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The best literary festivals happening around the UK this summer and autumn

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Victoria Gray
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What could be more of a summer fantasy than a literary festival?

The perfect combination of stimulating talks, bright sunshine and a tasty glass of wine, some might say they’re more fun than a music festival. After all, there’s no mud and (hopefully) no one peeing in your tent.

Britain, luckily, is blessed with a wealth of literary festivals, and here we’ve rounded up some of our favourites coming up in the next few months. There’s something for every type of reader, from the bestselling Hay Festival to Harrogate’s Festival of Crime Writing, and a mix of literature and music at Latitude Festival. 

Simply scroll down to find your perfect match.

  • Hay Festival, Wales

    Where? Hay-on-Wye, Wales

    When? Now – June 4

    Who’s appearing? The huge line-up includes Eddie Izzard, Tracy Emin, Germaine Greer and many, many more authors

    The grandaddy of all British literary festivals, Hay is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year after being founded in the ‘town of books’ Hay-on-Wye back in 1987. Although the festival has expanded worldwide, a trip to the Welsh borders for the original festival should be on the bucket list of every book lover. Taking place over two weekends, the line-up reads like a who’s who of British literature. 

    Ticket prices start from: Free

    More info and tickets

  • Stokey Lit Fest

    Where? Stoke Newington, London

    When? 2-4 June

    Who’s appearing? Nimco Ali, AL Kennedy, Gemma Cairney, Andi Oliver

    Stokey Lit Fest has become a fixed date on any London literary fan’s calendar. Truly taking in the spirit of the area, it is hosted across Stoke Newington and Newington Green in the town hall, churches and beloved local pubs. With events from a celebration of 20 years of Harry Potter to a satirical election debate, it doesn’t shy away from discussion, politics, or just a bit of fun.

    Ticket prices start from: Free

    More details and get tickets

  • The Emerald Street Literary Festival

    Where? Royal Geographical Society, London

    When? June 10 

    Who’s appearing? the Baileys Women’s Prize Finalists; Sarah Perry in conversation with Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan; The Moth; Reni Eddo-Lodge

    Organised by our sister publication Emerald Street, the Emerald Street Literary Festival is the perfect Saturday for interesting women – filled with a fascinating line-up of some of our favourite female authors and thinkers. This year’s programme includes finalists from the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction speaking just two days after the award itself, Stylist cover star Reni Eddo-Lodge discussing race in today’s Britain, author Sarah Perry in conversation with Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan, and our attendees themselves telling their stories in a special Moth StorySLAM. 

    Ticket prices start from: £5

    More info and get tickets

  • Balham Lit Fest

    Where? The Bedford, Balham

    When? 8-11 June

    Who’s appearing? Laura Barnett, Alexandra Heminsley, Wahaca founder Thomasina Meyers

    Housed in Balham’s pub-come-arts centre The Bedford, and hosted by the reputable Dulwich Books, Balham Literary Festival is ideal for South London intellectuals who want to find out the real stories behind their favourite new pieces of writing. With sessions on topics from cookery to war, it’s a great place to meet the authors of some of this year’s most interesting books.

    Ticket prices start from: £75 for the whole weekend

    More info and get tickets

  • Africa Writes festival

    Where? The British Library, London

    When? 1-3 July

    Who’s appearing? Nawal El Saadawi, Ben Okri, 2017 Baileys Prize Longlistee Yewande Omotoso

    Organised by the Royal African Society, Africa Writes is a chance for both new talent from Africa, and writers of African origin to share their writing. The festival combines book launches and author interviews with panel discussions and writing workshops for young writers and children. Previous years have seen speakers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Wole Soyinka. 

    Ticket prices start from: Free

    More info and get tickets

  • Latitude Festival

    Where? Southwald, Suffolk

    When? 13-16 July

    Who’s appearing? Lolly Adefope, Susan Calman, Nina Conti (more to be announced)

    Latitude is known as a music festival, but features literary, theatre and comedy stages as well, attracting some of the biggest names in those fields. This makes it the perfect way to enjoy a more traditional festival – complete with camping - while still getting your hit of literature, theatre and the arts.

    Ticket prices start from: £77.50 for day ticket

    More info and get tickets

  • Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate

    Where? The Swan Hotel, Harrogate

    When? 20-23 July

    Who’s appearing? Antonia Hodgson, Kathy Reichs, Val McDermid

    Hosted at Agatha Christie’s ‘old haunt’ in Harrogate, this festival attracts crime writing fanatics from around the country. As well as hosting discussions with some of the biggest names in crime writing, there are workshops on how to turn your fascination with murder into a fledgling career and events with stars of TV adaptations of crime novels.

    Ticket prices start from: £11

    More info and get tickets

  • Curious Arts Festival

    Where? Pylewell Park, Hampshire

    When? 21-23 July

    Who’s appearing? Eimear McBride, Lynn Barber, Joanna Trollope

    The Curious Arts Festival is wrapping the biannual Nidd Literary Festival into its programme this year. Celebrating “nature and the arts”, the festival, set in a huge country garden, attracts authors of fiction and non fiction alike, who get a line-up billing alongside the music acts also playing at Curious Arts Festival and will ‘play’ talks and readings in the way musicians do a set.

    Ticket prices start from: £55 for a day ticket

    More info and get tickets

  • Port Eliot Festival

    Where? St Germans Cornwall

    When? 27-30 July

    Who’s appearing? Gloria Steinem, Nina Stibbe, Sara Pascoe

    The closest rival literary festivals can present to music festivals, Port Eliot has exhibitions, outdoor adventures and workshops alongside wordy headliners fulfilling that classic ‘something for everyone’ bracket. Expect talks from children’s writers, scientists, comedians, and yes, a whole lot of authors. Set in the beautiful Cornish countryside, it’s a real literary retreat.

    Ticket prices start from: £60 for a day pass

    More info and get tickets

  • Edinburgh International Book Festival

    Where? Edinburgh

    When? 12-28 August

    Who’s appearing? Speakers announced 13 June. Last year’s speakers included Laura Bates and Sue Perkins

    A bit of a two-for-one deal here as Edinburgh’s book festival takes place at more or less the same time as its renowned Fringe festival. That doesn’t mean the Book Festival is any less important, however. With a central hub in the city’s New Town and a huge line-up of authors from around the world, you can mix a day of comedy, theatre and literature all into one.

    Ticket prices start from: TBC

    More info and get tickets

  • Wigtown Book Festival

    Where? Wigtown, Scotland

    When? 22 September-1 October

    Who’s appearing? TBC - last year’s line up included Lisa Owens, Janet Ellis, Amy Liptrot

    The small town of Wigtown, on the far west of Scotland is most famous for its bookshops, and yearly book festival. Sponsored by a whiskey brand, you can already tell it’s going to be a very Scottish affair. But with 10 days of talks, it’s not to be sniffed at, attracting authors from all over the country to come and speak. They also run winter and spring events, so there’s no shortage of bookish fun throughout the year.

    Ticket prices start from: TBC, but there will be accommodation packages for those travelling from far away

    More info and get tickets

  • Marlborough Lit Fest

    Where? Marlborough

    When? 28 September-11 October

    Who’s appearing? TBC. Last year’s line up included Jessie Burton, Lionel Shriver and food writer Elizabeth Luard

    Marlborough, despite having a long literary history with writers like Siegfried Sassoon, John Betjeman and William Golding all hailing from the town, didn’t have a literary festival until eight years ago. Since its inception, Marlborough has proved a popular date in the literary calendar, with high-minded events as well as writing workshops and children’s events.

    Ticket prices start from: TBC

    More info and get tickets

  • Cheltenham Literary Festival

    Where? Cheltenham

    When? 6-15 October

    Who’s appearing? TBC - last year’s line up included Jilly Cooper Clare Balding Vivienne Westwood

    Perhaps the original literary festival, Cheltenham is the biggest showcase for authors in the UK. Filling huge venues with book fans, it’s a chance to see some of the biggest authors in the country speak, as well as figures who have recently written their biographies, such as Dame Vivienne Westwood who appeared last year.

    Ticket prices start from: TBC

    More info and get tickets

  • Manchester Literature Festival

    Where? Manchester

    When? 6-22 October

    Who’s appearing? TBC - last year’s line up included Ann Enright, Zadie Smith, Jenni Murray

    Manchester Literature Festival sprung from the city’s popular poetry festival, and its patrons include poet laurete Carol Ann Duffy, Jenni Murray and several authors. As well as promoting the literary history of Manchester itself, the festival is dedicated to showcasing writing by women, and promoting writers from other countries who we might not know in Britain.

    Ticket prices start from: TBC

    More info and get tickets

  • Dulwich Lit Fest

    Where? Dulwich, London

    When? 10-12 November

    Who’s appearing? TBC – last year’s line up included Harriet Harman, Joanna Trollope and Nick Clegg

    West Dulwich’s famous bookshop Dulwich Books hosts this yearly festival, bringing together authors, politicians and thinkers for an intellectually stimulating weekend. Spreading across several venues in the Dulwich area it’s always a sell out, and session formats range from poetry readings to debates.

    Ticket prices start from: TBC, tickets go on sale in September

    More info and get tickets

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Victoria Gray

Victoria is a contributor for Stylist.co.uk. She covers lifestyle and food pieces for the site. When on the internet she can be found tweeting feverishly about Great British Bake Off, and offline she is never happier than when in the company of some wine and cheese.

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