Durham Book Festival programme on sale

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We are thrilled to let you know that the Durham Book Festival programme is now on sale. The festival will run from 6-17 October 2015 and includes more than 50 events across Durham. From poetry to family events, there is something for all and you can see the full programme at

Durham Big Read will see us giving away 3,000 copies of Philip Pullman’s award-winning novel Northern Lights, and hosting events around the book at the festival, including a rare event with Philip Pullman on 17 October.

For young families, we have the theatre adaptation of Simon Bartram’s picture book, Man on the Moon, which is touring the North of England, including 18 venues in County Durham. Created in association with Sage Gateshead, expect original live music, lots of jokes and audience interaction for children under 7 and their families.

Durham Book Festival for Schools takes place at Durham Johnston School on Tuesday 6 October, featuring picture book authors Simon Bartram and Pip Jones and Costa-winning author of Five Children on the Western Front, Kate Saunders.

Other headliners at this year’s festival include Bill Bryson, whose book The Road to Little Dribbling is a follow up to Notes from a Small Island, in which he famously described Durham as a ‘perfect little city’. Simon Armitage’s latest book, Walking Away, swaps the moorlands of the North for the coastal fringes of Britain’s South West in a personal Odyssey with all of the poetic reflection and wit we have come to expect from one of the country’s best-loved writers.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will offer an invigorating take on what ‘Englishness’ means in her talk on Exotic England: The Making of a Curious Nation, as she delves into five centuries of English history to reveal how our appetite for adventure has shaped the buildings, flavoured the food, powered the economy and created a truly diverse society. Vince Cable will bring us up to the present state of affairs, as he gives an insight into the world economy and Britain’s economic future in a talk about his career as a leading politician and his new book, After The Storm.

Durham Book Festival sent broadcaster and journalist Lauren Laverne to the current Yves Saint Laurent Style is Eternal exhibition at Bowes Museum. She will be reporting back at the festival, as well as discussing women’s broader relationship with fashion with fashion editor Laura Craik. Caroline Criado-Perez will talk women’s rights campaigners around the world, as well as her own story as a feminist activist and her book Do it Like a Woman. Mary Portas’s memoir Shop Girl moves from her very ordinary 1970s childhood to the glamour of window dressing for Harvey Nichols and Harrods.

The winner of the Gordon Burn Prize, which celebrates bold, fearless fiction and non-fiction, will be announced on Friday 9 October at Durham Town Hall. Guests will receive a special North East cocktail courtesy of Durham Distillery and will hear readings from the shortlisted authors, who have been announced as Dan Davies (In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile); Honor Gavin (Midland); Romesh Guneskera (Noon Tide Toll); Richard King (Original Rockers); and Peter Pomerantsev (Nothing is True and Everything is Possible).

Durham Book Festival is renowned for its original commissions. This year, these include a new song cycle written by poet Sean O’Brien and composed by Agustín Fernández, in association with Royal Northern Sinfonia. This major new commission is inspired by WH Auden and his deep interest in the North Pennines, and in particular the lead mining industry there. The world premiere at Gala Theatre on Thursday 15 October will be performed by Royal Northern Sinfonia and Voices of Hope, and set within a programme comprising Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.

Following the success of the inaugural Durham Moot in July, there is a Durham Moot strand of politics events within the book festival programme. A new commission brings together acclaimed writer Richard Benson and photographer Keith Pattison. Taking as their starting point a photograph from Pattison’s archive as the official photographer of the Durham Miners’ Strike, they will explore a 30-year history of a group of family and friends and aim to tell the story of what happened to people in the after the strike.

Also in the Durham Moot strand, Professor Selina Todd, who is originally from the North East, will talk about her book The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, which tells the hidden history of an entire nation based on the first-person accounts of servants, factory workers, miners and housewives.

As always, the festival has a strong poetry element, with guests including Frances Leviston, Clare Pollard and our Festival Laureate, Sinéad Morrissey. As Festival Laureate, Sinéad will be writing a new poem for the festival, which will be performed there for the first time, and will also be doing a special event for students at Durham University as well as visiting two schools in the county.

Find out more at