Despite fears that it might be cancelled, The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival will be going ahead in 2020 – with the world’s oldest literature festival getting a post-lockdown modernisation into a ‘pioneering digital festival,’ according to organisers.
Taking place from Friday 2 to Sunday 11 October 2020, 100 Cheltenham Literature Festival events will be live-streamed from Cheltenham Town Hall and the Everyman Theatre with a socially-distanced live audience, if government guidance permits this.
The events will be streamed via the Cheltenham Festivals website through a digital hub, where the audience can interact with speakers and other festival-goers. Visitors to the hub can navigate a virtual festival site, browsing in the bookshop and exploring activities for book-lovers of all ages.
The Festival is equipping schools and families to run their own Literature Festival, providing 30 free author events, creative writing challenges, draw-alongs and read-aloud sessions available to watch on-demand. Plus eight live-streamed weekend events with children’s authors, poets and illustrators.
The Lit Fest programme will feature content unique to Cheltenham, presenting some of the biggest names in publishing this autumn, according to organisers. Award-winning authors of fiction and non-fiction will join poets, spoken word artists and new voices on a range of topics including travel and adventure, food and drink, lifestyle, history, art and religion.
Established in 1949, it will be the first time the event has been run digitally in its 71-year history. It would normally have a festival village at Montpellier Gardens and fringe events happening all over Cheltenham.
Director of Cheltenham Festivals, Ian George, said: ‘We are recreating the spirit of the festival online and sharing the joy of books with thousands of people across the globe who can’t meet in person in Cheltenham this year.
‘Since lockdown, when we have all needed culture and creativity more than ever, Cheltenham Festivals has committed to bring its Festivals digitally to homes all over the world, for free.
‘As the COVID-19 crisis means we are faced with losing vital box office income from our biggest festival of the year, we hope that our devoted audiences and friends will keep donating generously so that we can continue our work.’
Guest curators at this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival are award-winning British-Turkish novelist and storyteller Elif Shafak and Shamil Thakrar – co-founder of Dishoom, winner of Best Restaurant in the UK two years running and author of the best-selling Dishoom cookbook.
Confirmation that Cheltenham Literature Festival 2020 is going ahead will please literature fans across Gloucestershire and across the globe – with the opportunity for participation no longer limited by geographical boundaries.
It follows the cancellation of Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Science Festival and Cheltenham Music Festival due to the Coronavirus lockdown, with all three events subsequently running online virtual festivals and celebrations.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival 2020 line-up is due to be announced on Friday 28 August 2020.
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