It’s time to meet the authors turning heads – and pages – at the spring 2022 Cambridge Literary Festival
Words by Alex Fice
Over the past two years, reading has been a reliable companion in uncertain times. Crucially, it has provided a means of liberation when the rest of the world was closed; what better way to escape the confines of our homes than through words on a page, which hold a magical ability to transport us to distant lands and connect us to others – even if just for a moment?
Cambridge Literary Festival offers a chance to celebrate the transcendental relationship we have with literature. Aimed at book-lovers and created ‘for the love of books’, the biannual festival consistently attracts a stellar line-up of acclaimed authors for a sensational series of thought-provoking talks, conversations and debates.
The spring programme sees a return to in-person gatherings, with over 40 events in iconic venues around the city, including the Cambridge Union, the Old Divinity School, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Arms Hotel. We caught up with festival director Cathy Moore to find out what we can expect.
“We have a standout literary offering from some of the world’s finest novelists, including Julian Barnes, Rose Tremain, Ali Smith and Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah,” she says. “We will be celebrating Earth Day 2022 with events that encourage us to invest in our planet. We have plans to mark the centenary of the BBC and will also focus on the crisis in Afghanistan. The hotly contested New Statesman Debate will consider the very current concern as to whether we get the leaders we deserve. In short, the programme offers a cornucopia of events with something for everybody.”
This year’s programme has been roughly divided into three areas: fiction, life and art, and the personal and the political. In the first category, don’t miss Abdulrazak Gurnah, as he presents his book Afterlives, shining a light on the devastating impact of German colonial rule in Tanzania. There’s also a talk by Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart, whose gripping love story Young Mungo offers a tender depiction of two men’s relationship forged against the backdrop of working-class Glasgow. Under the theme of life and art, festival attendees can look forward to a varied selection, covering topics from cooking and gardening to painting and science. Claudia Roden will share a mouth-watering overview of her new Mediterranean cookery book, and Joe Swift gets you in the mood for spring with his expert gardening guides. Meanwhile, Rebecca Birrell offers an immersive deep dive into the works of extraordinary female still-life artists, while James Poskett turns the history of modern science on its head with his anti-Eurocentric book Horizons: A Global History of Science. Household name and acclaimed children’s author Michael Morpurgo will also be dropping by for some family fun, in collaboration with sponsors Bidwells.
The third festival category, the personal and the political, will see conversations on some of today’s most prescient issues. Ashley Hickson-Lovence shares a captivating story about Uriah Rennie, the Premier League’s first and only black referee, and Roopa Farooki sheds light on the front line, with her moving Everything is True : A Junior Doctor’s Story of Life, Death and Grief in a Time of Pandemic. Foreign correspondent David Loyn provides a talk on The Long War: The Inside Story of America and Afghanistan since 9/11, whilst My Pen is the Wing of a Bird gives voice to Afghan women in a powerful collection of short stories exploring themes such as family, work, sexuality and gender identity.
All events will be recorded to ensure that this year’s in-person festival remains as accessible as the virtual presentations of the past two years. For more information and to book tickets for the event, visit cambridgeliteraryfestival.com.