Alys heads for Hexham

Alys Fowler in her garden

Alys Fowler in her garden - Photo by Ros Dodd

The sixth Hexham Book Festival – which is starting to rival Hay –  takes place this year from 28 April to 12 May. It will feature wise, witty and waspish words from some of the UK’s best writers – including Brummie resident celeb gardener Alys Fowler.

Over 30 authors are attending this Festival this year, which will centre around the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre in Hexham.

The book festival is extending its remit into North Northumberland this year for the first time, with a new partnership with The Maltings Theatre in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The partnership will see a day of creative writing workshops for all ages and leading authors doing two events as part of the festival: one in Hexham, and one in Berwick.

Headlining the Hexham Book Festival 2011 is master of spin, Alastair Campbell, presenting the second volume of his diaries. He’ll talk candidly about what life is like in the eye of a political storm on Saturday 7 May, in Hexham.

The festival is also hosting Lord Melvyn Bragg, as the veteran broadcaster and writer presents the rich and bloody history of the King James Bible in the extraordinary setting of Hexham Abbey on Thursday 5 May. 2011 marks the 300th anniversary of the King James Bible’s publication.

Novelist Maggie O’Farrell, winner of the Costa 2010 prize for fiction, will be speaking to audiences about her most recent novel, The Hand That First Held Mine. Maggie’s perceptive, poetic and intimate writing about everyday life has won her many fans, and she’ll be speaking on Thursday 5 May in Hexham, and Friday 6 May in Berwick.

There’s also something for food lovers, with master of Italian cuisine, Antonio Carluccio and doyenne of cookery, Prue Leith (both Friday 6 May, Hexham). Antonio will be talking about the real Italian food he grew up with, and Prue will be discussing the novels she’s managed to write in between teaching us all to be better cooks.

Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead, one of Scotland’s best-known poets and dramatists, will talk about her life and work and reflect on her career as both a performer and playwright (Sunday 8 May.)

The festival will also be in Alnwick once again, after a first event there in 2010 at Alnwick Castle. This year Hexham Book Festival will be doing a special event with gardener and journalist Alys Fowler, talking about her latest book, The Edible Garden, in the gorgeous setting of the Alnwick Garden (Thursday 28 April).

Hexham Book Festival is supporting and promoting new writing and ventures for 2011, and placing new authors at the very heart of its programme.

For the first time, Hexham Book Festival has teamed up with the Robinson-Gay Gallery on Market Street, Hexham, to allow for lunchtime treats: readings, music and talks at 1pm every weekday of the festival. Speakers will include the authors from this year’s Read Regional campaign and beyond.

The festival will also play host to a new event for the North East literature calendar: monthly event The Spark, an exciting evening of true story telling, live, on a different theme every month. The Spark in Hexham will be on Thursday 5 May.

“The Hexham Book Festival has grown year-on-year, and it’s great to see so many quality writers coming to the region,” says festival director Susie Troup. “The 2011 festival is longer than previous years and we’re particularly excited to be extending to Berwick for the first time, and to be supporting so many new writers across the programme.”

Hexham Book Festival is also running many events for schools and children during the week, including a Short Story competition for authors aged 9-13, a visit from author, actor and comedian Charlie Higson (Monday 9 May) and a Literacy Day schools event.

Hexham Book Festival runs from 28 April to 12 May 2011, and ticket prices range from free to £12.50.

Full programme and booking details are available at