Big names covering wide range of topics

July 30 2020
Big names covering wide range of topics

IN these uncertain times, fans of Wells Festival of Literature can now confidently put October 16-24 into their diaries.

Festival organisers are determined to mount a festival full of wide-ranging topics and exciting and challenging speakers. Acutely aware of their responsibility for safeguarding contributors and audiences, the festival committee is listening to experts and watching developments before making final decisions about delivery; will it be ‘mask to mask’ and live-streamed from Cedars Hall, online from writers’ homes or even a combination of all?

The committee is delighted that so many of the writers have firmly committed to contributing to the festival in whatever form, meaning that wraps can be removed from more names. Poet laureate Simon Armitage and book group event novelist Max Porter are now ‘out there’ alongside two big, and perhaps contrasting, names.

Unlike her brother, who recited Homer’s Iliad on a Glastonbury stage with Billy Bragg in 2000, Rachel Johnson may never have been to the Glastonbury Festival. She, however, will be appearing alongside festival inspiration and creator Michael Eavis at Wells in 2020 to share her memoir, Rake’s Progress: My Political Midlife Crisis, indiscreet, witty, brutally honest memories of her disastrous quest to become an MEP and transform herself from journalist to politician. Michael’s book, with daughter Emily, Glastonbury 50, celebrates 50 glorious years of the festival – from free milk and £1 tickets to the largest green fields festival in the world.

So what other delights are there? Something for everyone, from history and psychotherapy to travel, science, politics, philosophy, arts, fiction and food.

The festival poster’s 13 book covers display a rich menu; rules of contagion, spies and thrillers, the story of China, Oliver Cromwell, unconscious bias, food, rewilding, Jane Austen’s Bennett sisters… 

Add to this household names like newsreader Tom Bradby’s espionage novel, junior doctor Rachel Clarke’s take on the NHS, Charles Spencer’s story of the 1120 sinking of the White Ship, AC Grayling’s history of philosophy, Charles Moore’s whodunit gig on the fall of Margaret Thatcher… and there are still more to come, including a special ecological event, in partnership with Somerset Wildlife Trust, exploring rewilding and secret havens.

About two per cent of every ticket sold funds the festival’s life-changing creative projects and literacy support in local schools, events which have been continuing, despite lockdown, and will be even more needed in the wake of these strange times.

For more on the festival, see wellsfestivalofliterature.org.uk

• Picture: AC Grayling