Wells LitFest celebrates anniversaries

THIS year’s Wells Festival of Literature will go ahead from 16th to 24th October, with a hybrid programme of live and streamed events – dependent, of course, on any changes in the Covid-19 rules.

The theme is unashamedly celebratory including the 50th anniversary of the Glastonbury Festival, the 300th anniversary of the birth of Gilbert White and the 900th anniversary of one of the most notorious naval disasters in English history. The live events take place in Cedars Hall, in the grounds of Wells Cathedral School.

Gilbert White, ‘the first ecologist’ and author of one of the greatest ever natural history books, was born 300 years ago. Wells Festival of Literature has a special event on Sunday 18th October at noon, arranged by the Somerset Wildlife Trust, featuring its president Stephen Moss, Alice Vincent, the author or Rootbound author and the dynamic young blogger Mya-Rose Craig (aka Birdgirl).

The date that is most relevant to Somerset will be Michael Eavis telling the hugely entertaining story of the festival which should have celebrated its 50th year in June. But it’s never too late to enjoy some of the tales along the way. Michael Eavis will be speaking at 6pm on Wednesday 21st October.

Historian Charles Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, has turned his focus back several centuries for The White Ship, the story of the sinking, 900 years ago, of the fastest ship afloat, taking with it the only legitimate heir to King Henry I. The tale began with raucous partying aboard, led by the arrogant young prince. There was only one survivor to describe the horror after the drunken helmsman rammed the ship on to rocks. Anarchy ensued with English barons, rebellious Welsh leaders and Scottish invaders all joining a bloody scrum for power that lasted two decades. The talk is on Thursday 22nd at 6pm.

Other speakers include Jeremy Vine, Gina Miller, Tom Bradby, Julia Samuel, Michael Wood, poet laureate Simon Armitage, AC Grayling, Rachel Clarke, Rachel Johnson and Hugo Vickers on his new biography of Cecil Beaton.

For more information and to book, visit wellsfestivalofliterature.org.uk