The Ely Literary Festival invites an esteemed cast of writers, comedians and personalities to give talks on a whole spectrum of subjects this October and November.
After the success of his heart-wrenching and beautiful debut novel One Day, we’re keen to see what David Nicholls has in store for readers in his new offering, Us.
It’s been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and tells the story of Douglas Peterson, whose son departing for college triggers another announcement: his wife of 21 years will be leaving him too.
Desperate to keep their marriage together, Douglas suggests they take a family tour of Europe before making any hasty decisions. He’ll be discussing it at St Peter’s Church, Ely on 14 October, 7.30pm. Tickets £6 adv, £7 on the day from Toppings Bookshop.
Historian Dan Jones joins the fray on 15 October (7.30pm; £6/£7), also at St Peter’s Church. He’ll be talking about the Wars of the Roses, the tearing apart of the Plantagent dynasty and the rise of the Tudors; the subject of his new book, The Hollow Crown.
The 15th century was one of the bloodiest and turbulent England has ever known: the crown of England violently changed hands seven times as the great families of England fought to the death for power, majesty and the right to rule. With vivid descriptions of the battle of Towton, where 28,000 men died in a single morning, to Bosworth, where Richard III met his famous end, it’s a chance to hear the ‘real’ story behind Shakespeare’s history plays.
The brilliant Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, stops by St Mary’s Church on 24 October (7.30pm; £6/£7) to introduce her new book, The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennessy. The novel takes up the story of Queenie, the character Harold visits on his beautifully-described and moving journey which stole our hearts in 2012. This follow-up is a story of friendship, loneliness and gentle heroism.
Also visiting Ely this month is author and raconteur Alexander McCall Smith. Author of the colourful No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series and 44 Scotland Street, he’s inviting fans for lunch at Poets House on 28 October, 12.30pm. Tickets are £60 per head, to include a three-course lunch at this stylish and esteemed dining establishment and a chance to hear McCall Smith share stories from his life and career.
On 3 November is history writer Helen Castor, who brings to the fore the great women of history in her lively books. In her latest work, she turns her attention to original action woman Joan of Arc to give a living, breathing, roaring account of the girl who waged war against the English. Join her at St Peter’s Church, starts 7.30pm; £6 in advance.
On 5 November, politician and author Paddy Ashdown recounts a long- neglected story of the French Resistance during the Second World War in his latest book, The Cruel Victory. Starts 7.30pm, also at St Peter’s Church, £6 in advance.
On Armistice Day, 11 November, join War Horse writer Michael Morpurgo for what should be a moving and memorable commemoration of those who fought in the First World War at the Octagon, Ely Cathedral. He’ll be introducing his anthology, Only Remembered, which features poetry, prose, illustrations and personal accounts, chosen by the likes of Terry Pratchett, Emma Thompson and Joanna Lumley. 7.30pm start; £5/£10.
My Sister’s Keeper author Jodi Picoult is at the Hayward Theatre, King’s School, on 12 November to introduce her new novel, Leaving Time. Jenna Metcalf was with her mother the night she disappeared in tragic and mysterious circumstances, but she remembers nothing. Over ten years have passed and Jenna reads and rereads her mother’s journals, hoping to find clues, finally turning to a private detective and a psychic. Starts at 7.30pm; £6 in advance.
Semi-finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee Stuart Hillard will be sharing his passion for home sewing on 15 November at Ely library. Backing his mantra that sewing is for everyone, he’ll be providing tips for novice sewers and experts alike over coffee and cake. Doors open 10.30am for 11am start; £7 in advance.
See comedian Paul Merton at the Octagon, Ely Cathedral, on 17 November as he shares stories from his autobiography, Only When I Laugh. In it, he takes us on an evocative journey from his working-class roots in Fulham to the present day, via scrapes, japes and his repeated attempts to infiltrate the world of comedy. 7.30pm start; early bird tickets are £10.
Actress Sheila Hancock has been a familiar face on stage and screen for decades, and is now proving a force to be reckoned with in the world of British fiction. She’ll be talking about her book, Miss Carter’s War – about a bright, beautiful young woman in pursuit of a career after becoming one of the first women to attain a full degree at Cambridge University in 1948. Octagon, 19 November, 6.45pm for 7.30pm; £10 early bird ticket.
Treat your taste buds to an evening with Yotam Ottolenghi, author of the award- winning Jerusalem. His new offering, Plenty More, picks up where Plenty left off, providing 120 vegetable-based dishes. He’ll be giving a cookery demonstration at The Octagon, Ely Cathedral, 24 November. 7pm for 7.45pm start; £10 early bird tickets.
Peep Show star and former Cambridge Footlighter David Mitchell rounds off the month with a humorous look at modern life, from Ryanair to Downton Abbey, Poundland to phone etiquette and lots more, taken from his latest book, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse! 6.45pm for 7.30pm at the Octagon, Ely Cathedral; £10