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What’s On: The Best Literary Festivals of 2019

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What’s On: The Best Literary Festivals of 2019

You might not have got Glastonbury tickets, but get your reading glasses at the ready; there’s plenty for book-lovers to celebrate


Calling all lit-lovers; this is the 2019 guide for you. From the book-lover’s Glastonbury, Hay Festival to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, we’ve rounded up the best literary festivals of the year so you can get dates in your diary now…


Cliveden Hotel Review

Best Literary Festivals of 2019


When? March 2019 – March 2020

Where? All over

What? Insiders/Outsiders, a year-long nationwide arts festival taking place from March 2019 to March 2020, celebrates refugees from Nazi Europe and their impact on British culture. Coinciding with the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, Insiders/Outsiders brings together a vibrant and all-encompassing  programme of exhibitions, concerts, dance and theatre performances, film screenings, walks, lectures and literary events all over the UK. An accompanying anthology focusing on the visual arts will be published by Lund Humphries in early March.

Initiated by art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen, Insiders/Outsiders highlights the indelible contribution of the artists, photographers, writers, architects, designers, actors, film-makers, dancers and musicians as well as publishers, art historians, dealers and collectors who, in fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, greatly enriched this country’s culture. Insiders/Outsiders highlights these émigrés’ contemporary relevance and ongoing influence on Britain’s cultural landscape. It will also feature work by descendants of these refugees which explores the legacy How? 

LSE Festival – New World (Dis)Orders

When? 25 February – 2 March 2019

Where? London School of Economics and Political Science

What? A week-long series of events taking place from 25 February to 2 March 2019, free to attend and open to all, exploring how social science can tackle global issues.


Where to Stay? Rosewood London, Holborn. Since its opening in 2013, Rosewood has risen effortlessly to the highest echelons of London’s luxury hotels, combining English heritage with contemporary sophistication. The Grade II-listed, Belle Époque building has been sensitively renovated with the feel of a stylish London residence.LSE Festival

Words by the Water, the Lake District

When?  8 – 17 March 2019

Where? Droridge Farm, Devon

What? Ways With Words has always existed to promote both the written and the spoken word. The festival brings people together in beautiful surroundings to make with writers, journalists and experts in various fields – to talk, to argue, to listen, to engage and to learn.


Where to Stay? Grazebrook Hotel. The outside is conventional – a fine-looking Georgian house in a landscaped garden at the southern tip of Dartmoor – which makes the interior all the more of a surprise. It’s kooky, quirky and huge fun, filled with curiosities as diverse as a stuffed flamingo and a bulldog sculpture wearing a bowler hat.

Ways With Words

When? 8 – 17 March 2019

Where? Keswick, Cumbria

What? A collection of literature festivals across the UK kicks off in the Lake District in March and boasts a brilliant line-up of speakers across their range of programmes. The Main House features the likes of Prue Leith and Alan Johnson, while the comedy line-up includes Guardian satirist John Crace and comedian and mad-cap explorer Tim FitzHigham.


Where to Stay? Gilpin Hotel, Windermere, Cumbria. Family-run and fabulous, the 1901 house has 14 bedrooms, six wildly popular hot tub Garden Suites, and five luxurious Spa Lodges with private en suite spas. Gilpin is warm and welcoming, but also very glamorous – a mix of Arts and Crafts charm and glossy, contemporary design – with the sense of a journey as guests wander through. Doubles from £225.

Hay Festival Wales

Hay Festival

When? 23 May – 2 June

Where? Hay-on-Wye, Wales

What? The jewel in the UK’s literary festivals’ crown, Hay has been the go-to festival for book-lovers for 30 years now. Cooked up by Peter Florence and friends three decades ago, when tickets were sold from a caravan under the clock tower and talks happened in the British Legion, the annual event has come a long way since then with speakers to date including Bill Clinton, Stephen Fry, Ian Rankin and Jacqueline Wilson to name a few. Throw in some of the best views and walking countryside in Britain and you’ve got a country-lover’s weekend made in heaven. There’s plenty on offer for kids, too. This year’s line up includes 2018 Man Booker Prize Winner Anna Burns, Leila Slimani, and Jimmy Carr, many more great names.


Where to Stay? Castle House, Hereford, Herefordshire. An elegant Grade II-listed mansion, with an unrivalled location. The 24 bedrooms and suites are all stylish and individual, split between the main building and Number 25 Townhouse, where there are eight striking rooms, each offering an array of treats, from a hospitality box filled with local produce to underfloor heating in the bathrooms. A hotel that fits perfectly into its surroundings and ticks all the boxes. Doubles from £150.

Queen’s Park Book Festival

When? 29 – 30 June 2019

Where? Throughout Queen’s Park

What? This weekend-long London literary festival is a celebration for book-lovers in the heart of the capital. Authors, poets, actors and artists will gather for a weekend of readings, talks, debates and special events throughout Queen’s Park. Alongside the ticketed events, there will also be free children’s events, special programmes and fringe events. This year’s event features talks from the likes of Zadie Smith, Tessa Hadley and Eleanor Catton.  Read our full guide to Queen’s Park Book Festival here.


Zadie Smith. Photo by Dominique Nabokov


Where to Stay? The Laslett – Notting Hill. Spread across five beautiful white stucco Victorian townhouses in buzzing Notting Hill, The Laslett is part of Tracy Lowy’s Living Rooms collection of elegant, superbly located London addresses. Inspired by the neighbourhood’s rich cultural heritage, it takes its name from Rhaune Laslett, an activist who organised the original Notting Hill Festival, forerunner of the famous Carnival. Doubles from £199


When? 18 – 21 July 2019

Where? Henham Park, Suffolk

What? Known for its big-name music headliners, there’s just as much on offer for lit-lovers with notable authors and poets at the ‘Speakeasy’ with lively debates and discussions alongside author talks and workshops.


Where to Stay? Milsoms Kesgrave Hall, Suffolk. An impressive country house built in 1812 standing in 38 rambling acres of woods, fields and immaculate, sweeping lawns. Its 23 rooms, ranging from ‘Standard’ to ‘Top’, with ‘Superior’, ‘Deluxe’ and ‘Principal’ in between, are all supremely comfortable and well equipped. Doubles from £130.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

When? 18 – 21 July 2019

Where? Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

What? With a line-up of the best international and UK crime fiction writers, this festival is now in its 17th year of being the best in its genre. Hosted at Agatha Christie’s old haunt, special guests for this year include James Patterson, Jo Nesbo, MC Beaton, Stuart MacBride, Harlan Coben and Ian Rankin. Get your tickets early because last year was a complete sell-out. Go along for a chance to meet your crime-writing heroes; there’s a really relaxed attitude where everyone drinks together.


Where to Stay? Rudding Park, Harrogate. A glorious, privately-owned gem and one of Yorkshire’s finest hotels, Rudding Park, has a new feather to add to its rather well-endowed cap; the recent opening of a swishy destination spa. The accommodation is in two wings, which offer a range of bedrooms, from doubles to luxuriously lavish spa suites complete with steam room and private garden. Doubles from £172.

Port Eliot Festival

Port Eliot Festival

When? 25 – 28 July 2019

Where? St Germans, Cornwall

What? This is no ordinary festival. A celebration of ‘words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration, fun and all that is good in the world’, there’s plenty on offer for the literary crowd at this beautiful Cornish getaway.


Where to Stay? Talland Bay Hotel, Porthallow, Cornwall. Talland Bay Hotel is set in two lush acres of subtropical gardens, a pebble’s skim from the beach. Choose to stay in one of the 22 beach-chic rooms, perhaps with a sleigh bed or four-poster draped in white fabric. Or for more space and privacy, the cottages are perfect. Doubles from £160.

Curious Arts Festival

Curious Arts Festival

When? 23 – 26 August 2019

Where? Pippingford Park, East Sussex

What? This stylish and beautiful arts and music festival is moving from Pylewell Park in the New Forest to Pippingford Park for 2019, with a new date at the end of August. There’s always a stellar line-up of authors attending, so we can’t wait to see who’s on the roster for this family-friendly event for 2019. As the organisers say: ‘expect fabulous novelists, exceptional historians, poet laureates, dogs on leads, gin and tonics.’ Fabulous. Read our review of Curious Arts Festival 2018, here.


Cliveden Literary Festival

When? 28 – 29 September 2019

Where? Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire

What? You already know Cliveden as the English country estate steeped in politics, aristocracy, espionage, sex and scandal. So what better home for a celebration of story-telling than this English gem, which has hosted a literary salon since 1666, inspiring writers from Alexander Pope to Sir Winston Churchill.


Where to Stay? Stoke Park, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. A historic house built in the 1790s by James Wyatt for soldier, scholar and poet John Penn. Choose from splendid traditional bedrooms in the Mansion or contemporary ones in the newly built Pavilion. Stoke Park became Britain’s first country club in 1908; now it is open to all. Doubles from £250.

London Literary Festival

When? October 2019

Where? South Bank Centre

What? There’s always a heavy-weight line-up of the biggest authors and speakers at the capital’s most talked-about literary festival of the year. Previous speakers have included the likes of Hilary Clinton, Philip Pullman and Tom Hanks take to the stage for individually-ticketed events, so stay tuned for this year’s news and buy tickets sooner rather than later.


Where to Stay? Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, Tower Hill. The latest addition to the Four Seasons’ dazzling portfolio is this exquisitely restored former HQ of the Port of London Authority. You will want for nothing in any of the 100 gorgeous bedrooms, spread over the hotel’s first three floors. Those above are dedicated to 41 apartments and a private members’ club. Doubles from £430.

What’s on this week in the town? And in the country? Check out our culture diaries before you fill in yours. 

Kingston Children’s Literary Festival

When? 24 – 26 October 2019

Where? Kingston-upon-Thames

What? The third annual Kingston Children’s Literary Festival will be a three-day reading and experiential event to inspire 3-11-year-olds through the art of books.


Where to Stay: Roseate House London – Hyde Park, W2. Only 50 minutes to the festival by car and a short walk from Hyde Park, this opulent boutique bolthole offers stunning views over leafy Westbourne Terrace. Once described as the ‘quite the finest street in London’, it faces St James Church, where in 1884 Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd, linking nicely to the theme of the festival itself. Inside, it’s all handpicked Victorian furniture and oil paintings. The result feels elegant yet homely, rooted in the past yet cool and sophisticated, with 48 rooms and suites bursting with period features but also offering the latest cutting-edge technology. Doubles from £250.80

North Cornwall Book Festival

When? 10 – 13 October 2019

Where? St Endellion Church, Port Isaac

What? Returning for the seventh year, North Cornwall Book Festival offers something slightly different. As an independent, locally-run literary festival, this largely unknown event may not pull some of the bigger names you’ve seen at the country’s larger literary celebrations, however, for what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in passion and authenticity. With an abundance of workshops, readings and performances on offer across the weekend, this is certainly not one to miss.


Where to Stay: Fowey Hall – Fowey, Cornwall. High above the delightful, literary, waterside town of Fowey, which famously inspired author Daphne du Maurier, stands the handsome country house that was also said to be an inspiration for Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. There are 36 rooms and suites, all different, all beautifully furnished with antiques and pretty fabrics; the oak-panelled dining room is the setting for delicious dinners, with special menus for children. But don’t think you have to have a family with you to come to Fowey Hall: cleverly, it’s a hotel that works just as well for couples. Doubles from £140.


Cheltenham Literature Festival

When? 4 – 13 October 2019

Where? Regency Cheltenham

What? The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is the UK’s oldest literary festival. Last year’s guest curators were novelist Sebastian Faulks; V&A Director Tristram Hunt; columnist and activist Scarlett Curtis; historian Peter Frankopan; curator, translator and writer David Karashima; and Junko Takekawa, Senior Arts Programmer at The Japan Foundation.


Where to Stay: Cowley Manor – Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. From the outside, it’s a stunning Italianate manor house in classical lake and cascade-filled grounds; inside, a flawlessly hip hotel, with 21st-century good looks. And although the style is cool, the welcome is warm from the ever-helpful staff. After checking into your state-of-the-art room – in six categories with plenty for families – you can while away time playing pool in the padded leather Billiards Room, drinking in the funky bar or relaxing on the elegant stone terrace, a suntrap with fabulous views. Doubles from £195

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