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Ilkley Literature Festival 2019: line-up of big names announced

Inaugurated in 1973 by WH Auden, Ilkley Literature Festival launches its 2019 festival with another poet - the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage.

Across 17 days in October authors from the worlds of literature, science, journalism, philosophy, poetry, politics and stage and screen descend on the Yorkshire town, famed for its moor. 

Big names include David Suchet, Prue Leith, the Booker-longlisted authors Oyinkan Braithwaite and John Lanchester and Clare Balding, who headlines the Children’s Festival alongside Mr Gum creator, Andy Stanton, and Conn Iggulden with the return of the Dangerous Book for Boys.

Armitage is a long standing friend and creative collaborator of Ilkley. Renowned for its poetry, this year features Pam Ayres, Raymond Antrobus and Lemn Sissay, with panels on Yeats and a strand focussing on ‘writing, rebellion and revolution’, with new commissions from 2019’s Poets in Residence: Colette Bryce, Genevieve Carver and Shash Trevett. Gyles Brandreth will also celebrate his passion for the best-loved poems in the English language with his new book, Dancing by the Light of the Moon.

Politics is on the agenda with Alastair Campbell, Chris Mullin, and the Executive Director of campaigning website,, Kajal Odedra. Steve Richards presents his new book, The Prime Ministers, and the Guardian’s investigative journalist Amelia Gentleman talks to historian Colin Grant about the Windrush betrayal.

Other notable journalists include BBC broadcaster and musician Mark Radcliffe, Kirsty Wark on her latest novel, Penny Junor, editor of GQ Dylan Jones, Martin Sixsmith, and Paul Mason.

Swinging through the sixties, the legendary TV writing duo Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais - behind beloved British comedies such as Porridge – discuss their double act. And the satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe talks of his memoir recounting his times on Punch and Private Eye.

With a focus on science and space in the anniversary year of the Moon landing, there’s a stargazing walk on the iconic Ilkley Moor. Science writer Oliver Morton explores our relationship with the Moon. Science journalist Angela Saini discusses race science in her book Superior, and Nessa Carey explores gene modification. Space scientist, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, will also present her grand tour of the solar system as part of the space-themed Children’s Festival.

With a strand on ‘World Changing Women’ Caroline Criado-Perez discusses her book Invisible Women exploring the gender data gap. BBC’s former China editor, Carrie Gracie, shares her battle over equal pay. The neuroscientist Daphna Joel presents her game-changing research into gender, and there will be a special one-off event on 21 November with Yvette Cooper MP on her timely and personal anthology, The Power of Women’s Voices looking at the greatest speeches of all time.

The north’s most established literary festival is renowned for its artistic excellence and diverse programme.

History comes in the form of Tom Holland and Tracy Borman, and horticulture from Guardian columnist Alys Flower. For foodies, Prue Leith is in conversation with the Guardian writer, Felicity Cloake – who will also do an event on her food travelogue, One More Croissant for the Road. There’s a tour of Yorkshire’s beers and journey into a Cheesemaker’s History of the British Isles with Ned Palmer. 

Bibliophiles will enjoy Shaun Bythell who presents The Confessions of a Bookseller - the follow up to his wry diaries.

Professor Kathryn Sunderland and Principle Curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Ann Dinsdale, present the complexities of preserving literary legacies in the UK amid a voracious global market for the memorabilia of Bronte and Austen. Toby Faber of the famed Faber & Faber draws on previously unpublished letters for an insight into one of the world’s greatest publishing houses. What’s more there will be a retrospective look at the life of Catherine Cookson.

Crime writers Peter Robinson and Denise Mina also feature, as do authors Sadie Jones, Tim Lott, Janet Ellis, and philosopher AC Grayling.

There festival also features a Fringe, bespoke film screenings, and workshops for poets, writers and readers.

Full programme: Box Office: 01943 816714. Follow @ilkleylitfest

Tickets go on sale on 27 August. Festival Friends enjoy priority booking before tickets go on sale to the public.

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