Charleston’s short story festival has a multicultural feel

Alison MacLeod
Alison MacLeod

Charleston celebrates the short story this autumn in a unique festival of words and ideas, which provides a glimpse into the human condition and the complicated times in which we are living.

Small Wonder is at the venue this year from September 27 to October 1.

The programme examines the plight of refugees, what it means to be British today and the art of protest.

It spans continents and storytelling traditions and focuses, for the first time, on current writing from the Caribbean.

The international theme is reinforced with the announcement that the British Council Writer in Residence will be the Bahamian writer and human rights activist Helen Klonaris.

Among the highlights is the announcement that Penelope Lively is this year’s winner of the Charleston-Bede’s Award for a lifetime’s excellence in short fiction. She will be in conversation with the BBC commissioning editor Di Speirs, who is a member of the award’s advisory panel and a judge of the BBC National Short Story Award, which also has its own exclusive event at the festival.

The Sunday Times-EFG International Short Story Award is also featured, with judges Anne Enright, Neel Mukherjee and Andrew Holgate reflecting on the wide range of international submissions for the world’s richest short story prize, and reading from some of the work.

Mark Haddon and Alison MacLeod present new stories inspired by Bloomsbury and the actor Eve Best, who played Vanessa Bell in the TV series Life in Squares, reads from the newly published letters of Sylvia Plath.

For aspiring writers there are two workshops – one on writing for radio with BBC producer Liz Allard and novelist Alison MacLeod and the second on location and landscape with K. J. Orr, a winner of the BBC short story award. Two debut writers, Julianne Pachico and Jessie Greengrass, will take part in a question and answer session.

There are two open mic sessions; a pre-festival reading salon and the Small Wonder reading group, both in collaboration with New Writing South and Lewes Short Story Club. The salon is at New Writing South on September 15 (7pm, £8, The reading group is at Charleston and is free. Book through

Small Wonder continues to be one of the most stimulating and exciting programmes on the UK festival circuit and has been put together by artistic director Diana Reich and Tanya Andrews.

It is supported by Arts Council England.

Visit or call 01323 815150.

There is a shuttle bus from Lewes train station to and from all the events.

Speakers include: Kit de Waal, Anne Enright, Mark Haddon, Tessa Hadley, Cynan Jones, Penelope Lively, Alison MacLeod, Jon McGregor, Gwendoline Riley, Olive Senior, Nikesh Shukla, David Szalay, Joanna Trollope, Marina Warner and more.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make our website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page

3 Follow us on Twitter

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

Be part of it.