Culture & Creative IndustriesNews

As one of the country’s leading literary festivals that had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Stratford Literary Festival has been busy curating activities to keep its audiences inspired and entertained.


Following the launch of its Sharing Stories page, which has already attracted thousands of visitors and features best-selling authors and illustrators – including World Book Day Rob Biddulph, Oi author Kes Gray and illustrator of many Julia Donaldson stories, Lydia Monks, the Festival is now launching SLF Goes Virtual.


The online Festival is a handpicked programme of virtual interviews featuring some of the most interesting authors and topics that would have been included in the cancelled line-up. These include highly-acclaimed author and playwright Michael Frayn, Sunday Times Chief Foreign Correspondent Christina Lamb on rape as a weapon of war; Christopher Somerville and Andrew Ziminski on cathedrals; Claire Hunter on sewing as a means of protest throughout history; Damian Barr and Jonathan Freedland, aka bestseller Sam Bourne, on their latest novels; Simon Reid Henry on challenges to Democracy in the 21st century; David Barrie on the astonishing way animals navigate, Guardian food writer Felicity Cloake on her French food odyssey, and Clover Stroud and Virago Publisher Lennie Goodings on how writing a history can unexpectedly become a memoir.


Many fascinating topics are raised in these informal conversations, from whether churches should have been kept closed during the virus outbreak, to why dictatorships may actually handle public emergencies better than democracies. Each virtual event gives a flavour of the topics covered in the authors’ books.


Scheduled to be available on the Festival’s website from 9th May when the Festival would have opened, different conversations will be released each day throughout the week. All videos are free to watch, will be subtitled to make them accessible to everyone, and will include links to buy a copy of each book.


Stratford Literary Festival is also featuring in the Arts Council and BBC Arts-backed Big Book Weekend, with Tim Hubbard in conversation on 9th May with Adam Kucharski, associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he works on the analysis of infectious disease outbreaks, about his precipitously timed book The Rules of Contagion.


‘We were so disappointed to have to cancel the Festival,’ said Director Annie Ashworth ‘and we were really looking forward to this our 13th year – but thanks to the generosity of some of the authors who would have been with us, we’ve been able to give audiences a flavour of some of the fascinating discussions that they’ve missed. We can’t wait to be welcoming audiences back later in the year.’


Videos can been seen at from 9th May, and the Festival returns for its Winter Weekend from 20th-22nd November.