Monday, 04 July 2022

TV presenter tops bill of online literary festival

TV presenter tops bill of online literary festival

TV presenter Graham Norton will top the bill when the Henley Literary Festival returns next month for its first ever digital edition.

The Irish comedian, who has been on our screens for 22 years, is among a host of famous names who will be speaking live online.

Others include novelists Joanna Trollope and Jodi Picoult, journalist Andrew Marr, comedian David Baddiel and former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo.

The 14th annual event, which will start on September 26, features more than 40 events for adults and children, covering fiction, sport, entertainment, politics and history.

There will be three to five events per day with several new authors and many old favourites as well as free events for children and families.

There will still be 15 minutes at the end of each event where viewers will be able to submit questions using the online platform Crowdcast.

Viewers do not have to worry if they have a dodgy internet connection.

Norton, the BBC chat show host who has picked up eight Baftas, will appear just days after the publication of his third novel Home Stretch, a story of emigration and return.

He will be in conversation with broadcaster Freud on October 4, the final night of the festival, at 8pm.

Bestselling novelists Ayisha Malik and Trollope open the festival on September 26 when they talk to each other about how their family life has inspired them.

In Trollope’s Mum & Dad, three siblings step in to look after their parents’ wine business when their father falls ill while in Ayisha’s This Green and Pleasant Land, a son grapples with his mother’s dying wish to build a mosque in a sleepy Midlands village.

Later that day, Morpurgo returns to the festival with a special War Horse event, which was a bestselling novel, award-winning play and a Steven Spielberg film.

The final event of the opening day sees a night-in with three of social media’s most vital voices – Candice Brathwaite, Florence Given and Bryony Gordon talking mental health, motherhood and misogyny.

Gordon, whose Glorious Rock Bottom follows her journey into sobriety, is joined by two Instagram influencers, Bratyhwaite, who wrote I Am Not Your Baby Mother and illustrator and activist Given’s Women Don’t Owe You Pretty. These debuts became two of the year’s most-discussed books.

Ben Fogle, who lives in Fawley, is hosting a free event on Sunday, September 27 where he talks about his latest children’s book Mr Dog. The broadcaster and adventurer has spoken at the festival many times and his latest effort is inspired by his own real-life animal experience.

Later that day sees the return of festival favourites Craig Brown, the Private Eye and Mail on Sunday columnist, who is in conversation with former Home Secretary and author Alan Johnson.

On Monday, September 28, broadcasters-turned-historians — as well as husband and wife — Peter Snow and Ann Macmillan return to the festival with Treasures of World History: The Story of Civilisation in 50 Documents.

Nikita Gill, who has written three best-selling books, appears on Tuesday, September 29, days before the release of her latest offering The Girl & The Goddess, a coming-of-age tale, which comes with her own illustrations.

The National Poetry Day ambassador navigates different cultures, religions and identities as she looks at how we grow and become who we are.

Former rugby player James Haskell ends the day with anecdotes from his autobiography What a Flanker. James had a 17-year career, winning 77 England caps and also played for the British Lions and Wasps.

Composer Don Black, who has picked up six Ivor Novello and two Tony awards and an Oscar presents his long-awaited memoirs on Wednesday, September 30.

In The Sanest Guy in the Room, he chronicles his career on stage, screen and the charts, working with the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Michael Jackson.

Susie Dent, of Channel 4’s Countdown, makes her festival debut in conversation with broadcaster Beverley Turner where she shares interesting stories behind language as featured in her book Word Perfect.

Marr appears on Thursday, October 1, where he talks about his latest book Elizabethans — How Modern Britain Was Forged where he looks, not at royalty, but through activists, cooks, inventors and sports heroes.

Giovanna Fletcher, who has a fanbase of millions as an author, podcaster, television presenter and campaigner, will talk about Letters on Motherhood on Friday, October 2.

It is a collection of heartfelt and personal letters to her three sons, her husband and friends who helped her become the mother she is.

Comedian Baddiel will be talking about his life and career to Newsround presenter Leah Boleto in a free event for all the family on Saturday, October 3.

On the same and following days, a trio of married couples — Laura and Russell Brand, who live near Henley, CBBC presenters Leah and Ricky Boleto and Louise Rose and Mackenzie Hunkin will present a tribute to author Judith Kerr, who passed away last year.

The couples will read some of The Mog and Tiger Who Came to Tea, two of the creator’s best-known stories in this free event.

On Sunday, October 4, World Book Day illustrator Rob Biddulph returns to the festival with a free event of draw-alongs and storytellings from his new books Dog Gone and Draw With Rob.

There are also pop-up events before and after the festival, starting with Great British Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussain on September 3 followed by bestsellers La Plante and Picoult, former US ambassador Kim Darroch, Kate Humble and Formula One icons Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert.

For more information, call (01491) 575948. Tickets are already on sale to Friends of the Festival but are open to the public from Tuesday. To book and to see the full line-up of events, visit

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