Literary festivals in Oxfordshire and beyond
There are around 350 literary festivals in the UK throughout the year. Many are small local events featuring local authors and emerging talent, others attract well-established names in literature, publishing and show business.
While you might have missed your favourite literary festivals in 2020 (amongst other things), here are the must-visit literary festivals in Oxford and across Oxfordshire - and those within easy reach of Oxford - hoping to be back with a bang for 2021/22.
There’s always plenty for book-lovers to celebrate at literary festivals, and we hope you’ll find one or more that interests you and the entire family.
Founded in 2007, the Henley Literary Festival has firmly established itself as one of the UK’s most popular literary festivals, bringing together punters and pundits from far and wide in an annual meeting-of-minds set across its stunning riverside hometown. With 130 events for all ages, the programme this year is rich in its variety and quality.
The festival lineup includes Gyles Brandreth, Evanna Lynch, Annie Ridout & Otegha Uwagba, Candice Brathwaite, Frank Gardner, Rob Biddulph, Ruby Wax, Ed Miliband, John Simpson in Conversation With Daniel Hahn, Rob Beckett, Peter Hain, Alan Johnson, Robert Webb, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Jon Sopel, Jack Dee, Ingrid Seward interviewed By Stephen Robinson, Clare Balding, and Jeffrey Archer.
The Thame Arts and Literature Festival 2021 (TAL Festival 2021) is an inclusive, community-driven arts and literature festival that takes place in the picturesque market town of Thame. The hybrid festival will see some Festival 21 events have a live audience.
Events will include Author Talks, Music, Literature, Plays, Readings, Debates and much more, plus several special events for younger readers. The events take place in various venues across Thame in Oxfordshire.
Oxford Literary Festival will return in October 2021 with a series of events leading up to a 10-day Oxford Literary Festival 2022 between Friday 25 March and Sunday 03 April 2022.
The festival events mostly take place around two vibrant hubs in Oxford City Centre, namely the Blackwell’s Marquee, next to the Sheldonian Theatre, Bodleian Library and Weston Library, and Worcester College, in Walton Street. There is a ten-minute walk between the two hubs.
Since 2012 Chipping Norton has held its Literary Festival each April, celebrating writing and reading in attractive venues at the heart of this charming Cotswold town.
ChipLitFest has earned its reputation as one of the friendliest and most innovative festivals, bringing a wide-ranging array of writers, poets, public figures and creative people to the town and drawing large and lively audiences from a wide area.
Bath Children’s Literature Festival 2021
24 September to 03 October
Bath Children’s Literature Festival - Europe’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival - will return from 24 September to 3 October 2021 with a vibrant array of talks and activities for children. Artistic directors, John and Gill McLay, have secured a world-class line-up that will thrill young book lovers.
The festival takes place across various locations in what is the largest city in the county of Somerset, some 80 odd miles from Oxford (just under a two-hour drive). There’s something for everyone at this autumn’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival, which brings a host of writers and illustrators to the city for live, interactive events for young people of all ages.
Marlborough Literature Festival 2021
30 September to 03 October
The Marlborough Literature Festival brings together some of the UK’s finest writers in this historic market town about 45 miles (a one-hour drive) from Oxford. The festival aims to celebrate the best writing in all its forms and demonstrate that books, and reading, can bring people together, whatever their views.
With an exciting mix of live and online events - author talks, workshops, performances, visits and competitions - the 2021 festival programme includes established names in fiction as well as new and emerging writers. There is something for all ages, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and the annual Big Town Read.
Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021
08 to 17 October
Established in 1949, The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is one of the oldest literary events in the world. For ten days every Autumn, Cheltenham is transformed into a literary lover’s dream as it welcomes over 600 of the world’s finest writers, actors, politicians, poets and opinion formers - to help celebrate the joy of the written word.
Cheltenham Literature Festival is part of Cheltenham Festivals – a charity delivering a pioneering year-round educational programme culminating in four internationally-acclaimed Jazz, Science, Music and Literature Festivals. Cheltenham Festivals creates experiences that bring joy, spark curiosity, connect communities and inspire change.
London Literature Festival
21 to 31 October
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 seen the likes of Hilary Clinton, Philip Pullman, and Tom Hanks take to the stage for individually ticketed events. This year’s festival reflects on what it means to be friends today.
Taking place at the Southbank Centre - the largest arts centre in the UK and one of the county’s top five visitor attractions - London Literature Festival is always full of encounters with the writers shaping our cultural life and features a line-up of eminent authors alongside rising literary stars.
Cliveden Literary Festival 2021
23 & 24 October 2021
With a unique and extraordinary history of politics and intrigue, aristocracy and espionage, sex and scandal, Cliveden is a magnificent English country house in Berkshire about 35 miles (one-hour drive) from Oxford. And following the sell-out success of previous years, the Cliveden Literary Festival will return to this magnificent house for its fourth year.
The agenda-setting literature festival embodies Cliveden House’s long tradition as a political and literary salon - and will again feature a high-profile line-up of writers, historians, politicians and cultural figures. Declared by Ian McEwan as “probably the world’s best small literary festival” and hailed by Alain de Botton as “the most dignified and beautiful literature festival on the planet”, the 2021 festival is not to be missed.
The Althorp Literary Festival 2021
October 2021 (to be confirmed)
The Althorp Literary Festival has hosted countless bestselling authors, writers, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders who provoke debate, laughter and enthusiasm. The festival takes place against the backdrop of one of England’s most beautiful private, historic houses and the final resting place of Princess Diana, a mere 50 miles (an hour and twenty minutes drive) north of Oxford.
The festival has international acclaim, hosting a stellar line up of authors and celebrities such as chef, writer and The Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith; historians Dan Snow, Dan Jones and Helen Rappaport; author of the hugely successful Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell; politicians and authors Paddy Ashdown and Kenneth Baker; and acclaimed mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington.
PLEASE NOTE: With the house and grounds open for 2021, we await confirmation on whether the 16th Althorp Literary Festival scheduled for last Autumn will go ahead this year.
Birmingham Literature Festival
October 2021 (to be confirmed)
Taking place every year in October, the Birmingham Literature Festival is a leading festival in the Midlands, showcasing the very best writers, speakers, thinkers, activists and artists from the UK and across the world. The festival brings together writers, artists, commentators, readers, and thinkers - to share, learn, connect and enjoy 10 days of great creative writing.
The programme includes a wide range of innovative literature and literature-inspired work, creating unique opportunities for audiences to experience high-quality events via an annual festival programme and associated projects. This is one festival where everyone is sure to find something which intrigues and excites them.