Raworths Literary Festival emerges from Covid with stellar cast for Harrogate event

Royals, politicians, scientists, academics, journalists and animal behaviourists have all ‘booked’ to come to Harrogate next month as one of the town’s greatest arts festivals returns for ‘real’ for the first time since 2019.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 10th September 2021, 5:31 pm
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 5:34 pm
Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, Sharon Canavar.
Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, Sharon Canavar.

As The Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival prepares for live events again, the first contributors to be announced in a glittering line-up, include some truly stellar names:

* Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York;

* Former Labour leader Ed Miliband;

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Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, will attend the Raworths Literary Festival.

* BBC Newsnight Presenter Gavin Esler;

* Costa Book of the Year Winner Monique Roffey;

* Channel 5’s ‘Dogfather’ Graeme Hall.

Among the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival stars coming to Harrogate next month is former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

The festival, which is being held at Harrogate’s Crown Hotel from Thursday, October 21 until Sunday, October 24, is the second ‘live’ arts event organisers Harrogate International Festival have tackled after a challenging 18 months of Covid restrictions and digital-only presentations.

With such a strong line-up, hopes are high that the return of the popular literary festival will prove as successful as July’s incredible Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival which turned out to be a triumph when it took place shortly after the rules of lockdown were first lifted by the Government.

Sharon Canavar, Harrogate International Festivals Chief Executive, said: “We are incredibly excited to see this year’s line-up of prominent speakers appearing at next month’s Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival.

“This festival has become one the country’s most important literary events, which gives an array of writers - which this year features leading politicians, academics, journalists, historians and activists - the chance to share their stories.”

Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival will begin with a literary lunch with BBC correspondent and BAFTA award-winning journalist, Paul Kenyon.

Appearing at the opening night of the Festival, Mr Miliband, the MP for Doncaster North, will be following in the footsteps of his political adversary, former Prime Minister David Cameron, who headlined the Festival in 2019.

Other writers appearing over the four days include Dr Waheed Arian, Robin Ince, Led By Donkeys founders James Sadri and Oliver Knowles, Dr Kate Vigurs, Dr Alastair Santhouse, Amy Jeffs and Melanie King.

Dr Kate Vigurs, who was schooled in Harrogate, tells the story of 39 women of the resistance in the SOE, including one with a link to the spa town.

In the run up to this year’s the COP26 global UN climate summit in Glasgow, the festival will also present a special event called Climate Change - Code Red For Humanity.

The festival’s chief Sharon Canavar said, as good as next month’s programme is, the event simply could not happen without the support and loyalty of its prime Harrogate-based sponsor.

Ms Canavar said: “The programme we have curated for this long weekend, set in the wonderful setting of The Crown Hotel, has been designed to entertain, inspire and surprise.

“I would like to thank our sponsor, Raworths, for their unstinting support of this annual celebration of books, which is always a very popular event and a key diary date in the town’s cultural calendar.

“Without our sponsors we would not be able to stage the festivals and events we are famed for, and Harrogate would subsequently be the poorer as a consequence.”

Zoe Robinson, Raworths Managing Partner, said: “We are very proud to once again have our name associated with this annual literary festival, and support Harrogate International Festivals in bringing this event to the town.

“Over the years, well-known figures from the world of politics, sport, acting and writing have graced the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival stage, and this year is no exception.

“We are really looking forward to the coming four days and listening to the different authors and the stories they have to tell.”

When Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival returned in July to wide acclaim it did so with a range of Covid-security measures in place, including social distancing and limits on crowd capacity.

Like the Theakstons events, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival prides itself for bringing writers and readers together in a relaxed but safe way.

As it stands, the situation for audiences, guests and staff at next month’s much-anticipated feast of top writers - regarded as one of the North of England’s leading literary festivals - depends partly on the Government’s view on the progress of the virus nationally come October.

Having done such an impressive job in July with the Crime Writing Festival, it’s fair to say arts fans in Harrogate and further afield are waiting with bated breath for the return of Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival.

More information about this year’s Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival can be found on the Harrogate International Festivals website at: www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/raworths-literature-festival/Key events at the Raworths Literary Festival:

Thursday, October 21:

Midday: Literary Lunch with BBC correspondent Paul Kenyon;

4pm to 5pm: Kate Vigurs, Mission France: The True History of the Women of the SOE;

5.30pm to 6.30pm: Led by Donkeys with James Sadri & Oliver Knowles;

7.30pm to 8.30pm: Go Big, How To Fix Our World with Ed Miliband.

Friday October 22:

11am to midday: Dr Waheed Arian, In The Wars;

12.30pm to 1.30pm: Robin Ince and The Importance of Being Interested;

2.30pm to 3.30pm: Her Heart for a Compass, with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York & Marguerite Kaye;

4pm to 5pm: The Secret Royals - a discussion on the relationship between the Royal Family and the intelligence community;

7.30pm to 8.30pm: Funny You Should Ask. Weird questions answered by the QI Elves.

Saturday October 23:

11am to midday: SCOFF with Pen Vogler, A History of Food And Class In Britain;

12.30pm to 1.30pm: Museums, Adapting To The Modern World;

2.30pm: Spa Wars, with Melanie King;

4pm to 5pm: Climate Change - Code Red For Humanity, with Dr Alice Bell and Professor Peter Stott;

6pm to 7pm: Amy Jeffs, Storyland, looking at our ancient stories;

7.30pm to 8.30pm: An Evening with the Dogfather, Graeme Hall.

Sunday, October 24:

9.30am to 10.30am: Head First With Alastair Santhouse, A Psychiatrist’s Stories Of Mind And Body;

11am to midday: What Next as the UK emerges from Covid-19 and detached from the EU?

12.30pm to 1.30pm: In conversation with author Monique Roffey - 2020 Costa Book of the Year winner.