Image: Martin Bond
Our city’s vibrant celebration of the written word returns with an eclectic programme – Nicola Foley finds out what’s in store…
This year’s Cambridge Literary Festival, according to founder Cathy Moore, will “reflect the extraordinary times we find ourselves living in”, grappling with some of the tensions of the day whilst also celebrating the “comforts, pleasures and creativity that shape the ever-changing human experience.”
To that end, the festival organisers have assembled a star-studded line-up of eminent writers, politicians, campaigners, historians and scientists, as well as an imagination-sparking array of children’s authors, poets and, of course, more literary sensations than you can shake a stick at.
First up, the new fiction contingent is looking as strong as ever, featuring appearances from heavyweights such as Sebastian Barry, Kit de Waal and festival patron Ali Smith, who’ll be selecting some of her favourite debut writers for a showcase on the 23rd. James Runcie, author of The Grantchester Mysteries, is sure to be another highlight – catch him captivating and beguiling with tales of his protagonist Sidney Chambers on 23 April.
The State of the Nation strand of the festival serves up a scintillating series of talks covering everything from Brexit and Trump to the perils of technology. In the New Statesman Debate, on the 22nd at the Union Chamber, the house will put forward the motion that – with the rise of populist politics, nationalism, fascism, financial crises and a split in the Labour Party – we are currently living through a new 1930s. The same day, welfare state champions Polly Toynbee and David Walker will discuss their joint book Dismembered, an eye-opening appraisal of the attack on the state, its funding and ideology, and the impact of this on all of us.
In Prejudice and Pride, a panel featuring cook and campaigner Jack Monroe, journalist Paul Flynn and writer Andrew Solomon will take a reflective and celebratory look at the highs and lows of the last 50 years in LGBT history. Brexit: What Next? meanwhile, sees a panel of experts consider what longer- term impact the process of leaving the EU might have – and whether there may in fact be good times ahead. Harriet Harman, who joined the House of Commons in 1992 and has remained a Labour MP since, will discuss her new book, A Woman’s Work, on 22 April.
Elsewhere, filed under Lifestyle, you can enjoy a delicious diversion with Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, who’s new book Home Cook is bursting with ideas on how to enjoy fantastic food every day of the week. The longest serving editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman pays us a visit on the 22nd, offering an inside look at the world’s most famous fashion magazine. A duo of entrepreneurial powerhouses, fragrance guru Jo Malone and Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, are in discussion on the 19th, when they’ll be comparing notes on their careers and offering motivation and wisdom to others.
There’s also world affairs, art, architecture and environmental talks to seek out, as well as a colourful line-up of kid-friendly events, including a celebration of the works of the inimitable Jaqueline Wilson; former children’s laureate and internationally bestselling author. For the full programme, visit the Cambridge Literary Festival website.