Benedict Cumberbatch heads this year's Charleston line-up

Early highlights of this year’s Charleston Festival were announced today with actor Benedict Cumberbatch, fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, and bestselling novelist Monica Ali taking centre stage.

Charleston Festival returns 19–29 May with more than 40 live events for its highly anticipated first in-person festival in three years. Bringing leading and emerging artists, writers, thinkers and changemakers together in Sussex at the modernist home and studio of the Bloomsbury group, Charleston Festival is one of the UK’s oldest and most significant festivals of books, art and ideas.

From the biggest new book releases to up to the minute political debate, Charleston Festival 2022 features events exploring fashion, families, history, scandal, art, poetry, music, faith, mental health, psychology, science, belonging, travel, the environment, and much more, plus a new programme of exciting events for children, young teens and their families.

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In a world exclusive event, actor Benedict Cumberbatch appears at Charleston Festival for the first time to narrate T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ in the poem’s centenary year. Considered one of the greatest works of modernist literature ever written, ‘The Waste Land’ conjures a world of spiritual emptiness, dwelling on moral decay, and the possibility of redemption. The actor is joined by the Britten Sinfonia orchestra for an extraordinary rendition of the poem set to music originally composed by ‘A Clockwork Orange’ author, Anthony Burgess.

Fashion and textile designer Zandra Rhodes explores her life on the British fashion scene and reflects on what it was like to be a student at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s alongside fellow students such as David Hockney and Derek Boshier. She looks back at her archive of unique designs which gained her notoriety, and which have been worn by the likes of Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury, and Marc Bolan.

Booker Prize-shortlisted and best-selling writer Monica Ali returns to Charleston Festival to ask what it is about marriage that makes for such scintillating fiction? Ali, who rose to critical acclaim with her debut novel ‘Brick Lane’, discusses her eagerly anticipated new book ‘Love Marriage’; a powerful story about who we are and how we love in today’s Britain – with all the complications and contradictions of life, desire, marriage and family.

For the first time, this year’s Charleston Festival also features a programme of inspiring events for children, young teens and their families. Some of the most exciting authors, poets and illustrators of young fiction and non-fiction are in conversation about their books, discussing themes including human connections with animals, misfits, fantasy worlds, and being your own authentic self.

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The full programme for this year’s Charleston Festival will be announced in February. Charleston’s supporters enjoy five days of priority booking before tickets go on general sale.

To join Charleston’s supporter scheme and to get priority access to tickets, visit and sign up as a Friend+, Patron or Benefactor. Access to Charleston’s supporter benefits, including priority booking for all festivals, are available straight away when you sign up.

Melissa Perkins, Head of Programme and Events at Charleston said “Charleston Festival is back, as bold and beautiful as ever. From global icons to explosive new talent, the programme brings together the most exciting voices of the day for the conversations that really matter.”