Alan Bennett and Grayson Perry among ‘big hitters’ at Charleston Festival

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The 25th Charleston Festival opens on Friday, May 16, with a roller-coaster ride of events.

There will be a talk about the concubine who rose to become ruler of China, followed later in the day by a discussion between academic and historian Asa Briggs and novelist Ian McEwan – and culminating in a reading by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

This year’s festival, which runs until May 24, is one of the most ambitious and exciting ever, with discussions and debate about the First World War, spies and espionage, politics and science, gardening and art, as well as theatre and economics.

There are plenty of big hitters – including Alan Bennett and Grayson Perry and some of our greatest novelists, including Jane Gardham and Penelope Lively, Helen Dunmore, Sadie Jones, Edward St Aubyn and Michael Morpurgo.

There are big names from the far corners of the world – including Norway, Australia, and the USA.

Heading a debate on twenty-five years of the arts is Peter Bazalgette, the man behind reality TV, including Big Brother.

There are still some tickets available.

Call the Dome box office on 01273 709709 or visit the Charleston website on www.charleston.org.uk.

Charleston is halfway between Brighton and Eastbourne, 6 miles east of Lewes, off the A27.