For the love of books

WELLS Festival of Literature was set up in 1992 to celebrate the written word and to promote the love of books and of reading throughout the community. More than 30 years on, the 2023 festival, from 27th October to 4th November, continues to fulfil that ambition, with writers from every sphere of life – politics, poetry, science, international diplomacy, journalism, the theatre, fine art, mathematics, economics and much more.

Booking for this year’s festival is now open. Unlike many other literary festivals, Wells does not have more than one event at the same time – all talks and conversations take place in Cedars Hall at Wells Cathedral School and it would be theoretically possible to attend every event!

Speakers this year include Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, whose new autobiography is called One Boy, Two Bills and A Fry-up; former BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz, on his new book See What You’re Missing: 31 Ways Artists Notice the World; Chris Patten on his Hong Kong Diaries; journalist Polly Toynbee on her memoir, An Uneasy Inheritance: My Family and Other Radicals; Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of The Spectator, on her book, Fighting For Life: The Twelve Battles that Made Our NHS, and the Struggle for its Future. Among the other speakers are Dominic Dromgoole, Naoise Mac Sweeney, Marcus du Sautoy, Kimberley Wilson, Paul Johnson, and the Trinidad-born Anthony Joseph, winner of the 2022 TS Eliot Prize for Poetry for his Sonnets for Albert.

Wells Festival is a registered charity run by a committee of volunteers and funded by ticket sales, competition entries and generous local sponsors and Friends. Education and working with local schools has always been an important feature of the festival, and the huge success of the 30th anniversary event in 2022 will enable the organisers to build on the education programme, helping to develop a love of literature from an early age. The festival also supports the literacy charity Coram Beanstalk.

A popular feature each year is the Literary Lunches (interesting soups and delicious desserts), where the speaker joins the audience in the Cedars House Dining Hall before the talk. This year’s Literary Lunch guests are Gail Simmons, on Tuesday 31st October, in conversation with Christopher Somerville about her book, Between the Chalk and the Sea: A Journey on Foot into the Past; Sander van Der Linden, on Wednesday 1st November, on Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity; and ornithologist Stephen Mosse on Friday 3rd, on Ten Birds that Changed the World

To book and for more information, visit or call 01749 834483.

Pictured: Stephen Moss, Anthony Joseph, and the cover of Polly Toynbee’s memoir.