Showcasing literary legends, fresh new voices and the biggest books of the year, the full programme for The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021 has been revealed.
From Friday 8 to Sunday 17 October 2021, some huge names from the world of showbiz, sport, fashion, politics, science, poetry and, of course, literature are all set to appear in Cheltenham – with the Cheltenham Literature Festival village set to make a welcome return to Montpellier Gardens too.
Some of the biggest names from the stage and screen include Joan Collins, Strictly judge Shirley Ballas, Disney veteran Hayley Mills. With RuPaul’s Drag Race star Bimini Bon Boulash giving a drag queen’s guide to life – in an event sponsored by SoGlos.
Comedians include Dawn French, Katherine Ryan, Jack Dee, Phil Wang, Josh Widdicombe, Julian Clary, Adam Buxton, Rob Beckett, Mel Giedroyc and Sanjeev Bhaskar. With music stars include Led Zeppelin icon Jimmy Page, Will Young, Skunk Anansie’s trailblazing frontwoman Skin and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
Olympic gold medal-winner (and knitting legend) Tom Daley will be making his debut at Cheltenham fresh from his remarkable Tokyo performance. With other sporting names on the Cheltenham bill including footballers Peter Schmeichel and John Barnes, as well as rugby star James Haskell.
From the kitchen, there will be much-loved chef Raymond Blanc, Ainsley Harriott, Ravinder Bhogal and Monica Galetti, as well as a Dishoom dinner with co-founder Shamil Thakrar and an afternoon tea with baking sensation Jane Dunn.
This year’s festival will see the launch of a major new three-year theme ‘Read the World’, which organisers say means a ‘greater range of international writing will be profiled’. Leading literary names will be profiled from around the globe including double Pulitzer winner Colson Whitehead, Australian Lifetime Achievement in Literature Award winner Helen Garner, doyenne of Latin American literature Isabel Allende and Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk just a few of the international writers.
There is also fiction from Jonathan Franzen, Leïla Slimani, Elif Shafak, Colm Tóibín and Sebastian Faulks, Paula Hawkins, Marian Keyes, as well as guest curator Bernardine Evaristo, as just a few more names to look out for.
Largely live streamed in 2020, the world’s oldest literature festival will also be continuing to harness digital technology in 2021 – including daily highlights being broadcast on Cheltenham Festivals’ YouTube channel and recordings of over 140 events available on demand via the #CheltLitFest Player.
This year there is a bumper family programme of events at Cheltenham Literature Festival, including free activities, workshops and story trails, set to inspire a love of reading in children of all ages and stages.
Festival favourite Lenny Henry will be unveiling his first book for children, Michael Morpurgo introduces his first new novel in two years, there will also be Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, Tom Gates’ creator Liz Pichon, the legendary Jacqueline Wilson, record-breaking Rob Biddulph and TV vet Luke Gamble to snap up family tickets for.
Back for its sixth year, Cheltenham Lit Crawl will be hitting the town’s bars, record stores, cafes, tattoo parlours and barbershops for one-night-only – sampling everything from flash fiction to ghost stories, music to comedy, pop-up readings to spoken word.
Plus, VOICEBOX, an ‘immersive and visually striking new venue and programme’ is also launching at Cheltenham Literature Festival this year – bringing youth voices to the forefront through a completely free programme of talks, workshops, panels, DJ sets and more.
Booking for Cheltenham Literature Festival opens to Cheltenham Festivals members on Friday 3 September 2021, with general bookings opening on Friday 10 September 2021.
By Michelle Fyrne