New authors and old favourites at Yeovil, Wells and Bridport

THIS year’s Yeovil Literary Festival, from 26th to 30th October, has a new principal venue, Westlands Entertainments Centre, while the Octagon is closed for refurbishment. There are a handful of events at Yeovil Library,

The packed programme follows the familiar and successful format with a host of exciting authors, from new names to old favourites. Yeovil is one of several high profile literary festivals in this area – Dorchester has just completed its successful weekend, Wells is also starting this weekend, from 27th October to Saturday 4th November, and Bridport runs from 5th to 11th November.

All of them have impressive lists of literary titans, great speakers and new voices, and there isn’t a huge amount of overlap, so if you have the time, you can really overdose on good books and writers over the next couple of weeks.

Here is a run-down of highlights and particularly interesting events:


Big names include broadcaster Sarah Beeny, environmentalist Chris Packham, actor and comedian Adrian Edmondson, writer and novelist Kate Mosse, singers Michael Ball and Alfie Ball, Dragons Den star and entrepreneur (and Somerset resident) Deborah Meaden, actor and memoirist David Harewood (who achieved international stardom with his role in Homeland), super-vet Noel Fitzpatrick, cricketer Phil Tufnell, best-selling crime novelist Peter James, poet Roger McGough, actor Tommy Jessop, novelist Louis De Bernieres and comedian Matt Lucas.

Special events to look out for include Rob Wilkins talking about Terry Pratchett Rediscovered (early short stories by the Discworld creator), Dorset novelists Natasha Solomons and mother and daughter Sally and Libby Page, travel writer and long-distance walker Christopher Somerville “Walking the Bones of Britain” and the brilliant crime fiction author Vaseem Khan talking about Death of a Lesser God, the latest in his acclaimed series of novels set in the years after Indian independence.

For the full programme visit


All events at this year’s festival will be at Cedars Hall at Wells Cathedral School, an acoustically wonderful building set in lovely grounds. Being in just one location means you can actually get to every single event, with no difficult choices!

There are 35 events across the week, with special events including three literary lunches, featuring Gail Simmons, on Between the Chalk and the Sea: A Journey on Foot into the Past, in conversation with Christopher Somerville; Sander van Der Linden on Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity; and ornithologist Stephen Moss on Ten Birds That Changed the World.

The festival line-up includes Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, politician Wes Streeting, arts broadcaster and historian Will Gompertz, political journalists Polly Toynbee and Isabel Hardman, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, and poet Anthony Joseph.

Look out too for Roma Agrawal on Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World (In a Big Way), Marion Turner on her biography of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, former director of the Globe Theatre Dominic Dromgoole, and Andrew Harding on his book A Small, Stubborn Town: Life, Death and Defiance in Ukraine.






The 9th Bridport Literary Festival as always has events in historic and interesting venues, including the Electric Palace (the Art Deco cinema), Sladers Yard gallery and cafe at West Bay, the Bull Hotel, Mercato Italiano and Bridport Arts Centre.

On the opening day, the festival has the best-selling novelist Philippa Gregory talking about her non-fiction book, Normal Women: 500 Years of Making History, a social and cultural history of “ordinary women” in acts of heroism, rebellion, crime, money-making, jousting, sainthood and rioting!

Some years ago, James Rebanks packed out the Electric Palace talking about his life as a sheep farmer in the Lake District – this year it’s the turn of his wife, Helen, talking about her book, The Farmer’s Wife, also at the Electric Palace.

Jeremy Bowen is one of the world’s most high profile broadcasters. It’s anyone’s guess whether he will be able to come to Bridport, given the horrifying situation in the Middle East, but he is scheduled to speak at the Electric Palace on Sunday 5th November.

The range of subjects and speakers is, as always, eclectic and exciting, from pasta-making to gardening, from travels in the former Yugoslavia to the life of environmentalist, writer and wild swimmer Roger Deaking, from Tracy Borman on the lives of mother and daughter Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I to Celia Brayfield on Anna Sewell, writing Black Beauty, and the story of animal rights.

Pictured: Chris Packham, Deborah Meaden, Christopher Somerville, Isabel Hardman, Helen Rebanks and Philippa Gregory.