs on audience suggestions to create brand new Jane Austen novels (previous examples include Jurassic Mansfield Park and Sixth Sense & Sensibility), while Andrew Marr reflects on what Brexit means for Britishness.
The vast programme also includes children’s author Francesca Simon, sword school and, of course, Game of Thrones.
The festival runs from 7 to 9 July.