Donaldson and Morpurgo to open Barnes Children's Literature Festival

Donaldson and Morpurgo to open Barnes Children's Literature Festival

Bestselling children's authors Julia Donaldson and Sir Michael Morpurgo will open the Barnes Children's Literature Festival on 26th June, the first festival to return as a physical event since the lockdowns. 

The event will return as planned with a primary schools programme from 17th to 25th June, followed by the public weekend on 26th and 27th June boasting a “better than ever” line-up.

Donaldson, along with her husband Malcolm, will perform two shows with songs, dancing and storytelling from her best-known books including The Gruffalo (Macmillan Children's Books). She will also sign copies of her books after the events.

Morpurgo, meanwhile, returns to Barnes to talk about his new book, A Song of Gladness (Two Hoots), which was inspired by his time living in lockdown. The bill also features events from former UK Children's Laureates Dame Jaqueline Wilson and Lauren Child, comedian Julian Clary, David Roberts and Carnegie Medallist David Almond. 

Children's literature favourite Helen Oxenbury will make a rare festival appearance and has designed this year's festival branding, inspired by her late friend Judith Kerr's most famous creations, The Tiger Who Came To Tea (HarperCollins Children's Books), and her own classic, We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Walker). Kerr lived in Barnes and was a regular at the festival. 

Master storyteller Frank Cottrell-Boyce will also join Nicolette Jones, the children's books editor of the Sunday Times, for a special event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (HarperCollins Children's Books). 

Other confirmed authors over the public weekend include middle-grade writers Ross Welford, Maz Evans, Michelle Harrison, Thomas Taylor and Sharna Jackson and some of the best known names from picture books, including Guinness World Record holder Rob Biddulph, Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve, Karl Newson and Steven Lenton.

After the success of the 2019 festival, which sold more than 10,000 tickets and £21,000 worth of books over the weekend, Barnes became the first children's literature festival to go virtual when lockdown began back in March 2020, attracting more than 40,000 viewers from 46 countries over six days. 

Festival director Amanda Brettargh said that for the 2021 event the organisers had adapted their programme, and adjusted the capacity and layout of each venue, with all measures in place to make the experience as safe as possible.

She said: “'We've got plenty of room to move here in Barnes and we're confident we can deliver the maximum amount of book fun and keep families, authors, illustrators, performers and volunteers safe.”

Brettargh added: “'This has been a really tough year for so many people, and Zoom has been a life saver. It's opened doors that we didn't have before and we've all learned so much but we strongly believe that we can build something better. And for those who feel ready and safe to do so, it's time for normal festival life to resume. It's time to get those kids back in the room for some fun with books.”

The festival is presented in partnership with the University of Roehampton, the Barnes Community Association and Waterstones. Global pandemics permitting, the full programme will be announced online before tickets go on sale on 22nd May.