World’s oldest literature festival goes digital

Cheltenham Literary Festival

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is to be live streamed from Cheltenham for the first time in the history of the world’s oldest literature festival.

Covid-19 has severely jeopardised music, arts and literary festivals across the UK. Cheltenham not only produces 36 days of Festivals and at least 180 days of year-round activity, but more important for the local economy, the hotels, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, it generates more than £5.3 million worth of business for the local economy.

This year’s pioneering hybrid Festival, combining digital and in-person events, features some of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, performers and dynamic new voices. From 2 – 11 October, the Festival will include more than 160 events with, 100 of which will be broadcast live from Cheltenham’s Town Hall and the Everyman Theatre in front of a socially-distanced live audience.

Virtual visitors can explore Cheltenham’s Festival site on  interacting with speakers, browsing the bookshop, and taking part in activities for book-lovers of all ages. Tickets to attend the Festival in person are available to a limited socially-distanced audience, including Patrons of Cheltenham Festivals. Tickets go on sale online initially to Cheltenham Festivals Gold Members from 10am on Wednesday 16 September.

Sky Arts will broadcast free-to- view highlights, and the Festivals have joined up with Audible and award-winning independent publisher Jacaranda, which this year is publishing 20 works by 20 black writers in a new initiative.

Among many, many highlights, a new Festival series – The Citizens’ Manifesto – that brings together young activists, politicians and key thinkers with the Festival audience to share experiences and examine how society should change after COVID-19 as we navigate our way through the chaos and face the future.

This year’s guest curators are Elif Shafak, the award-winning British-Turkish novelist and storyteller shortlisted for The Booker Prize 2019 (10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World). Her novel Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC as one of the 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. Her new non-fiction title based on her Wellcome lecture, How to Stay Sane in An Age of Division appears this summer with Profile.

Shamil Thakrar – co-founder of Dishoom, winner of Best Restaurant in the UK two years running. Dishoom now has eight sites in the UK and employs more than a thousand people. Before 2010, he had, amongst other things, been a management consultant for five years and worked in the food industry for eight years. Shamil along with co-founder Kavi Thakrar and Executive Chef Naved Nasir, co-authored the restaurant’s first book, “Dishoom: From Bombay with Love”, in 2019.

Alongside the title partner, The Times and The Sunday Times, principal partners include Arts Council England, Audible, Baillie Gifford, BUPA Foundation, Cunard, Marquee TV, Thirty Percy, Sky Arts, University of Gloucestershire and Waterstones