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May Literary Festivals Round Up
Image Credit: Bequest

May Literary Festivals Round Up

10 May 2017 | Laura Garmeson

Forget Glastonbury – this year it's all about the literary festival. Readers and writers alike are due to gather all over the UK this May with a huge range of cultural talks, performances and workshops. From music and literature in Bath to a crime convention in Bristol, whether you're entranced by the magic of Whitstable Castle, or keen to celebrate biography in Scotland, we've gathered some of the festival highlights for your cultural calendar this May.

Bath Festival
 
Set against the city’s trademark honey-coloured stone, the brand new Bath Festival is taking place over ten days in mid-May. With over 130 talks and events, it merges the Bath Literature Festival and the Bath International Music Festival to create a huge multi-arts celebration of music, literature, drama and art. This year’s star-studded literary line-up features appearances from Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith, Mary Berry, John Simpson, Ed Balls, Elif Shafak and Colm Tóibín. Judging from their packed programme, the festival looks all set to be an amazing cultural takeover of this historic city.


Image Credit: Salman Rushdie
 
Bath Festival runs from 19 – 28 May.
 
WhitLit
 
Welcome to WhitLit, Whitstable’s Literary Festival. Flanked by the majestic masonry of Whitstable Castle, you can listen to such literary luminaries as Louis de Bernieres and Jenny Uglow, delve into the extraordinary life of Kent author Vita Sackville West with Victoria Glendinning, or learn how to write a thriller. The festival also celebrates local authors with readings and performances, so discover new talent as well as household names with a trip to Whitstable.


Image Credit: Adam Burt, Whitstable Castle
 
WhitLit runs from 9 – 14 May.
 
Cheltenham Poetry Festival
 
Over twelve days packed with poetry, music, film and drama, Cheltenham Poetry Festival has some of Britain’s most acclaimed poets gracing its panels, including spoken-word star Raymond Antrobus, Ben Parker, Sasha Dugdale and Roy Mcfarlane. The theme for 2017's festival is 'the Future', to encompass intriguing multimedia performances of new writing blending film, DJs and spoken word. Elsewhere, there is new drama being showcased inspired by Oscar Wilde, a ‘poetry jam’ with the local orchestra ought to get the creative juices flowing, and open mic slots and workshops to satisfy all you budding poets. Not to be missed.
 
Cheltenham Poetry Festival runs from 4 – 15 May.
 
Bristol Crimefest
 
For those who like their books to begin with 'A shot rang out...' this festival is right up your (dimly lit) street. Bristol Crimefest is the answer to all your crime cravings, and has grown to become one of the biggest crime fiction events in Europe. The Bristol-based crime convention is an annual gathering where die-hard crime writing fans can be found alongside those who just enjoy the odd noir novel. This year, expect such stalwarts as Anthony Horowitz and Ann Cleeves, plus talks on the godmother of crime writing Agatha Christie and a panel discussion with 'Iceland's Queens of Crime'.


Image Credit: Anthony Horowitz, Bristol Crimefest
 
Bristol Crimefest runs from 18 – 21 May.

Guernsey Literary Festival

Billed as 'more than just a book thing,' the Guernsey Literary Festival returns for its fifth year of talks, performances and workshops on the island. The events centre around the island's capital, St Peter Port, which provided sanctuary for many years to French novelist Victor Hugo. For the bookish, there will be appearances from Sebastian Faulks, Anita Anand and Anthony McGowan, but the festival also boasts appearances from Clare Balding, Children's Laureate Chris Riddell and award-winning musician Akala will be running a Shakespeare and hip hop session. There will also be cricket matches plus an evening with Guardian football journalist Jonathan Wilson for sports fans, and a Roald Dahl Tea Party for kids.

Guernsey Literary Festival runs from 10 – 14 May.

Boswell Book Festival

Set in the 2,000-acre estate of Dumfries House in Ayrshire, Boswell Book Festival is not only one of Scotland's major cultural events but also one of the only festivals to specialize in biography and memoir. Its namesake, James Boswell, was an Ayrshire writer and pioneer of the modern biography, so here some of the leading lights of the modern biography field will be sharing their expertise. A selection from the line-up includes Vogue's longest serving editor-in-chief Alexandra Schulman, Simon Sebag Montefiore on the gruesome history of the Romanovs, and former director of the Globe Theatre Dominic Dromgoole talking about taking Hamlet to 190 countries. Not just for biography lovers, this festival promises to be a major cultural highlight.


Image Credit: Alexandra Schulman, Boswell Book Festival

Boswell Book Festival runs from 12 – 14 May.

Hay Festival

The undisputed king of the literary festivals this May has to be the famous Hay Festival in Wales. Hay-on-Wye plays host to this annual congregation of thousands of writers and readers, and given that it's the festival's 30th birthday you should expect even greater things than usual. The line-up is set to feature US senator Bernie Sanders, national treasure Stephen Fry, comedians Graham Norton, Eddie Izzard and Simon Amstell - and that's not even the writers! Simon Schama, Michael Rosen, Hari Kunzru, and Jacqueline Wilson are all due to talk, plus many, many more. This literary behemoth will be running over ten days from the end of May into June.

Hay Festival runs from 25 May – 4 June.

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