Today, organisers of the Guildford Book Festival are delighted to announce the line-up for the 2021 event, which returns to venues across the town between 3 and 10 October.


Facing an uncertain future as a result of Covid-19, last year the Festival – which is a registered charity – launched an emergency fundraising appeal.  Thanks to generous public support and the return of headline sponsor Simba Sleep, the annual Festival is able to take place once again this year, which will be its 32nd edition.


Featuring this year are: Oscar-winning actress, Hayley Mills, talking about her extraordinary life as a child star in Hollywood; award-winning writer Sebastian Faulks discussing his upcoming historical novel, Snow Country; comedian and presenter Mel Giedroyc with her acclaimed debut novel, The Best Things; Festival favourite Jeremy Vine who will be talking about his novel, The Diver and The Lover, and Channel 5’s ‘Dogfather’, Graeme Hall, with tips on how to manage dogs behaving (very) badly.


Popular chef, writer and TV presenter, Nadiya Hussain, will take part in a special post-Festival event to tie-in with the launch of her new BBC2 series and book.


Ever popular events the Literary Lunch, Readers’ Day and Crime Panel return to the Festival this year.  Women’s Prize founder and bestselling author Kate Mosse joins celebrated auctioneer Philip Serrell at the Literary Lunch, hosted by broadcaster Katherine Higgins; Readers’ Day brings together leading fiction writers Tony Parsons, Deborah Moggach, Stacey Halls and Elizabeth Macneal with debut novelists Peace Adzo Medie and Hafsa Zayyan, and this year’s Crime Panel features William Shaw, James Henry and Olivia Kiernan.


Max Hastings will discuss Operation Pedestal, one of the greatest naval dramas of World War II; Judith Mackrell tells the fascinating stories of six ground-breaking female war correspondents; historian Andrew Lownie draws on new research to examine the years following the abdication of Edward VIII when the former king lived in exile, and journalist Simon Heffer discusses the frank, revealing and hugely entertaining diaries of Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon.


Post-Festival, historian Alison Weir will return to Guildford to talk about Katharine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, while Marc Morris will shed new light on the beginnings of England as he talks about his latest book, The Anglo-Saxons.


Former leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP Vince Cable explores The Chinese Conundrum, and in Post Growth: Life after Capitalism, Professor Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey looks ahead to a world where relationship and meaning take precedence over profits and power.


Rugby fans will enjoy hearing from David Flatman and Mark Durden-Smith, and for music enthusiasts Oliver Craske will talk about the life of Indian classical music legend, Ravi Shankar, in a special event in partnership with Guildford Jazz also featuring music from Nic Meier’s World Group.


The Countess of Carnarvon returns to Guildford to speak about her latest book, Seasons at Highclere: Gardening, Growing, and Cooking through the Year at the Real Downton Abbey, and nature lovers will be fascinated by Ambra Edward’s story of how plants have travelled across the world since the time of the Pharaohs.


BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey presenter and mental health advocate, Jake Tyler, will lead a walk around Guildford and share the inspirational true story of how he escaped depression through a 3,000 mile walk around Britain, while bird expert Mike Langman will be leading a bird-spotting walk around Hatchlands Park, an event aimed at younger Festival-goers.


In an event held over from 2020 acclaimed poet and author, Ruth Padel, will be reading from her book, Beethoven Variations – Poems on a Life, with music from celebrated pianist, Carole Cerasi. Held in association with the Investec International Music Festival the event was originally planned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.  Writer and poet Alwyn Marriage, a Research Fellow at the University of Surrey, will be reading poems from her inspirational new collection, Pandora’s Pandemic, based on her experiences of the last year.


Dr Ian Sanjay Patel will discuss immigration and racism in Britain in an event being held in association with the local branch of Amnesty International.  The Festival will also be joining forces with Watts Gallery for an online event featuring style luminary, Charlie Porter, author of What Artists Wear.


And for budding writers, Rachel Marsh will be running a five-day creative writing course which will take place online.  Softwood Self-Publishing will also lead an online course.


Guildford Book Festival aims to inspire a love of reading, writing and illustrating among all, and funds raised through ticket sales to the main Festival enable the charity to take authors into local schools.  This year the schools programme features Alex Milway, Rob Biddulph, Cath Howe, Lindsay Galvin, Chris Wakling and Ally Sherrick.


Commenting, Jane Beaton, Co-Director of Guildford Book Festival, said:


“It’s brilliant to be able to offer a full programme of live events again this year.  With more than 30 speakers taking part on a diverse range of subjects at venues across the town, and social distancing rules relaxed, we are looking forward to seeing full houses again this autumn.”


Alex Andrews, Guildford Book Festival Co-Director, added:


“After a rollercoaster year our schools and pupils have really been hit hard and we are focusing more than ever on our schools programme. We are taking more authors and illustrators into schools and working closely with our headline sponsor Simba on free family events over the Festival weekends.”


Guildford Book Festival is a registered charity and is grateful to its sponsors: Simba Sleep,, Charles Stanley Wealth Managers, Martin Grant Homes, Azets, Saxton Bampfylde, Guildford Arts, Green Team Interiors, Experience Guildford, Quercus Books and C&H Marketing.


The 32nd Guildford Book Festival takes place between 3 and 10 October 2021.  For further information and to book tickets:


Photo: Nadiya Hussain © Chris Terry