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Literary delights, laughs and topical debate promised at Stratford Literary Festival which starts 8th May



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The Stratford Literary Spring Festival kicks off next Saturday (8th May) with another cracking line up. It runs until 22nd May and features pre-recorded events, live and interactive online streaming and in-person workshops.

Major headliners will feature across the festival, including the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Maggie O’Farrell, discussing her latest novel Hamnet and the central role Stratford plays in the story. Women’s Prize founder Kate Mosse will be discussing her latest novel The City of Tears.

From television, Jay Blades, presenter of BBC’s hugely popular The Repair Shop, discusses his inspirational memoir Making It; Nick Crane, presenter of Coast and Great British Journeys, recounts the extraordinary 18th century expedition to discover the shape of the world; and the Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton shares the challenges and hilarity of working with animals, as revealed in his new book All Creatures.

Elsewhere, Poet Laureate Simon Armitage will be reading from his latest collection.

On the lighter side, the programme includes several comedians. Writer and former Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc introduces her deliciously warm and funny first novel The Best Things, and David Baddiel talks to Edward Stourton about the failures of identity politics outlined in his new book Jews Don’t Count.

One half of the Peep Show comedy duo, Robert Webb, discusses his fiction debut Come Again, which follows the huge success of his memoir How Not to Be a Boy.

The festival will explore a variety of current issues this year, with several extremely topical events.

Penguin will be showcasing its new Black Britain: Writing Back series and celebrating three authors – Jacqueline Roy, Judith Bryan and Nicola Williams – whose novels have been overlooked until now.

MP Jess Phillips will be discussing domestic violence with Jane Monckton Smith, while journalists Mary Ann Sieghart and Annabelle Williams ask why women are still struggling for equality in the workplace.

On the other side of the gender debate, Martin Robinson and Johnny Benjamin will consider the crisis in men’s mental health and why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.

During lockdown many of us have turned to gardening and pets and gardens for comfort and legendary and multi award-winning garden designer, Arabella Lennox Boyd, will reflect on the gardens she’s admired most over her career, while the dogfather himself, Graeme Hall, will be answering questions on how to train your pooch. And, although many of us have been forced to stay local this year, the festival thinks global with BBC US Reporter, Nick Bryant trying to make sense of the divisions carving up the US, and former Sky News Diplomatic Editor, Tim Marshall, exploring geopolitics in The Power of Geography, the follow up to his best-selling Prisoners of Geography.

For those who love a good thriller, BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, will be discussing his latest novel Outbreak, and leading psychologist Thomas Erikson takes us inside the mind of a psychopath and will ask what personality we are. Leading writer and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, will look back over the best science writing of a generation, or professional futurist Tracy Follows provides insight into how technology and global brands will affect our personal identities. Also, after a year glued to our screens and living in the virtual world, BBC Technology Reporter, Rory Cellan Jones, explores how the smartphone has already and will evolve to rule our lives.

Fiction features strongly on the programme with acclaimed author Sally Bayley sharing her Shakespearean-inspired memoir, Kate Mosse and Josh Cohen discuss what life lessons we can learn from our favourite characters in fiction, and Caroline Lea and Alan Judd will talk about how far a novelist should fictionalise when a story is based on real people and events. Committed to supporting emerging writers, the Festival will be holding live creative writing workshops with Caroline Lea, tutor at the University of Warwick and Sally Bayley, tutor at the University of Oxford, in the week of 17th May once restrictions permit.

As always there will be many events on offer for families too. Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, Sir Michael Morpurgo, and Liz Pichon, amongst others, will be sharing their latest books and author Christopher Lloyd will be running a Family Quiz to challenge old and young minds alike. The Family programme also includes storytelling through drama and the Festival rounds off with the return of the brilliant Aardman team for clay modelling classes.

Tickets start at £6 and are available from www.stratlitfest.co.uk.



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