This year’s star-studded line-up for The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival includes a raft of notable figures from screen, stage, radio, politics and sport including Dame Judi Dench, John Cleese, Sheila Hancock, Doreen Lawrence, Kevin Pietersen and husband and wife duo Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory.
The programme features a number of famous faces set to introduce their own literature, including Cleese with his new book So, Anyway and Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark presenting her debut novel, as well as Andrew Marr, Caitlin Moran, James Naughtie and Sheila Hancock, the latter taking part in a special Radio Times event looking back at her stellar career.
Dench will no doubt bring a dash of Hollywood glamour to proceedings as she discusses her life on stage and screen with her biographer John Miller, while Lewis and McCrory will be interviewed together following a reading of some of the greatest love poetry.
Love Actually writer and director Richard Curtis will be joined on stage by his musical idol Mike Scott of The Waterboys to talk screen and song writing, while actor Brian Blessed will help celebrate ten years of Who Do You Think You Are?
For sports fans, Kevin Pietersen is signed up to discuss his hotly-anticipated autobiography, with fellow sporting stars Roger Bannister, Sol Campbell, Geoffrey Boycott, Trevor Brooking, Nicole Cook and Gareth Thomas also included in the line-up.
For sci-fi and fantasy fans, Fantastic Four and X-Men writer Mike Carey will be joined in a celebration of Marvel comics’ 75th anniversary by former editor Alan Cowshill. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams will also be celebrated by speakers including Terry Jones and Clive Anderson.
From the world of politics and current affairs, we’ll see Doreen Lawrence and Andrew Mitchell discussing whether the police are fit for purpose, meanwhile Anne Widdecombe will be in attendance to reflect on her career as a politician and novelist and Boris Johnson’s father Stanley will be seen in interview with his daughter, Rachel.
A star-studded collection of writing greats are signed up to excite fans of fiction, including Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, David Nicholls, Sarah Waters, Kazuo Ishiguro, Victoria Hislop, Howard Jacobson and Kate Mosse.
Plus, fans of art will be treated to Grayson Perry reflecting on its ‘value’ and Queen guitarist Brian May introducing his collection of 3D Victorian images with co-author Denis Pellerin. And over in comedy corner, funnymen Kevin Bridges, Paul Merton, Omid Djalili and Danny Baker will also be on hand to discuss their new memoirs.
Meanwhile, for history enthusiasts, explorer and author Ranulph Fiennes will present his personal perspective of Agincourt and TV’s Mary Beard will explore the frivolity, humour, wit and irony in Ancient Rome.
This year’s programme is also packed with a series of exciting Radio Times events featuring famous faces from the screen and airwaves, as well as debates between our esteemed editors, writers and reviewers.
Sheila Hancock and Rebecca Front will both be introducing their debut publications in special events, while W1A writer John Morton will be joined by executive producer Paul Schlesinger and stars Sarah Parish (who played Anna Rampton) and Hugh Skinner (Will the Intern) to look back at the series. Afternoon Tea with the Archers, taking place inside the venue’s spectacular food-themed Spiegletent, will see the show’s editor Sean O’Connor and cast members Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge), Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge) and Louiza Patikas (Helen Archer) dish the insider gossip.
British historian Simon Schama explores the rich and fascinating life in food of chef and author Yotam Ottolenghi, plus radio broadcasters Charlotte Green and Nicholas Parsons are both the subject of retrospective sessions and Antiques Roadshow expert Paul Atterbury looks at the show’s most fascinating objects.
In addition, Radio Times’ editor Ben Preston will join TV editor Alison Graham to discuss whether Twitter has killed off the professional TV critic, RT’s radio editor Jane Anderson will speak on why British stations shouldn’t give up on young adults and art director Shem Law will showcase treasures from the Radio Times Picture Library in a Who’s Who of television and radio spanning over 90 years.
This year’s 65th annual event – which runs from 3-12 October – follows the theme of Brave New Worlds, exploring big questions such as: Is democracy at risk? Is technology changing our brains? What future for words? What does the next century hold? Speakers include Caitlin Moran, Educating Essex’s Stephen Drew, Will Self, Russell Kane, Camilla Batmanghelidjh and India Knight.
Plus, guest director Michael Rosen will head up the Book It! series which includes Children’s Laureates Malorie Blackman and Michael Morpurgo, alongside authors such as Judith Kerr, Henry Winkler, Charlie Higson, Mackenzie Crook and David Baddiel.
The entire Cheltenham Literature Festival programme can be viewed online with booking open to Cheltenham Members from 26 August. Priority booking for Radio Times subscribers begins on 29 August followed by the release of tickets to the general public on 1 September.