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Leading poet Carol Ann Duffy ensured the 2019 Guildford Book Festival came to a triumphant close on Sunday (17 November) with readings from her new Christmas poem, Frost Fair, and seasonal song by the Fayrfax Singers, led by Nerissa Taysom.


The annual Festival, which this year celebrated its 30th season, brought a wealth of top authors and household names to Surrey’s premier literary event. Highlights included celebrated actor and star of ‘Poirot’, David Suchet; award-winning adventurer and TV presenter, Steve Backshall; hugely popular historian and broadcaster Dan Snow; global bestselling novelists Louis de Bernières, Sarah Perry and Tracy Chevalier; much-loved presenter of Countryfile, John Craven and Pam Ayres, the nation’s favourite poet.


Killing Eve fans enjoyed an evening with author Luke Jennings; Katy Brand shared her obsession with cult film Dirty Dancing and Downton Abbey devotees discovered all about Christmas at Highclere Castle – the Real Downton Abbey – from The Countess of Carnarvon.


The Festival welcomed leading local authors, including quantum physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili, who is based at the University of Surrey; Alison Weir, the UK’s biggest- selling female historian and multi-million bestselling Adele Parks, who introduced her latest novel, Lies Lies Lies.


Also acclaimed historian Max Hastings, former SAS-soldier turned novelist Chris Ryan, Blue Planet cameraman Gavin Thurston, bestselling author and screenwriter Deborah Moggach, internationally-respected forensic scientist Professor Angela Gallop and journalist and broadcaster Kirsty Wark – plus many more.


Once again, the Festival’s 5-day Creative Writing Course, led by Rachel Marsh, was a sellout. Guildford Book Festival was delighted to welcome back Surrey Pet Detective Colin Butcher who, having attended both the Creative Writing and How to Get Published events at previous Festivals,  has recently published his debut book, Molly & Me.


A registered charity, Guildford Book Festival aims to inspire a love of reading, writing and illustrating among all.  This year’s Schools’ Week – which is funded through tickets sales to Festival events –  enabled more than 2,000 students from across the Borough to meet critically acclaimed authors and illustrators including Duncan Beedie, Alex Milway, Karen McCombie, Teri Terry and Lindsay Galvin.


Jane Beaton and Alex Andrews, Co-Directors of Guildford Book Festival, said: “This year was one of our strongest Festivals with record attendances and some excellent speakers. We would like to thank everyone who came along and supported this year’s event whether as a speaker, a volunteer, or a member of the audience.” 


The 31st Guildford Book Festival takes place between 4 and 11 October 2020, and the popular Spring Readers’ Day returns on Saturday 25 April 2020 with TV presenter and bestselling author, Fern Britton, among the line-up of speakers.  Tickets will go on-sale in the New Year.


In addition, Guildford Book Festival is collaborating with Investec International Music Festival (IIMF) and Hatchlands Park to present a special evening of music and verse in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.  The event, which takes place on Thursday 26 March 2020, will feature award-winning poet Ruth Padel, who will read from her new collection, Beethoven Variations: Poems on a Life, and internationally acclaimed pianist and IIMF Artistic Director, Wu Qian, who will provide a taste of the great composer’s music.  The event will be held in the Music Room at Hatchlands, home to the Cobbe Collection of historic keyboard instruments – which includes a piano once played by Beethoven.  Tickets on sale from 16 December.


Guildford Book Festival is grateful to its sponsors:, Green Team Interiors, HFW, Wilkins Kennedy, The Rutland Group, Roffe Swayne, the University of Surrey, Merrist Wood College, Guildford Arts and Martin Grant Homes.


For further information and to book tickets:


Photo: Fiona Digby- Jones