The eighth annual Hexham Book Festival, which will take place this year from 24 April to 2 May, has just announced its line-up, with a variety of writers offering events blending words, stories and ideas.
This year’s festival will be celebrating the brightest and best of crime and historical fiction; a rich mix of talks about gardening, nature and the environment; astonishing real-life stories by extraordinary people; and biographers discussing the outlandish lives of the subjects of their books. Events will take place in the Queen’s Hall as well as other venues in and around Hexham.
Audiences coming to the festival have a wealth of writers to see, talking about subjects as varied as Charles Dickens and the Bosnian war.
We’ll be hearing of real life experiences from those who’ve been part of extraordinary things: mountaineer and award-winning writer Joe Simpson will talk about his career as a climber and present his new novel based on his experiences; BBC war correspondent Martin Bell will discuss his experiences reporting on the Bosnian war; Andy Kershaw will speak about a varied life well-lived through experiences from music to the Rwandan genocide; ex-Sunderland Labour MP Chris Mullin will talk about a life in British politics and BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt will present his book about the seduction of the euro and its crippling effect on the economy.
We’ll also hear about the fascinating lives of public figures from their biographers: Claire Tomalin will present her new book on Charles Dickens; Lisa Chaney will reveal a new side to designer Coco Chanel and Psiche Hughes will talk about much-loved British artist Beryl Bainbridge.
If historical fiction is your thing, come and see Radio 4’s Edward Stourton talking about the forgotten struggle of those who crossed the Pyrenees during the Second World War to escape persecution and death and Neil McKenna and Wendy Moore telling all about bizarre Victorian behaviour, from cross-dressing young men on trial to a young man-of-means’ attempts to create the perfect wife.
If you’re more of a crime fan, here’s some to get your teeth into: Mark Billingham and Martyn Waites will present their new novels; Sophie Hannah and Louise Welsh will discuss their new psychological thrillers; and local crime writer Mari Hannah talking about the latest in her Kate Daniels series with fellow thriller writer Matt Hilton.
Nature and the environment will also be profiled with horticulture from Anne Swithinbank, searching for wild otters with Miriam Darlington and discussing the impact economic development has on nature with veteran environmental campaigner Tony Juniper, who will be talking to science journalist Fred Pearce, author of The Landgrabbers.
Susie Troup, director of Hexham Book Festival, said: “Every year we try to get some strong themes running throughout the festival, and this year we’re delighted to have achieved that with many best-selling writers appearing, talking about crime, history and biography.
“It’s always a pleasure to programme this wonderful festival, and now I just can’t wait for it to start so I can actually hear the authors talking about their books, and see the reaction from their readers.”
Later in the spring, the festival decamps to Alnwick to run Words Across Northumberland, which started in 2012. Taking over Alnwick Playhouse for three days on 17 & 18 May and 21 June, Words Across Northumberland will see award-winning novelists Lionel Shriver and Maggie O’Farrell as well as historian and TV presenter Dan Snow present their latest books.
For the first time this year, the festival is teaming up with Hexham Community Partnership’s Eating Festival and Spring Fair to present the Children’s Marquee on Saturday 27 April in Sele Park, just across the road from the Queen’s Hall arts centre, hosting events for children up to 10 years of age, from 10.30am till 3.30pm.
Ticket prices range from free to £12.
Full programme and booking details are available at www.hexhambookfestival.co.uk.