Budleigh Lit Fest to mix physical and virtual, with Mantel

Budleigh Lit Fest to mix physical and virtual, with Mantel

Budleigh Literary Festival will be hosting several physical events alongside a digital offering in September, with appearances from Hilary Mantel and James Naughtie.

From 16th–20th September, people can get free access to a programme of events, at least two of which will be filmed and recorded live in front of a limited audience at Budleigh Salterton in east Devon.

Headline speakers include festival president Mantel, who will be talking in-person to BBC special correspondent Naughtie in her first face-to-face interview in front of an audience since lockdown. Alongside The Mirror & the Light (4th Estate), she will also be sharing details of her new book of reflective essays, Mantel Pieces (4th Estate), for the first time.

On the same day, Naughtie will deliver the annual Susan Ward Lecture about his book On the Road (S&S), reflecting on a career spent reporting on the United States, and considering the current state of that nation.

Elsewhere, there are appearances from Sandi Toksvig, Helen Macdonald, former US ambassador Sir Kim Darroch, investigative journalist Luke Harding, poet laureate Simon Armitage and Raynor Winn. Other sessions will feature Sarah Moss, Mark Billingham, Peter James, Anthony Horowitz, Pragya Agarwal and Nazir Afzal.

Artistic director Annie Ashworth said: “Despite restrictions, it was unthinkable not to hold the festival when it is such an important part of the town’s calendar. We intend the festival to have a strong sense of its location, so we’ll be hanging out the bunting and banners as always, and bringing some superb headline writers to our local audience, as well as welcoming people online who might never have discovered this beautiful corner of Devon.

“We aim to be flexible and to open up the festival as much as possible depending on guidelines, but of course the safety of our team and audiences will be paramount. We are so grateful to our sponsors and supporters for enabling the festival to happen this year—we can’t wait for September and to bringing the pleasure of the festival to Budleigh.”

For more information, visit the festival website. Audiences will be asked to make a donation to support the festival’s costs and outreach work, and the festival will also be donating to the Society of Authors' Emergency Fund to support writers whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

The festival is one of a handful to host physical events this year, following Wimbledon BookFest's announcement it would be holding a weekend on Wimbledon Common in September.

In contrast, Durham Book Festival has said it will be entirely online, with more than 50 events held from 9th–18th October. The full line-up is to be revealed in September, but organisers promise high-profile and international author events, poetry readings, live drawing, writing workshops, literary quizzes, podcasts and social media takeovers.

It will also shine a spotlight on Durham, showcasing the stories of the North-East, including at least 20 newly commissioned works. Festival producers will also distribute 4,000 free copies of its Big Read and 1,500 copies of its Little Read titles to Durham residents, focusing particularly on groups in the county who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Further updates about the free programme will be available from September on the event's website.