Durham Book Festival announces 2011 programme

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The programme for the 21st Durham Book Festival was announced at a literary garden party at Crook Hall on 23 August, with special guest Vanessa Diffenbaugh, an American author who will be launching her newly-published debut novel, The Language of Flowers. This year’s Durham Book Festival takes place from 17-23 October, with special trailblazing events in County Durham in September and early October. The full programme is available to download and look through at, where you’ll also find booking details.


● David Miliband talking about international development and the UK’s foreign policy, Alistair Darling revealing the truth behind the credit crunch and reflect on the current debt crisis; and Chris Mullin and Bob Marshall-Andrews, whose outspoken commentaries reflect on life in Blair’s government.

● We’re hosting a series of events at the Durham Light Infantry Museum to explore war and the lives of soldiers in both fact and fiction, with General Lord Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, and Sir Rodric Braithwaite, who will talk about the unwinnable wars in Afghanistan. We will also present the first reading of a powerful new play, Wounded, by North East writer Carina Rodney.

● Leading scientist Richard Dawkins will introduce children to the mysteries of the universe; comedian Marcus Brigstocke will reflect on issues of faith; and Jon Ronson will be questioning what it is to be normal.

● What’s Left for the North East? Together with prominent businessmen and policy makers, Richard T Kelly debates the findings from his conversations with figures from across business, academia and politics in the North East, and offers new directions the region can take to create a new economically stable future.

● The festival is also not shying away from international issues with an event about the Arab Spring with visiting Egyptian novelists and a celebration of the fundamental freedom to write in association with English PEN, the organisation that supports freedom of speech across the world, with novelist Pat Barker and poet Jean Binta Breeze rallying for the cause.

As Festival Laureate for 2011, poet Don Paterson will be in Durham for the duration of the festival and will feature in a number of events. In a festival first, Don was commissioned to write a new anthem for Evensong at Durham Cathedral, which will be performed by the choir on Friday 21 October for the first time. The Laureateship is supported by Durham University, one of the festival’s cultural partners.

In advance of the main festival week, Andrew Martin will introduce his new Jim Stringer novel, The Somme Stations, at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum at Shildon, on Saturday 24 September. On 12 October, Adele Parks returns to her North East roots to launch her new novel, About Last Night, at The Bowes Museum.

We’re also getting the whole of County Durham reading with our Durham Reads project: on 1 September, 1,000 copies of The Possessions of Doctor Forrest, a new gothic horror novel by Richard T Kelly, will be available for free through libraries, civic and cultural venues across the County. Civic and business leaders will also act as Book Ambassadors and promote the book to friends and colleagues.

We’re also looking forward to hearing from Hilary Spurling, whose biography of novelist Pearl Buck has just won the James Tait Black Prize, the oldest literary prize in the UK. Jane Harris will introduce audiences to her new novel, while Catherine Hakim and Jane Shilling will discuss women’s looks and the impact they have on their lives, when they’re young and in older life. Novelists Ali Smith and Geoff Dyer will discuss extreme beauty, in a specially-commissioned event we’ve asked them to be part of.

Finally, we’ve got carefully-selected "festival picks" of new fiction which we think you’ll enjoy. More details in the full programme online.

There’s much more information available on the book festival website at