Sevenoaks Literary Celebration

In 2002, a group of book-lovers decided to set up a small literary festival in Sevenoaks. Edna Healey and Nigel Nicolson came as speakers. By 2005, the festival was featuring such speakers as Penelope Lively, Katie Fforde, Frances Spalding, Andrew Roberts, Jeffrey Archer, Hilary Mantel, Lindsey Davis and Jenny Uglow.  Sevenoaks Literary Celebration was well on its way, with each year’s programme heralded by the distinctive blue brochure, with its frontispiece of Old Sevenoaks.

Kent has been home for many writers, and the festival always highlights our local literary associations. Virginia Nicholson, Juliet Nicolson and Shena Mackay have all come to talk about their familial links with the area, and 2010 saw our largest audience ever when Robert Sackville-West talked about the history of the Sackvilles. In 2004 a modest literary walk took place in the village of Weald, home to W.H Davies, Edward Thomas and Vita Sackville-West; the walk has became so popular that places now have to be decided by ballot!

Festival high points have been a talk by Lionel Shriver following her controversial We Need to Talk About Kevin, a Dickensian afternoon with John Sutherland and the Dickens Fellowship, a talk between John Mullan and Sarah Waters, and a magical evening of poetry at Penshurst Place with Daljit Nagra and Ruth Padel. 2009 saw ex-Poet Laureate Andrew Motion open the festival, which closed with an electrifying event when Hilary Mantel talked about Wolf Hall, which went on to win the Booker Prize two days later.

The small committee of volunteers which runs the festival aims to engage as many literary tastes and age groups as possible. Children and young people have always been a priority. In 2004 a Young Writers Award attracted hundreds of entries, and from 2008 there has been a free schools event featuring a popular children’s writer. Lovers of history, poetry, detective fiction, politics, military history and biography, as well as good fiction, can all find something in the festival, and 2008 saw our first Book Groups Tea, bringing together local book groups to talk about their favourite books.

As the festival approaches its next anniversary, Sevenoaks has a lot to celebrate.

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    Amanda Pattenden, 11/06/2014 7:12 pm business - Sevenoaks Literary Celebration

    We have attended a number of events at the Sevenoaks Literary Festival and have enjoyed them all, particularly the Literary Lunch.

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