Oxford is set to play host to a raft of the UK’s favourite writers this March at the 17th Annual Literary festival.
The appearance of Alexander McCall Smith, Sue Townsend, and Oxford native, Phillip Pullman are expected by festival staff to pull in more than 30,000 devotees, beating last year’s attendance record.
The line-up promises writers from a diverse range of backgrounds. Festival Director Sally Dunsmore commented: “There is a particular international flavour to this year’s festival with lots of writers travelling over from the United States; Inkheart writer Cornelia Funke from Germany, a panel of Russian writers, new Indian writers and leading Spanish novelist Javier Marias.”
Dunsmore, meanwhile, enthused that she was “delighted that many of our greatest living authors will be appearing”.
The events will take place between March 16th and March 24th, primarily in the Sheldonian Theatre, but smaller talks will also be hosted in the Bodleian Libraries and Christchurch College. Over 160 authors have already been confirmed.
Twice-winner of the Man Booker prize, Hilary Mantel, will discuss the second part of her series of historical novels about the life of Thomas Cromwell, Bringing up the Bodies. Mantel will also be presented with the Bodley Medal, awarded by Dr Sarah Thomas on behalf of the Bodleian Libraries. The prize is given in recognition of an exceptional contribution to science, culture or communication.
Julian Barnes, winner of the 2011 Booker Prize for his novel, The Sense of An Ending, will likewise speak about his work with biographer Hermione Lee. He too is set to receive a prize: The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. Also speaking at the festival will be Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize winner and Irish Poet.
The festival will not be limited to literary fiction, however. It will feature a political section, with talks by the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, and the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Ashdown.
Oxford will also showcase some of the best cookery writing from the UK and abroad. Madhur Jaffrey, famed for her take on vegetarian and Indian cuisine, is to present a talk on Curry Nation and the Indian Takeaway, alongside writer, broadcaster, and Nearly Naked Chef, Hardeep Singh Kohli.
Christians and atheists alike will be given food for thought as Diarmid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church at Oxford, gives a talk on Silence in Christian History, while A. C. Grayling will discuss The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism.
Alice James, second year English student and avid reader of books, described her anticipation at the promised Drugs War debate featuring Peter Hitchens and Simon Jenkins:
“The line-up strikes a decent balance between talks from very prominent mainstream literary achievers and more overtly contemporary and politicized debate…Indeed Oxford has an interesting history of producing writers who write in the ‘drug literature’ tradition.”