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Stratford Literary Festival will be playing host to a number of familiar and much-loved faces at this October’s event

BIG names talking about fascinating subjects bring a glow to the arts calendar in Stratford this autumn.

The Stratford Literary Festival has lined up another enthralling programme of events from 27th to 29th October at the Crowne Plaza Hotel with acclaimed actors and directors, award-winning writers and leading comedians, plus two of the UK’s most loved children’s writers.

Headliners include the broadcaster Clare Balding, newsreader and broadcaster Clive Myrie and the veteran actor Timothy West who will share his stellar stage and screen career and the moving story of his long marriage to Prunella Scales.

Clare Balding. Photo: Alex Lake
Clare Balding. Photo: Alex Lake

The Sky at Night presenter and astronomer Maggie Aderin-Pocock teaches about how to read the night sky, and bestselling historical writer Philippa Gregory will shine a light on women who have changed history.

The legendary opera, stage and film director Sir Richard Eyre will talk about his extraordinary career at the forefront of the arts in the UK, and historian and co-presenter of the leading podcast The Rest is History Tom Holland will talk about his latest book Pax: War and Peace in Rome’s Golden Age.

The Costa Award-winning author Jonathan Coe will chat with Guardian political sketch writer John Crace giving their unique take on the strange times we live in. Time columnist and Times Radio presenter Matt Chorley will consider the places in the country that have changed politics, and psychology professor Thomas Curran will challenge the modern need to be perfect.

Matt Lucas. Photo: Toby Madden
Matt Lucas. Photo: Toby Madden

There’s plenty to laugh about too with the return of last year’s big seller, horror writer Garth Marenghi, AKA comedian Matthew Holness. The acclaimed comedian Marcus Brigstocke will be adding Stratford to his Autumn Cheese and Whine tour, matching cheeses to your whinges and hosting a cheese tasting, and Little Britain comedian and Great British Bake-Off compere Matt Lucas will present his debut children’s book at a special event for schools.

Other events in the line-up include Orange Prize winning novelist Linda Grant; novelists Jo Baker and Jill Dawson, who will also tutor a workshop for writers; obituarist Ann Wroe who considers how one sums up a life; historian Anthony Bale on medieval travel, and Festival chair Tim Hubbard talking about his own Secret Gardens book on Cornwall with Victoria Summerley who tours Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds. People can also get stuck into two workshops and learn to make their own Christmas garland, and crochet their own Shakespeare character – a unique take on the 400th anniversary of the First Folio.

The autumn weekend will also include Halloween fun for children with the chance to make your own masks, have your face painted and hear spooky stories. The illustrator Petr Horáček will be joined by Nicola Davies with their new collaboration The Star Whale.

Michael Morpurgo.
Michael Morpurgo.

Outside of the main festival dates, two of the UK’s best loved children’s storytellers will be celebrating new work. On 20th October Sir Michael Morpurgo will bring his new Tales of Shakespeare - a retelling of some of the Bard’s most famous works for children – to Holy Trinity Church, and on 12th November the biggest selling children’s author in the UK, Julia Donaldson, brings her charming show The Gruffalo, The Giant and The Mermaid to the Stratford Playhouse.

The Whitbread and BAFTA award-winning novelist Jeanette Winterson will also be appearing in November talking about her new collection of short stories Night Side of the River.

“This autumn’s line up is really exciting and bigger than ever,” said festival director Annie Ashworth. “We’re managed to combine comedy with really searching discussion. I am so pleased we have attracted leading names in literature and public comment, broadcasting, film and theatre. Hopefully there will be something for everyone.”

Tickets start at £5 and go on general sale on 28th August from www.stratlitfest.co.uk.

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