Marlborough LitFest returns for its 14th year in 2023 from 28 September – 1 October with over 40 events covering a range of genres, for all ages. An exciting mix of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s authors and free schools events, workshops and LitFest’s annual Big Town Read will take place in the historic market town over the festival weekend. This year’s line-up includes 2023 LitFest Golding Speaker Sebastian Barry, Natalie Haynes, Robert Harris, Amanda Craig, Matthew Rice, Tracy Borman, Kate Summerscale, Daniel Finkelstein, Mike Brearley, Daljit Nagra and Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Priority booking for Friends of LitFest opens on 3 July; general booking opens on 13 July. Festival brochures will be available at The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough or to view online; for more information, visit www.marlboroughlitfest.org
LitFest aims to encourage and inspire a love of books and reading across all genres, providing talks, events and community outreach with established authors and debut writers for its audience across the age range. With topics including history, classics, cricket, sketching, Shakespeare, walking, crime and dance music, this year’s LitFest programme has something for everyone.
Fiction highlights include festival headliner Sebastian Barry as the 2023 LitFest Golding Speaker – the acclaimed Irish novelist will be talking about his latest book, Old God’s Time; Charlotte Mendelson’s latest novel, The Exhibitionist, was longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction; fans of Killing Eve can indulge themselves in Luke Jennings’ new thriller #Panic (Jennings wrote the trilogy on which the TV adaptation was based); best known for her many non-fiction titles, Christina Hardyment will be talking about her first novel, The Serpent of Division – her account of Alyce, granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer in 15th-century England; debut novelist Alice Slater has set her quirky crime thriller Death of a Bookseller in a bookshop – after years working for Waterstones; Amanda Craig’s latest (tenth) novel, The Three Graces, broaches weighty issues, from racism to social media.
LitFest is passionate about celebrating new writing talent as well as established authors within its festival programme. The annual Hiscox Debut Authors event this year features Jacqueline Crooks and Ashleigh Nugent in conversation about their debut novels, Fire Rush and Locks, respectively. Crooks’ novel was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023 and is set in 1970s Southall’s Caribbean community. It has been praised for its lyricism as well as being a page-turner of love, loss and black womanhood. Artist and playwright Nugent has been compared to elements of Virginia Woolf in his writing style; Locks is a coming-of-age comedy of errors novel about growing up, wising up and finding your place in a world of opposites.
This year’s Big Town Read is Act of Oblivion by bestselling novelist Robert Harris, recounting a 17th-century manhunt for the killers of Charles I. LitFest encourages the local community (local book groups and individuals) to all read the same book ahead of a Q&A session with the author during the festival.
Poetry lovers can join Daljit Nagra as he takes over the Memorial Hall in Marlborough College to read from his new collection Indiom, reflecting his focus on culture, identity, history and Britishness. Nagra’s poem, ‘We’re Lighting Up the Nation’ was commissioned for the Coronation Concert and was read by actor James Nesbitt. Shakespeare lovers will enjoy language expert David Crystal who returns to Marlborough to talk with his son Ben about the Bard’s timeless language.
Non-fiction highlights include celebrated illustrator Matthew Rice talking about his book, Rome: A Sketchbook; Cambridge classicist, comedian and broadcaster Natalie Haynes giving a fascinating account of the Greek goddesses in her new book Divine Might to be published on 28 September; Tracy Borman throwing light on one of the famous mother-daughter relationships in history in Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I; Tomiwa Owolade discussing why black lives in Britain matter in This is not America; ex-cricketing legend Mike Brearley’s part-memoir, part-biography, Turning Over the Pebbles; comedian Andy Hamilton and two fellow football enthusiasts introducing Football Shorts; Daniel Finkelstein’s extraordinary memoir of persecution and survival in Hitler, Stalin, Mum & Dad; and an A-Z list of 99 obsessions uncovered by Kate Summerscale in The Book of Phobias.
Annual LitFest favourites also return for 2023: the Collectable Books Roadshow, where a local expert values books brought in by the public; the ever-popular Translation Duel (this year two Spanish translators battle it out on International Translation Day over the same short story by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, chaired by renowned translator Danny Hahn); join local writer and poet Alex Hickman for the festival’s open mic poetry event (complete with a pint) at Poetry in the Pub; learn the art of creating beautiful bindings in a bookbinding workshop (suitable for all skill levels). New this year – novice and experienced writers can immerse themselves in a creative writing workshop with award-winning Wiltshire playwright and novelist Barney Norris.
With storytelling slots, free author talks to local schoolchildren as well as a bumper crop of children’s authors on offer, LitFest’s children’s programme features a variety of events for all ages. Families can follow Once Upon a Trail around Marlborough to spot hidden stories in shop windows from 18 September to 1 October and over the LitFest weekend storytellers will pop up around town to entertain younger children. Award-winning children’s poet James Carter will give an action-packed poetry and music performance workshop while author and illustrator Mini Grey will provide a whistlestop tour of the story of life on earth in her new book The Greatest Show on Earth. Master storyteller, author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce will wave his literary wand for both children and adults alike in his talk about his latest children’s adventure, The Wonder Boys. This year’s Sixth Form Debate from St John’s Academy will feature an exploration of the ways writers present the realities and challenges of love in literature, with a focus on The Great Gatsby. LitFest is delighted to once again offer a number of free author talks for local schools during the festival, this year featuring children’s authors Nizrana Farook and Christopher Edge.
Genevieve Clarke, Chair of the Marlborough LitFest, said: “We’ve got a wonderfully full and varied programme. The aim has been to give our loyal audience plenty of treats but also to attract people who haven’t tried the festival before. Please join us for what promises to be a lively weekend.”
LitFest would like to thank its sponsors, partners and supporters for 2023: new lead festival sponsor Fermoie, main event sponsor Hiscox, founder sponsor Robert Hiscox and event sponsors AG Builders, AM, Bayntun Flowers, Deacons, McFarlane
Property, Savernake Dental, Savills, St Francis School, Wansbroughs, William Golding Ltd, Marlborough College and Hamilton Trust; our patron Sir Simon Russell Beale; our partners The White Horse Bookshop, marlborough.news, Wiltshire Libraries and Wiltshire Life; and our supporters Katharine House Gallery and Haine & Smith Opticians.