Cambridge Literary Festival


The Cambridge Literary Festival is back for its spring event

Serving up an eclectic medley of headline names, Cambridge Literary Festival returns for its spring outing, 5-14 April. From history to hip hop, comedy to current affairs and poetry to politics, the line-up is as brilliantly vibrant and varied as ever as the event enters its 14th year. 

There’s an especially strong new fiction contingent this year, with modern giants Louise de Bernières, Tracy Chevalier and Irvine Welsh all making appearances. Welsh will be sharing his hot-off-the-press novel The Blade Artist, in which he reintroduces us to the terrifying Francis Begbie from his iconic debut novel Trainspotting.  

The festival will also yield a rare opportunity to see one of Ireland’s finest writers, Sebastian Barry. He’ll be discussing his 2005 book, A Long Long Way, recently re-issued to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, this deeply moving novel offers a tragic account of the First World War as told from the perspective of its young protagonist Willie Dunne.

"From history to hip hop, comedy to current affairs, poetry to politics"

Those with a penchant for poetry will be pleased to hear that local spoken word powerhouse Hollie McNish will be introducing her latest book Nobody Told Me – a collection of poems and stories based on the diaries she kept during the first few years of parenthood. Meanwhile Akala is a man who’s been enjoying a lot of press attention of late. Brother of Ms. Dynamite, and a BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist in his own right, he’ll be marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a unique fusion of rap and Bard-like storytelling, alongside his utterly compelling Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. Not to be missed. 

Perhaps you fancy a few laughs with your literature? In which case, Ben Miller, half of comedy duo Armstrong and Miller, is talking about his book, The Aliens are Coming! Having abandoned his PhD in physics to become a comedian, he’s still got a huge passion for science, and in this book, he guides readers on an engaging and entertaining search for alien life forms on earth. Peep Show star Isy Suttie will also give an insight into her search for The Actual One, whilst Shon Dale-Jones presents his quirky and hilarious show, The Duke, for some ideal Saturday night entertainment. Also promising to get the crowd giggling is larger than life comedienne Ruby Wax, who’ll be discussing her latest book A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled – a unique take on the science and practice of mindfulness. 

If world affairs and political debate are more your domain, be prepared to be positively spoiled with an array of excellent speakers. Author of The Snowden Files and Wikileaks, foreign correspondent Luke Harding pays a visit to discuss the shocking story of the poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, while Ben Judah and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown offer a thought-provoking insight into multiculturalism and immigration in Exotic Britain.

The Resurgence of the Left? promises to be another unmissable event. Featuring Ken Livingstone and Owen Jones, two of the left’s most challenging voices, this conversation will cover the general election, housing, class and more. Meanwhile award-winning journalist David Aaronovitch tells the fascinating story of his early years, spent growing up with communist parents, attending Socialist Sunday School and watching Russian movies on TV and studying old secret service files. 

If crime fiction’s more your bag, be sure to catch Lee Child, a titan of the genre, discuss his latest book Make Me – the 20th instalment in his hugely popular Jack Reacher series. Local crime writer Sophie Hannah will also be at the festival, joined by Christobel Kent, to discuss their respective latest novels and the enduring art and appeal of the psychological thriller. 

Children's Festival

Little bookworms are in for a treat too, with a busy line-up of kid-friendly events and activities. 

Andy Stanton is celebrating ten years of children’s favourite Mr Gum – an angry man who hates everyone and everything (especially corn on the cob), who has an equally angry fairy living in his bathtub… 

Comedian Julian Clary is joined by award-winning illustrator David Roberts to discuss their new book, The Bolds to the Rescue, the story of a family of hyenas living in an ordinary suburban street. 

Find out about the bestselling Dinosaur That Pooped A Show – a book created by McBusted’s Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter – in a show that incorporates impressions, drawing and games. 

There’s also The Wimpy Kid Show and Nick Arnold’s Horrible Science, a chance to step into the magical world of Beatrix Potter and an opportunity to help create a giant storybook in The Walker Books Big Draw, plus lots more – check the website for the full children’s line-up.

For the full programme, visit the Cambridge Literary Festival website