Suffolk book festivals for Autumn and early Winter

Image courtesy of Lavenham Literary Festival

Image courtesy of Lavenham Literary Festival

The countryside and small scale urban landscapes of Suffolk have long seduced those of a creative bent with many a writer taking inspiration from this county, situated as it is on the edge of the English landmass, punctuated by towns and miles of rolling fields and quilted by waterways but it is also a wonderful place to sit and read.

Each year the county hosts an increasing number of literary festivals, some supported by our wonderful Suffolk Library services and they vary from small one day events, hosted in libraries, bookshops and even pubs to week long celebrations of everything to do with books. Locals and visitors have the chance to meet the illustrators, publishers, authors and promoters of some of the world’s best books in beautiful locations. Some of the festivals, such as the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival have a twenty seven year history behind them whereas others, such as Lavenham, are relative newcomers.

Here’s our Autumn and Winter round up of the festivals to look out for-


Flipside Festival, Snape describes itself as a ‘family festival with a Latin beat’ and between October 2-4, guests can enjoy literary offerings in the Britten Studio alongside a wealth of music, food, dance, art and children’s activities. What to look out for? Misha Glenny on organised crime in Brazil and Danny Hahn AKA ‘The Walking Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature’ as he takes us on a journey from the Gruffalo to Twilight, and tells us which books made it into his new edition of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, and why. Crime writing husband-and-wife duo Nicci Gerrard and Sean French will discuss the secrets of successful writing partnerships and there’s the chance to meet Louis de Bernières. Known for his award-winning bestseller, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, De Bernieres will discuss his latest novel, The Dust that Falls From Dreams.

author 0034 Daniel Hahn

(Author Daniel Hahn will appear at Flipside Festival: photo contributed)

Halesworth Arts Festival runs over more than three weeks, offering a smorgasbord of cultural events in this small Suffolk town for fourteen years. Punching well above its weight, Halesworth is highly regarded by both attendees and the arts world. There’s half term story telling sessions for younger guests, six artists displaying their works in dedicated exhibitions and literary events including Dickens abridged and the chance to listen to acclaimed actor Diana Quick reading from Threads, Julia Blackburn’s illustrative story of the fisherman/artist John Craske, Blackburn will also talk about her love of East Anglia: its landscape, its seascape and its people and together with Quick, will discuss the evolution of her book.

Lowestoft Library Literary Festival (the country’s most easterly literary festival) takes place on Saturday 3 October. Attendees will have the chance to meet speakers such as Gillian McClure, a popular children’s author and illustrator in an event which will appeal to all ages and try not to shiver as they listen to Ivan Bunn as he tells stories of hauntings and witchcraft in a county which possesses a history redolent of both.

Country lovers shouldn’t miss out on the chance to meet local author and broadcaster Paul Heiney. With a media career spanning 30 years, Heiney has appeared on all Britain’s major radio and television networks. You can catch him on ITV’s Countrywise, travelling to all parts of rural Britain to meet the people and hear their tales. He’ll be talking about his latest book, Can Cows Walk Upstairs?

Sports lovers aren’t left out either with Brian Scovell taking the stand to talk about sports writing and the many football and cricket books, often with famous names such as Brian Lara, Don Howe, Lawrie McMenemy and Terry Neil, that he has authored.

Full details of the line-up and booking information are available from


Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is in its twenty seventh year, describes itself as “a rural retreat where words and images flow down the river Alde to the sea. Come and be refreshed by a long weekend of inspirational poetry and spoken word in venues across Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh. Over 50 events, many free, range from readings, performances, discussions, workshops, and family events to music, drama, and visual arts. From international big names and UK superstars to emerging voices and an open mic, this will be a showcase for every form that poetry can take, and a chance to exchange ideas and learn the craft.”

Their programme runs the full gamut from trad poetry to the exciting bluesy words of of top American blues poet Kim Addonizio. Guests will be transported by Scotland’s TS Eliot prizewinner John Burnside, ‘roof raising’ Jamaican-born Kei Miller, and Mexican poet Pedro Serrano. One of their themes this year will be ‘poetry and freedom’, and the festival are pleased to welcome Cuban-born writer on memory and exile Jane Duran, and Kurdish poet Choman Hardi to the conversation. There will be cross-art collaborations across the two towns by local and national artists and poets.

Lavenham Literary Festival returns during the weekend of 13, 14 and 15 November 2015 with a wonderful cast of writers against the storied backdrop of this beautiful mediaeval village of over 300 medieval buildings. Here, speakers include popular household names such as writer and actor Sheila Hancock whose novel Miss Carters War is set against the backdrop of the 2WW, the  SOE (Special Operations Executive) and a post Cambridge University career as a teacher. Her characters will find a natural home in this village which lies close the the airfields which were home to so many young American soldiers who drank yards of ale in the Airman’s Bar in the Swan Hotel.

Kate MosseB 2012 c Mark Rusher

(Author Kate Mosse will appear at Lavenham Literary festival: photo contributed)

The international bestselling author Kate Mosse appears in the village hall to talk about her many books which include the novels Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007), The Winter Ghosts (2009), Citadel (2012), and The Taxidermist’s Daughter (2014), as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013). In what promises to be an intriguing look at twentieth century history, John Higgs talks anout his new book Stranger Than We Can Imagine and brings us an alternative history of the strangest of centuries. He shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how we discovered that our world is not just stranger than we imagine but, in the words of Sir Arthur Eddington, ‘stranger than we can imagine’. And that’s not all: the grandson of John Buchan, Toby Buchan will explore the idea that his grandfathers famous novel, The Thirty Nine Steps gave birth to idea of the modern thriller.


Ways With Words, Southwold runs between the 5-9 November in this most British of seaside towns although its programme is most definitely eclectic, looking far and wide for literary and wordy inspiration and has been named one of Country Livings ten best literary festivals. As they say themselves: “Ways With Words has always existed to promote both the written and the spoken word. We want to bring people together in beautiful surroundings to make contact with writers, journalists and experts in various fields – to talk, to argue, to listen, to engage and to learn.”

The festival opens at St. Edmunds Hall where guests can sit, glass of Adnams wine in hand to hear Jancis Robinson talking about her career in wine writing. This event will be chaired by Simon Loftus, a past chairman of Adnams, who has published books on wine himself. Then there’s the wonderful landscape writer Patrick Barkham, who will talk about his latest book Coast, which relates his travels around the British coast, weaving together the stories of local people, their history and the ways in which we are all shaped by our coastal edgelands. History lovers will enjoy learning about the 13th century peasants revolt, the setting of Melvyn Braggs latest novel, Now is the Time and enjoy a passionate retelling of this most crucual of events.

Why not listen to Michael Buerk discuss what is real about reality television in Inside the Human Zoo or attend Maggi Hambling in conversation with James Cahill? Local author PD James is remembered by Penelope Lively and Peter Kemp who are two of the authors oldest friends.  P.D. James wrote an introduction to a book on the history of Southwold and said, “Thousands of visitors have asked themselves the same question – why is Southwold so special? There is its beauty. Every street and every vista holds its own particular charm, delighting eye and mind” which makes the festivals setting all the more appropriate and poignant to those of us who love this author who sadly died last November, aged 94.

Suffolk Library literary mini events-

Captive in East Anglia, a talk at Kessingland Library by authors Diana Snelling and Rosemary Carter will take place on Wednesday (30 September) from 2.30pm–4.30pm. Entrance fee is 50p and includes refreshments.

Diane Snelling and Rosemary Carter are the authors of Captive in East Anglia and will be telling the story of how they researched and photographed their book and had to publish it themselves when no one else was interested. Captive in East Anglia was inspired by the story of Italian and German prisoners of war who worked in agriculture in the area after they found their way to the shores of Britain. In the autumn of 1945 over 45,000 of them were in East Anglian fields pulling up potatoes and sugar beet. For more details contact Kessingland Library

Lowestoft Library is to hold a Lullaby Music Workshop will be running a session to capture children’s imagination through musical games, story-telling and song. The event is free and is aimed at children aged 2-6. It runs from 10.45am to 11.30am in Wedsnesday 14 October.

Lowestoft Library is also hosting ‘Sailing Away’ a fun, free and interactive water themed concert for 2-5 year olds run by the acclaimed group the ‘Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’. This project is part of an educational tour taking the youngest music lovers on a ‘voyage of musical discovery.

In Mail obsession at Beccles Library, the author and Broadcaster Mark Mason will present ‘Mail obsession – A journey round Britain by postcode’ on Tuesday 27 October at 7pm.

Find out what the Queen keeps in her handbag, why the Jack Russell has a white coat, and how Jimi Hendrix got confused by the M1. Mark Mason connects fascinating facts behind Britain’s 124 postcodes and delves into the history of our postal service. Mark has written numerous books celebrating his love of trivia. Come along and be delighted and astonished. Tickets are £5 and available from Beccles Library and Kulture Shock, the local bookshop.


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