This year, the Henley Literary Festival celebrates its 11th anniversary of author talks, book signings and writing workshops in Henley. It’s one of the biggest book events near Reading and the 2017 programme promises a packed lineup of celebrity names, political insiders and best-selling authors discussing all things literature.
Find out which authors to see, the highlights to look out for and how to buy tickets in our guide to the Henley Literary Festival 2017.
Henley Literary Festival highlights
The big name celebrities
The biggest ticket at this year’s festival is Russell Brand (Thursday 26 October. 7.30pm, Christ Church, £25), discussing his latest tome, Recovery: Freedom From Your Addiction. Expect a frank, no-holds-barred session of Brand bluster. He’ll be covering his struggles with addiction and the steps he has found to break self-destructive behaviour. The ticket price includes a copy of the book. Do note that due to a booking change, Russell will now talk on 26 October, instead of during the festival itself.
In a slightly more cosy session, baking queen Mary Berry will be sharing gems from her book Household Tips & Tricks. But she’s so popular that her session is already sold out.
Instead, embrace the new Bake Off dynasty and check out Prue Leith (Wednesday 4 October, 2.30pm, Kenton Theatre, £12.50) talking about food, bread week and her autobiography, A Relished Return.
Another entertaining event will come from Armando Iannucci, creator The Thick of It and Veep (Sunday 8 October, 3pm, Kenton Theatre, £12.50). Here he’s eschewing political commentary to discuss his book Hear Me Out, which focuses on his love of music. Expect a passionate chat on everyone from Beethoven and Mahler to Philip Glass and John Adams.
There’s an impressive range of best-selling authors attending this year with some huge names to look out for, such as Paula Hawkins (Tuesday 3 October, 8:30 pm, Kenton Theatre, £10), author of Girl on the Train. She will be discussing her latest work Into the Water.
Booker Prize-winner Roddy Doyle (Friday 6 October, 6.30pm, Kenton Theatre, £10) makes his debut at Henley Literary Festival to discuss his latest work, Smile, as well as previous best-sellers The Commitments and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
It’s not just best-sellers though. Discover three authors to look out for in 2018 at the Wildfire Proof Party (Monday 2 October, 12.30pm, The Hibernia, £10), aboard the Hibernia boat. There’ll be a group discussion from debut novelists Karen Hamilton, Leo Carew and Phoebe Locke and a chance to see their books before they hit the shelves.
Elsewhere, Nigerian writers Chinbundu Onuzo, author of Welcome to Lagos and Anietie Isong, author of Radio Sunrise, discuss writing about life in Lagos in their session, African Voices (Wednesday 4 October, 8.30pm, Town Hall, £6).
Politics and news sessions
There’s a Liberal Democrats leader-off at the lit fest this year. First up, former party leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (Wednesday 4 October, 10.30am, Phyllis Court, £12.50) discusses his career, the coalition and his memoir Politics: Between the Extremes.
If you don’t agree with Nick, catch current Lib Dem leader Vince Cable instead (Thursday 5 October, 4.30pm, Phyllis Court, £12.50). He talks about his first novel Open Arms, which follows the rise of a glamorous housewife-turned-MP.
For more political tidbits, join Sky News presenter Sophie Ridge (Monday 2 October, 6.30 pm, Kenton Theatre, £10) as she asks: “what’s it like to be a woman in politics today?”. She’s reading excerpts from her book, The Women Who Shaped Politics, which includes exclusive interviews with Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson, Betty Boothroyd and Theresa May.
Another session that’s relevant for our confusing times is Matthew d’Ancona on Post Truth (Friday 6 October, 6.30pm, Phyllis Court, £12.50). The political journalist and former editor of The Spectator examines truth, lies, alternative facts and how we arrived in this ‘Post-Truth’ era.
For something a bit more light-hearted, catch chat show king Michael Parkinson (Sunday 8 October, 5pm, Phyllis Court, £12.50) talking about his latest book Muhammad Ali: A Memoir and the renowned interviews he shared with the champion boxer.
Talks for kids
Henley festival has a whole section devoted to children, and a whole weekend of children’s writing workshops and art events takes place Saturday 30 – Sunday 31 October at the Festival Hub. There’s also a reading of The Tiger Who Came to Tea by the fantastic Liz Frost.
A lot of household names have also turned their talents to children’s fiction this year. Check out Dermot O’Leary reading Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape and Alison Steadman performing her book Spider!. Also in this category is Fearne Cotton (Wednesday 4 Oct, 6.30pm, Phyllis Court, £12.50), who will discuss lifestyle tips, her cookbooks and her latest publication Yoga Babies.
Anything else I should check out?
There’s also a focus on internet creators this year. Online magazine The Pool host an evening with Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon, YouTube creator Grace Victory and Guardian beauty journalist Sali Hughes to talk fashion, feminism and mental health (Monday 2 October, 8.30pm, Kenton Theatre, £10).
In another panel discussion, the aptly titled The F Word brings together Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney, vlogger Louise Pentland and YA novelist Holly Smale to mull over what it means to be a feminist in 2017 (Thursday 5 October, 6.30pm, Kenton Theatre, £10).
If you’re interested in starting writing or getting published, there are a series of adult writing workshops in the Phyllis Court Pavillion on Sunday 8 October. Look out for Crime Writing with Susanna Beard, Memoir Writing with Clover Stroud and Agent v Editor, with literary agent Julie Crisp and publisher Sam Humphreys, which introduces the pitch to publication process.
The Henley Literary Festival takes place from 2-8 October 2017.
Events are held at venues across Henley including the Kenton Theatre, the Town Hall, Bell Bookshop and on The Hibernia boat. There is also a Festival Hub, for ticket collection, information and some events, outside the Henley Town Hall in the Market Place.
Tickets start at £6 and go up to £25 for the big name events, those usually include a copy of the book as well.
I can’t wait, how do I buy a ticket?
Head to the Henley Lit Fest ticket booking page. Hope to see you there!
Additional reporting from Sophie Smith.
Hello! I'm Claire, the founding editor of Explore Reading. I'm a Reading native and former digital director of Time Out Shanghai. I founded Explore Reading so no one can say, ‘there’s nothing to do in Reading’, again. When not editing Explore Reading, I'm probably drinking a Manhattan.