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Books: Writer Types


By Alice Ryan


Cambridge Literary Festival is on the horizon. Velvet looks ahead

It’s not November yet but we’re indulging in some anticipatory pleasure as we wait impatiently for the start of the Cambridge Literary Festival’s winter festival. Running from November 29 to December 1, the weekend programme brings some fabulous writers to Cambridge, and there really is something for anyone interested in literature, real lives, current affairs, nature, science, travel, wizards and dragons. Which just about covers the population, doesn’t it?

Ian McEwan is making his long-awaited festival debut with his new novel, Machines Like Me, in which breakthroughs in AI have produced ‘manufactured humans’, Britain lost the Falklands War and Alan Turing was pardoned. Louise Doughty joins the literary line-up with her latest novel, Platform Seven (the platform seven in question being the one at Peterborough station), together with Bernadine Evaristo who presents Girl, Woman, Other, described as a ‘startling love song to modern Britain and black womanhood’. And one of the UK’s most popular performers, Jenny Eclair, will be talking about her new novel, Inheritance.

For those of us who miss the glorious Dame Darcey Bussell on BBC’s Strictly, there’s a welcome opportunity to catch up with her at the festival. She’ll be discussing her extraordinary dancing life and introducing her latest book, Evolved. Philippa Perry, author of The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read will be exploring how a deeper knowledge of our closest family bonds can help us understand how we might work better together. Poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay experienced a painful early life, and he’ll be reflecting on his extraordinary journey from failed fostering to national treasure - he was official poet of the 2012 Olympics, among many other accolades, including an MBE for services to literature.

Lemn Sissay (16280772)
Lemn Sissay (16280772)

Lemn Sissay

Philippa Perry (16280769)
Philippa Perry (16280769)

Philippa Perry

Darcey Bussell (14954730)
Darcey Bussell (14954730)

Darcey Bussell

Ian McEwan (14954723)
Ian McEwan (14954723)

Ian McEwan

There’s no more pressing issue facing us than the climate crisis, so it’s appropriate that the festival should start with a conversation between nature writer Richard Mabey and fellow writer Robert McFarlane. Richard Mabey will be talking about his book Turning the Boat for Home in which he considers the evolution of his ideas about the natural world over the course of his long career.

Turning to the crisis in politics, there’s an abundance of discussion about the state of the nation and how we got to where we are, including an opportunity to join the New Statesman politics team for a special live recording of their hugely popular politics podcast. Brexit is front of mind and a preview event on October 23 sees Gavin Esler, an outspoken Remainer, journalist and political commentator, sharing his insights on the issue and talking about his book, Brexit without the Bullshit – we’re told to expect a no-nonsense discussion.

On a more magical note, Cressida Cowell, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate and creator of the How to Train Your Dragon and the Wizards of Once series, will be talking about her latest book, The Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times, and will also be sharing some tips on how to become an author or illustrator.

“The collective joy to be found in gathering together to hear from these eclectic, inspiring and uplifting writers and performers is what I am looking forward to most in the upcoming winter festival,” says Cathy Moore. Amen to that.

For the full programme and information about booking, visit cambridgeliteraryfestival.com



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