In the vast landscape of literary festivals across the UK, 2023 emerges as a year brimming with choices to satiate every book lover’s appetite. From the bustling heart of London to idyllic corners of the country, literary gatherings beckon with promises of thought-provoking discussions, engaging workshops, and the chance to interact with literary luminaries. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the best literary festivals in London and across the UK for 2023, urging you to mark your calendars and book your tickets for an unforgettable journey into the world of words.
Wow Festival London (10 – 12 March)
Location: Southbank Centre, London
The Wow Festival, short for ‘Women of the World,’ stands as a beacon of celebration for women, girls, and non-binary individuals. Timed with International Women’s Day, this festival at the Southbank Centre gathers remarkable individuals from diverse spheres. An event highlighting women, misogyny, and power sets the stage, featuring Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, activist and author Laura Bates, author Elif Shafak, and activist Josephine Kamara. The festival delves into critical issues like mental health, the cost of living crisis, baby loss, and fat activism, making it a powerful platform for voices that need to be heard.
Budleigh Salterton (17 – 18 March)
Location: Budleigh Salterton, Jurassic Coast
For those enchanted by the sea’s whispers, Budleigh Salterton offers a unique literary experience. Nestled along the Jurassic Coast, this festival has a history of attracting acclaimed authors, poets, and playwrights. A weekend of enlightening talks, panel events, and workshops awaits attendees. From David Dimbleby reflecting on his 50-year career at the BBC to celebrated costume designer Esme Young on the power of creativity, Budleigh Salterton promises an enriching literary immersion by the tranquil sea.
Deptford Literature Festival (Saturday, 18 March)
Location: Deptford, London
Deptford Literature Festival emerges as a vibrant celebration of diversity and creativity, focusing on themes of nature, climate, and food. A one-day fiesta, it showcases the immense talent of writers, artists, and organizations based in the Deptford and Lewisham areas. The festival includes the likes of Caleb Femi, Natasha Brown, and Leone Ross, offering a platform for local voices to resonate and inspire.
Hay Festival (25 May – 4 June)
Location: Hay-on-Wye, Wales
Hay Festival, often heralded as the pinnacle of literary festivals, has earned the moniker ‘Woodstock for the mind.’ The festival consistently features a stellar lineup, with luminaries like Margaret Atwood gracing the stage to discuss their works. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this year’s event promises a gathering of the brightest minds in the literary world. With stimulating discussions and the prestigious Crime Novel of the Year prize in the offing, Hay Festival remains a literary haven for avid readers.
Kite Festival (9 – 11 June)
Location: Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire
Kite Festival, a blend of music and breakthrough ideas, unfolds at the picturesque Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire. This unique festival combines live performances, interactive discussions, and insightful talks. From Dame Joan Collins sharing insights about her best-selling novels to Max Porter discussing the craft of storytelling, this festival promises an immersive fusion of music and literature.
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (20 – 23 July)
Location: Harrogate, Yorkshire
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, an award-winning celebration of crime fiction, has etched its name in the literary firmament. This year marks its 20th anniversary, promising an even more extraordinary lineup. With the likes of Val McDermid, Lee Child, Lisa Jewell, and Ann Cleeves gracing the festival, attendees can expect a thrilling delve into the world of crime fiction.
Primadonna (28 – 30 July)
Location: Museum of East Anglian Life, Suffolk
Primadonna Festival stands as a testament to the power of women’s voices and underrepresented narratives. Hosted at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Suffolk, the festival offers workshops covering politics of narration, storytelling traditions, and insights into the publishing world. This family-friendly event, with activities for kids and talks from renowned writers, is a nurturing ground for budding novelists.
Chiswick Book Festival (6 – 13 September)
Location: Chiswick and Ealing, London
Chiswick, a literary hub in west London, comes alive during the Chiswick Book Festival. Celebrating a range of genres, including fiction, history, politics, and children’s books, the festival hosts talks by top authors. With names like Jane Garvey, Sir Vince Cable, and Dame Sheila Hancock gracing previous events, this year’s lineup promises equally captivating discussions.
Queen’s Park Book Festival (2 – 3 September)
Location: Queen’s Park, London
Set amidst the serene surroundings of Queen’s Park, this low-key yet charming festival provides a delightful garden fete-like experience. Hosting a blend of performance poetry, author discussions, and nightly parties, Queen’s Park Book Festival is a hidden gem. It offers the perfect blend of literary engagement and the charm of a public park setting.
Wimbledon Book Fest (22 September – 1 October)
Location: Wimbledon Common, London
Known as London’s leading community-based literature festival, Wimbledon Book Fest takes place against the backdrop of Wimbledon Common. With a history of hosting iconic names like Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and Emily Maitlis, this festival holds a special place in the hearts of literature enthusiasts. Alongside the summer festival, the organizers curate regular literary events throughout the year, making it a year-round literary haven.
These literary festivals, diverse in themes and locations, invite you to immerse yourself in the enchanting world of literature. They offer a platform to celebrate the power of the written word, explore new ideas, and connect with fellow bibliophiles. Book your tickets now and embark on a literary journey across London and the UK in 2023.