The Best Literary Festivals of 2021
Calling all lit-lovers; you might have missed your favourite literary festivals in 2020 (amongst other things…), but they’re hoping to be back with a bang for 2021. Here’s what not to miss.
Please note: dates and events are subject to change. Check with official festival websites before booking.
Best Literary Festivals of 2021
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival
When? 22 – 25 July 2021
What? Now in its 17th year, this award-winning festival celebrates crime fiction at its best. Curated by chair Ian Rankin, the 2021 line-up features Richard Osman with the second instalment of The Thursday Murder Club series, espionage expert Mick Herron and Shetland author Ann Cleeves, among many other top names. harrogateinternationalfestivals.com
When? 14 – 31 July 2021
Where? West Sussex
What? Following a virtual edition in July of last year, 2021’s Petworth Festival will be business as usual (subject to government guidelines of course). You can always guarantee a star-studded line-up of guests at this illustrious literary extravaganza – last year’s included Nicholas Coleridge, Michael Morpurgo and Joanna Trollope on the literary side, plus music from Sheku & Isata Kanneh-Masona and Patti Boulaye. petworthfestival.org.uk
When? 27 May – 6 June 2021
What? Hay Festival is urging bibliophiles to ‘save the dates’ for this year’s event at Hay-on-Wye. Whilst the prominent festival was forced to go virtual last year, the line-up certainly didn’t disappoint; a number of high-profile literary stars, actors and thinkers, from Stephen Fry to Helena Bonham Carter, all made appearances, so expect big things for 2021. Find out more about Hay Festival here. hayfestival.com
Cheltenham Literature Festival
When? 8 – 17 October 2021
Where? Select venues across Cheltenham
What? The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is the UK’s oldest literary festival. Each year’s fantastic line-up welcomes some of the best and brightest of the literary and entertainment spheres for an exciting programme of over 500 workshops, interviews and debates. Last year saw the festival take an alternative hybrid approach, with a combination of live streams and in-person events featuring Caitlin Moran, Kid Normal’s Chris Smith and Greg James, Pandora Sykes, and many more. We can’t wait to see what they pull out of the bag for this year.
Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival
What? Previous speakers have included a host of literary icons, such as Louise Minchin, Sir Tim Waterstone, and Tom Bradby. In 2019, former Prime Minister David Cameron appeared for an exclusive conversation with James Langlade, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, discussing his controversial memoir For the Record.
Cliveden Literary Festival
When? 23 – 24 October 2021
Where? Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire
What? Situated amongst the spectacular surroundings of British country estate, Cliveden House – renowned for its literary salons since 1666, favoured by the likes of Alexander Pope and Sir Winston Churchill – this historic literary festival is not one to be missed. Keep an eye out for the highly anticipated lineup – previous year’s have included Emily Maitlis, Elif Shafak, Alain de Botton, and Leila Slimani to name but a few.
Essex Book Festival
When? 6 June – 29 August 2021
Where? Online and in venues across the county of Essex
What? Essex Book Festival organisers have given the go-ahead for this year’s event, which is set to take place between June and August. A statement on the festival website has declared that a number of events will continue to take place online, but that it is hoped in-person events can also take place, including a compelling programme of author/artist walks across the county in partnership with three Essex Book Camps. Expect enthralling outdoor talks, workshops, performances and more.
Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival
When? 13 – 14 March 2021 / 15 – 19 September 2021
Where? Devon and the South West
What? If you can’t wait until September for this year’s Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can join the event’s Online Spring Weekend next month, with guest appearances from the likes of journalist Tim Marshall, President of the Royal Society of Literature, Marina Warner, author and illustrator Sophy Henn.
North Cornwall Book Festival
When? 23 – 26 September 2021
Where? St Endellion Church, Port Isaac
What? North Cornwall Book Festival offers something slightly different. As an independent, locally-run literary festival, this largely unknown event may not pull some of the bigger names you’ve seen at the country’s larger literary celebrations, however, for what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in passion and authenticity. With an abundance of workshops, readings and performances on offer across the weekend, this is certainly not one to miss.
London Literature Festival
When? 21 – 31 October 2021
Where? South Bank Centre
What? There’s always a heavy-weight line-up of the biggest authors and speakers at the capital’s most talked-about literary festival of the year. Previous speakers have included the likes of Hilary Clinton, Philip Pullman and Tom Hanks take to the stage for individually-ticketed events. Stay tuned for what is sure to be an equally sensational 2021 line-up.
Henley Literary Festival
When? 2 – 10 October 2021
Where? A series of fantastic venues including Phyllis Court and The Hibernia at Hobbs Boat Yard.
What? Henley Literary Festival returns this autumn with what is sure to be an impressive line-up of speakers, workshops performances and Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors. Previous guests have included Mary Berry, Nadiya Hussain, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Julian Clary to name a few.
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