The Stratford Literary Festival has announced its Winter Weekend line-up with events designed to respond to any changes in Government guidelines for live events. The Weekend, which runs from 20th to 22nd November, will feature events in front of a restricted live audience, observing Covid-19 safety guidelines, with these events also being filmed for live streaming so audiences can watch from home. In addition, some events will be available virtually only throughout the Weekend.

The long weekend of events features major headliners including twice-Booker prize winner, Dame Hilary Mantel, talking about her acclaimed Cromwell Trilogy and her latest book of essays, Mantel Pieces. Broadcaster and best-selling author, Andrew Marr, chats to fellow BBC broadcaster Sophie Raworth about what made Britain the country it is today. Times columnist and Radio 4’s Great Lives presenter, Matthew Parris, looks at how trauma shapes great leaders and innovators and LBC presenter and political commentator, Iain Dale, discusses what separates a good Prime Minister from a bad one. The acclaimed modern historian and Reith lecturer, Margaret MacMillan, suggests that humans are programmed for war, and colonial history specialist, Michael Taylor, considers how and why the Establishment was vigorously against the abolition of slavery.

On a lighter note! The UK’s leading impressionist Rory Bremner will explain his craft, and coping in lockdown, and audiences will be inspired by two of the country’s leading poets, Roger McGough, and Lemn Sissay, who shares his best-selling memoir.

The much-loved comedian Victoria Wood will be remembered by her biographer, Jasper Rees, and the actor Duncan Preston, who acted with her in so much of her TV work including Acorn Antiques and Dinnerladies. Historian Charles Spencer will talk about a shipwreck that changed history, Claire Wilcox, curator of fashion at the V&A, will talk about a life in clothes and, in a talk suited to the times we find ourselves in, the entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan will discuss why unpredictability is actually good for us.

New writing, so impacted upon by lockdown and the closure of bookshops, will be celebrated with a You Heard it Here First debut authors event, and writers can learn how to create impact when they submit their work to publishers in a bespoke workshop delivered in partnership with the leading writing school, the Faber Academy.

There’s fun for families too with the Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown, a crocodile collaboration between poet Roger McGough and Stratford-based BAFTA wining illustrator Greg McLeod, plus craft and storytelling workshops with artist Ros Ingrams and Kate Coleman, Stratford’s leading storyteller.

For those who have been busy writing through lockdown, the Festival is partnering once again with the acclaimed Faber Academy with two workshops helping authors to fine tune their submissions to publishers. The workshops include one-to-one sessions with tutor Tom Bromley.

The Festival promises extra content on its new website too over the Winter Weekend including Christmas book-buying recommendations from experts, a virtual bookshop, and discounts for local business.

‘Events are a challenge for everyone at the moment, but we have planned a flexible programme so that we can be live or digital – or both – depending on guidelines,’ says Festival director Annie Ashworth. ‘I am so pleased that some authors who couldn’t be with us because of the cancelled festival in spring are back with us this winter, and we are committed to working with local organisations and businesses as we all need to support each other at the moment.’

All events take place at Stratford Play House in a Covid-19 safe environment or are available online either live streamed or as a pre-recorded event. Tickets are on sale from 5th October and are available from, on 0333 666 3366 or from the Stratford Play House Box Office.

Image: Andrew Marr Photo: Steve Schofield © BBC