Walks and talks, poetry and publishing at Dorchester

DORCHESTER Literary Festival returns, from Saturday 14th to Sunday 21st October, with a varied line-up that ranges from best-selling novelist Victoria Hislop to retired judge Wendy Joseph, from forager and walker John Wright to art critic Richard Cork, broadcaster James Naughtie to poet Lemn Sissay, and scientist Tim Spector to author and academic Celia Brayfield, one of the speakers at the festival’s creative writing day.

There are some hidden treasures among the big names including midwife Anna Kent, talking about her work in war zones and among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and bio-archaeologist Dr Cat Jarman describing the astonishing discovery of six chests of ancient bones at Winchester. The Bone Cheats is the story of the way local people saved historic remains in Winchester Cathedral after the Parliamentarian forces in 1642 ripped open ten ancient mortuary chests and smashed the 14th century stained glass in the west window. Local people gathered what they could of the glass and bones, which included West Saxon kings, saints and bishops. When the surviving six chests were finally opened in 2014 they provided astonishing evidence of the men and women who were part of the creation of England.

Welcoming visitors to the ninth Dorchester Literary Festival programme, co-directors Janet Gleeson and Paul Atterbury explain that the aim as ever is “to provide entertainment and enlightenment to readers in a county town famous for its literary legacy.” Dorchester’s most famous literary figure, Thomas Hardy, is celebrated in a walk around Dorchester and Fordington, guided by Mark Chutter, chairman and academic director of the Thomas Hardy Society. The tour, on Sunday 15th October, will end with a cream tea at The Old Tea House.

Dorchester this year has one of the most impressive line-ups of any of the area’s literary festivals – and with Wells and Bridport, this area has two of the longest established and most respected litfests in the country.

Other speakers include woodsman Ray Mears, political journalist Robert Peston, local poet Angie Porter, Joanna Quinn, the best-selling author of the Dorset-set The Whalebone Theatre, Second World War historian Damien Lewis, philosopher and theologian Nigel Biggar, garden historian Stephen Anderton, journalist Justine Picardie on fashion legend Coco Chanel, gardener Alan Titchmarsh, respected Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and nature-loving broadcaster Julia Bradbury with advice on how to Walk Yourself Happy.

For more information, pick up a free programme or visit www.dorchesterliteraryfestival.com

Pictured: The Bone Cheats; James Naughtie; and Julia Bradbury.