Cheltenham Literature Festival
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The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, a large-scale international festival of literature in the Spa town of Cheltenham, and part of Cheltenham Festivals: also responsible for the Jazz, Music and Science Festivals that run every year.
Introduction and history
Formed in 1949, The Cheltenham Literature Festival is the longest-running festival of its kind in the world. The Festival was started by the Spa Manager George Wilkinson, in conjunction with the Tewkesbury-based author John Moore, who served as its first director. Actor Ralph Richardson, who was born in Cheltenham, launched the festival, and poet Cecil Day Lewis, who taught at Cheltenham College, read a selection of contemporary verse. The Festival currently has the national newspaper 'The Times' as its 'title' sponsor: therefore making the full name of the festival "The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival". The Festival's current Artistic Director is Sarah Smyth.
The Festival prides itself in showcasing the biggest names from contemporary culture with award- winning authors, up-and-coming writing talent and controversial debate. With over 140,00 tickets sold in 2012, the Festival remains one of the most prestigious literary events in the world.
Each Festival contains a number of ‘features’ that group the events, as well as an underlying 'theme' throughout the Festival. Each year, 'Guest Directors' are also assigned, who curate short series of events throughout the Festival: these have included Armando Ianucci, A. C. Grayling, Diran Adebayo, Dominic Dromgoole, Kate Adie and Ian Rankin.
The festival also sees the presentation each year of the Nick Clarke Award for best broadcast interview.
Described as a 'literary lovers dream', the Festival has hosted the talents of some of the world's leading novelists, poets, humorists, historians, philosophers, actors and politicians. Previous guests include:
Sue Townsend, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Ruth Rendell, Gordon Brown, Martin Amis, Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Michael Palin, Ian Hislop, Stephen Hawking, Richard Hammond, Armando Iannucci, Rik Mayall, Rory Bremner, Jon Snow, Simon Schama, Michael Buerk, Bruce Parry, Sophie Dahl, Ian McEwan, Anne Enright, A. C. Grayling, Sebastian Faulks, Naomi Klein, Tony Benn, Terry Jones, Nick Hornby, Bob Geldof, Jeremy Paxman, Rupert Everett, Frank McCourt, Brenda Blethyn, Doris Lessing and Patrick Stewart.
- 'Festival Features'
Features included a series of readings from past Man Booker Prize winners, BBC Radio 4 recordings, and "The Times Debate".
- Guest Directors
"The family, and how it shapes who we are and how we live, read and write. Why have particular families become dynasties shaping entire nations? How have writers drawn on their family experiences and those of others?"
- Artists and authors
Toni Morrison, Ian Rankin, Kate Adie, Patrick Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Simon Schama, David Starkey, Antony Sher, Michael Parkinson, Terry Jones, Tony Robinson, Sandi Toksvig, Dawn French, Simon Armitage, Clive James, Ruth Rendell, Alexander McCall Smith, Bruce Parry, Ray Mears, Frank Skinner, Janet Street-Porter, Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, John Barrowman, Russell T Davies, Dave Gorman, Charley Boorman, Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas, and Laura Ulewicz.
More than 450 writers and over 350 events, a new outdoor voices off stage in the town centre, more free events for children, and more events in The Centaur.
The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is one of the four festivals that Cheltenham Festivals run each year. Combined with the Jazz, Science and Music Festivals, Cheltenham Festivals host over 700 events across 12 months.