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Explore Moor at Ilkley Literature Festival

Ray Mears opens the 2023 Ilkley Lit Fest (c.Jonathan Buckley)

Ilkley embarks on its 17-day long literary festival on Friday 6 October, opening with TV star and naturalist, Ray Mears.

Ilkley Literature Festival marks its 50th anniversary, welcoming a host of journalists, TV stars, philosophers, and poets to the Yorkshire spa town this autumn.

Headline acts include Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, presenters Gyles Brandreth, Clare Balding, Melanie Sykes, Anton Du Beke, and Helen Skelton, and literary giants, such as Jeanette Winterson, Jacqueline Wilson, and Monica Ali.

With themes encompassing the State of the Nation, Explore Moor (experiencing the natural world) and Food for Thought, the 2023 festival programme demonstrates eclectic breadth for which the event is renowned.

Erica Morris, Director of Ilkley Literature Festival, said: “Explore Moor is a play on our famous Ilkley Moor, and hopefully encourages audiences to try something new. Literature has long been inspired by nature and the great outdoors, so it’s a great way to showcase our beautiful landscapes in the pages of a book or two.”

Ray Mears presents The British Woodland, to show audiences how to live inclusively in nature – for our own wellbeing and enjoyment, and for the future of the planet. His TV shows, Bushcraft, World of Survival and Ray Mears Goes Walkabout have made him into a recognised authority on bushcraft.

Animal lovers can join TV presenter Clare Balding, talking about our pawsome heroes in her new book, Isle of Dogs.

Sophie Pavelle, a science communicator with a degree in Zoology will present Forget Me Not, a talk on her journey in search of animals and habitats threated by climate change.

Tom Lonsdale will give a talk on Creating the Stanza Stones Poetry Trail.

Stretching for 50 miles across the Pennine Hills, the Stanza Stones was a collaboration between Simon Armitage and Ilkley Literature Festival.

Erica Morris said: “The creation of the Stanza Stones over a decade ago is one of the proudest achievements in our history. As part of our 50th anniversary celebration, the brilliant landscape architect Tom Lonsdale offers a behind the scenes look at this groundbreaking project.”

From finding suitable sites, to appointing a letter cutter to carve the poems, to devising the walking trail, Tom shares stories and photographs from the trail and explores the relationship between the Pennine landscape, the water that falls on it, and the rocks that now sit upon the moors.

Emma Reynolds will talk on how we can transform the future and protect our planet with her new graphic novel, Draw to Change the World: 16 Youth Climate Activists, 16 Artists.

Presented in partnership with Climate Action Ilkley, audiences can take part in a comic-making workshop and see how the power of imagination, storytelling and art can transform our collective future.

Walking Photography Workshops promise to show how to see things differently through a camera lens, with award-winning photographer Rich Bunce, known as the Walking Photographer. From local scenery to wildlife, you’ll learn practical and powerful tips on how to create striking images, on a relaxed local walk.

Poet Emma Conally-Barklem will take you on a writing ‘walkshop’ in her Explore and Reflect Nature Writing Workshop, along the moorland above Ilkley.

Virtual audiences can download and listen to the Soundlandscape: Shadows on Shadows, an immersive audio drama inviting you to experience the wild moors where it was created from the comfort of your own home.

Audiences can then attend the behind-the-scenes event, The Making of Soundlandscape.

Based on the life of the Brontës and the literary landscapes of Haworth and Ilkley, this behind-the-scenes event looks at how the sonic experience was created with writer and sound designer Patch Middleton, producer Emily Oulton and director Beth Knight, from researching the Brontës and Ilkley Literature Festival archives, to the challenges of creating a theatrical experience within the literary landscapes of Haworth and Ilkley.

Lev Parikian presents Taking Flight, and asks audiences to look up at the butterflies and bees. Researching a myriad of flying species, from the crested dinosaurs to the wonders of dragonfly, he shares how animals have evolved this enviable skill - flapping, gliding, hovering, diving, murmuration and migrating.

Helen Czerski presents Blue Machine, diving into the depths of the ocean, which covers 70% of the Earth’s surface. The physicist and oceanographer will explain how it influences our world from animals and weather to human history and culture.

The festival is also running a number of outdoor workshops on bird watching and writing the wild.

Further information is available via or the Box Office: 01943 816714.


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