Ten days of lively debate at Charleston

David Attenborough
David Attenborough

From Trump and Brexit, to feminism, global crime and sexual politics – it has been a rollercoaster year and Charleston Festival (May 18-28) comes up with ten days of heated debate, which looks at issues past and present.

In a programme that brings together some of the most outstanding voices in literature, arts and the media, female achievement is celebrated.

Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst will discuss the centenary of women receiving the vote and the need to continue the campaign for women’s causes. With her will be Jane Robinson, author of Bluestockings, a book about women’s fight for education. Zanzibar-born Lubaina Himid talks about winning the Turner Prize and Kathryn Harkup and Fiona Sampson discuss Mary Shelley and how she conjured up Frankenstein.

Robert Harris talks to David Dimbleby about his new book Munich, which examines one of the most defining moments in British history, while seasoned political broadcasters Evan Davis, Anne McElvoy, Jonathan Freedland and Jon Sopel debate Trump, Brexit, spin and media distortion.

This year’s winner of the fourth annual Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize is Sir David Attenborough. He will deliver an illustrated talk on whether some animals can be described as artists. Darwin and Wallace, co-proposers of the theory of evolution, disagreed profoundly on the answer. Recent video evidence suggests who was right.

Other festival highlights

Talks by leading writers Alan Hollinghurst, Kamila Shamsie and Simon Armitage.

Gender fluidity is addressed by Robert Webb and Amy Bloom.

Unique commissions from Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson, inspired by the Bloomsbury group.

A special Man Booker Prize 50th anniversary debate with Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, A.C. Grayling and Erica Wagner.

Investigative journalists Misha Glenny and Luke Harding lift the lid on global crime and political corruption.

In the 50th year of The Man Booker Prize the Festival hosts a special debate between three former judges, granting rare insight into the mechanics of judging the UK’s premier literary award.

Making sense of today’s world is also high on the agenda. Authors Amanda Craig and Meg Wolitzer dissect current gender and power dynamics. Playwright Michael Frayn and political commentator John Crace discuss farce and political satire in a time when the relevance of each cannot be overstated.

Founded by Bloomsbury group artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, art remains a key focus for Charleston. In this year’s Festival, V&A director Tristram Hunt will be in conversation with RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete on the stories behind the historic institution’s new Exhibition Road Quarter.

Nathaniel Hepburn, director and chief executive of Charleston Trust, said: “The Charleston Festival is always a highlight of the cultural calendar and this year proves to be no exception. The 2018 programme is challenging, entertaining, innovative, radical and rigorous. I am very much looking forward to attending the talks at this, my first Festival since joining Charleston and meeting our festival-goers both loyal devotees and those attending for their first time.”

Diana Reich, artistic director of Charleston Festival, said: “Charleston was always associated with political and social engagement as well as animated conversation. Therefore it is no surprise that this year’s Festival includes many events in which the state of the nation and the world is refracted through the prism of fiction, non-fiction, debate and humour.”

Tickets are on general sale from February 19. The full Festival programme is at www.charleston.org.uk/festival.

Call the box office on 01323 815150 (Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm) or purchase tickets online. There will be shuttle bus service to and from Lewes Station for all sessions.

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