Big names line up for Petworth Festival Literary Week

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This autumn’s 13th edition of the Petworth Festival Literary Week comes promised as the most varied and exciting to date (October 25 to November 5, www.petworthfestival.org.uk).

Artistic director Stewart Collins said: “We’re thrilled to announce a host of authors that really need little introduction: so many of them are household names. As always, the festival programme trawls wide and deep across different areas.”

Those offering memoirs are Michael Ball, singer and Radio 2 host; Sheila Hancock, actress; and Justin Webb, journalist and Radio 4’s Today presenter. Talking on the environment will be Isabella Tree, rewilding guru, and Jake Fiennes, the “land healer”. Foreign affairs brings Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s international editor; Martin Sixsmith, Russia expert and Con Coughlin, The Daily Telegraph journalist who will discusses Syria’s President Assad. Space will also feature with talks from Tim Peake, the British astronaut on those who have dared to enter space; and Maggie Aderin-Pocock, The Sky at Night presenter, on how to star gaze.

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Politics includes Andrea Leadsom, the former Conservative front bencher; Malcolm Rifkind, the Tory grandee discussing power and pragmatism, and Ferdinand Mount on history’s great leaders. Talking on the subject of food will be Henry Dimbleby, the restaurateur and food expert on the food industry; and Sarah Raven, the famous gardener’s year full of vegetables.

MIchael Ball (pic by James Hole)MIchael Ball (pic by James Hole)
MIchael Ball (pic by James Hole)

Also coming up Peter Frankopan, the heavyweight historian looks at the impact of the environment on history; Simon Heffer on the changing face of Britain between the wars; Robert Hardman, the royal biographer on Queen of our Times and the forthcoming King Charles III; Daniel Finkelstein, the former Times editor looks at his family’s tortuous history; and James Naughtie, the acclaimed broadcaster, talks us through The Spy Across the Water. Anna Kent talks on The Frontline Midwife; Selina Mills offers a debate about the nature of blindness; Alan Titchmarsh talks about Chatsworth House; Wendy Joseph, former Old Bailey judge; Gregory Doran. former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company; Leanne Benjamin, former principal ballerina with the Royal Ballet; and Peter Beckingham on 200 years of great art across Sussex.

Plus there will be a graphology workshop and one to one sessions; short films celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio; children’s events headlined by children’s laureate Joseph Coehlo; plus best-selling novelists Philippa Gregory and Julian Barnes, the former talking about Normal Women, and the latter sharing the stage with classical pianist Angela Hewitt in the festival’s opening, a words and music event at St Mary’s Church Petworth (Thursday, October 26).

Stewart said: “From all of the above, I hope our audience will see we have done everything in our power to bring to Petworth an extraordinary line-up of world class speakers, all of whom they can see on their doorsteps and in the most intimate of settings.”

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