Authors Armistead Maupin and Michael Morpurgo, poets Imtiaz Dharker, Benjamin Zephaniah and Lemn Sissay and writer and TV presenter Nadiya Hussain top the bill alongside a raft of writers, storytellers, musicians and spoken word artists.
Taking place at Storyhouse, Chester’s multi award winning theatre, cinema and library, 2019 marks the festival’s 30th year.
Poet, artist and filmmaker Imtiaz Dharker is this year’s festival’s guest director and artist in residence. Her poems and illustrations, inspired by Storyhouse and its communities, will be emblazoned across Storyhouse’s spaces creating an enormous poetry book.
Dharker has also curated four special events including Imtiaz Dharker and Friends, headlined by both Dharker and former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, as well as evenings of poetry from deaf spoken-word artist and Ted Hughes Prize winner Raymond Antrobus.
The author of over 130 books, Michael Morpurgo’s reputation in the world of children’s books is unmatched. To celebrate his 75th birthday, Morpurgo will be interviewed by award-winning actor and comedian Katy Brand. Armistead Maupin, writer of the Tales of the City chronicles will be interviewed on the Storyhouse stage by Booker prize nominee Bernadine Evaristo. Plus, Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain will discuss her book Finding my Voice exploring cultural identity, with TV presenter Angelica Bell.
Legendary Liverpool poet Roger McGough will be performing and discussing his exuberant new collection Joinedupwriting.
Rastafarian writer and dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah will be in Chester on 23 November. His first tour in eight years coincides with his autobiography, The Life And Rhymes Of Benjamin Zephaniah.
Current Storyhouse poet in residence Lemn Sissay will return to Chester to discuss his Sunday Times Bestselling memoir My Name is Why, in which he explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. And festival favourite Luke Wright brings us the show the critics are calling his best yet, Poet Laureate, in which he tries to write poems to unite a nation divided by austerity and Brexit.
Debate and discussion is planned with panels of writers and storytellers on subjects including Folklore in Fiction, Telling Stories of Displacement, and Young Storyhouse curated: What Young Adult Fiction Means to Us, with 2019 YA Book Prize winner Sara Barnard.
Storytelling is a cornerstone of the festival, through spoken word, music and dance. The programme features shows direct from the Edinburgh Fringe including previous festival hit Austentacious; poet, teacher and wannabe rapper Mark Grist; part-rave part-memoir HoneyBee; James Rowland’s Revelations, the third in his acclaimed Songs of Friendship trilogy; a tale of music and dementia from John Osbourne; one-man-band musical comedy Phoenix; and welsh mythology from Blodeuwedd Untold.
Chester University join the bill with a pair of fascinating events: Reading Flash Fiction to Write Flash Fiction, and Writing Literary Fiction Today – Suspense, Mystery and Memory in Ruben’s Chambermaid.
Cheshire Prize for Literature finalists script writing entries will be performed and judged. There are workshops on the art of Zine making, bullet journaling and writing for wellbeing on the subject of environmental change as well as travel writing and a Young Storyhouse curated workshop Adapting Books for Screen.
Plus, families are catered for with leading children’s authors Kate Pankhurst (Fantastically Great Women who Worked Wonders), Hollie Hughes (The Girl and the Dinosaur), and Jim Whalley with illustrator Stephen Collins’ (Baby’s First Jailbreak).
Local writers take centre stage daily throughout the festival. There will be readings from local writers, poets and storytellers every day at 11am in Storyhouse’s Kitchen and for something to do with the kids straight after the school run, there will be family storytelling at 4pm. There will also be an evening showcase of local talent Your Voices: Celebrating Local Writers.
Storyhouse library will offer book folding workshops and festival goers are invited to explore the multi award winning library’s plethora of book clubs including (among others) sci -fi, women’s literature and a reading group for the visually impaired.
The library team will also lead Get to Know Your Library introductory sessions, and a chance to experience the many audio books available to borrow.
There’s a Human Library, a Pub Choir, a talk by leading BBC journalist Gavin Esler on the realities of Brexit and a talk by acclaimed philosopher and author Professor AC Grayling on The History of Philosophy.
Storyhouse cinema has a unique event: Official Secrets is the true story of British Intelligence whistle-blower Katharine Gun and journalist Martin Bright. As part of the festival, Bright will take part in a Q&A to discuss the story behind the headlines.
Plus, festival favouritesMolly Naylor(poet, and writer of Sky sitcom After Hours) and singer-songwriter Gavin Osborn will take over Storyhouse’s Garret theatre and bar for a wine-fuelled Festival Finale Poetry Party.
One of the UK’s oldest Literature Festivals it was established in 1989 by voluntary organisation Chester Arts 89 and the booksellers of the city. They programmed a week of activity with a line-up that included a reading by DH Lawrence’s niece.