Big names line up for 2019 Petworth Literary Week

Hugh Bonneville
Hugh Bonneville

Hugh Bonneville, James Naughtie, Prue Leith, Jenni Murray, George Alagiah, Jenny Eclair and David Suchet are among the big names lining up at Petworth Festival’s Literary Week 2019.

Organisers are promising bigger and better than ever. Now in its ninth year, the festival expands into a second week this year as the list of household names taking part continues to grow.

Artistic director Stewart Collins is promising high-quality speakers and breadth of appeal in a festival that will see more than 30 events taking place across four venues.

“Without any doubt we have an unprecedented line-up of big hitters this coming year and I am confident we will continue to see a continuing growth in our audience numbers thanks to the events with the likes of Hugh Bonneville, James Naughtie, Prue Leith, Jenni Murray, George Alagiah and David Suchet.

“But it is the fact that renowned experts – and as importantly, great communicators – will be joining us to talk about the widest possible range of subjects that gives the programme its depth and character.

“Historians will be fascinated by Max Hastings’ new study of the World War II Dambusters raid; sports fans will be delighted to see Test Match Special’s Vic Marks on the bill; science lovers will be transfixed by BBC science correspondent David Whitehouse’s remarkable study of the Apollo 11 moon landing; readers of crime novels will be spoilt by Lynne Truss’s conversation with fellow writer Simon Brett and so on.

“Politics will of course feature large in this year of all years, with journalists Steve Richards and Charles Moore reflecting on recent residents of 10 Downing Street, whilst Labour MP Rachel Reeves and former parliamentarian, now director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt will doubtless also be drawn on current affairs.

“Having increasingly been focused on incorporating young people’s events into the fabric of the festival, lovers of poetry and creative writing will be able to sample the best of a series of specially written poems from pupils attending schools across the area at one of the festival’s most relaxed events, the Poetry Breakfast on Sunday, November 3, an event being run in association with the South Downs Poetry Festival and The Arts Society Young Arts.”

Stewart says he is struck by the dramatic growth of the festival organisation as a whole in the past two years: “Remarkably, and at a time of some uncertainty in the country overall, the Petworth Festival (both the summer and autumn literary events together) has grown by 40 per cent since 2017.

“This is down to at least two factors, firstly a genuinely engaged audience who really support and take an interest in everything we present, and secondly the fantastic financial support we receive annually from a substantial group of sponsors. The combination is clearly highly effective and everyone benefits.”

With a presence throughout the week from regular partner The Petworth Bookshop, the festival runs from Saturday, October 26-Sunday, November 3.

From Wednesday 2 October, tickets can be bought online at and on 01798 344576 (Monday to Saturday, 10am-1pm).

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