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Durham Book Festival

New Writing North is the proud producer of Durham Book Festival, which takes place in and around the beautiful city of Durham each October.

At a glance

Bestselling authors

Durham Book Festival attracts big names, including past appearances from Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Bill Bryson, Pat Barker, Jung Chang, PD James and Anthony Horowitz. We also bring the work of new northern writers to a wider audience.

New commissions

Durham Book Festival is renowned for its commissions of new work across all art forms. Past commissions have included a dance-theatre retelling of Rapunzel from Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy; Notes from Underground, a song-cycle by poet Sean O’Brien and composer Agustín Fernández; and Hypoxia by Kathryn Williams.

The Gordon Burn Prize

The UK’s most fearless literary prize was founded in 2012 in memory of the late North East writer Gordon Burn. The announcement of the prize takes place each October during Durham Book Festival, with readings from the shortlisted writers.

A vibrant mix of authors, thinkers and artists

Each October, Durham Book Festival brings a vibrant mix of authors, thinkers and artists to the city of Durham, providing inspiration and entertainment.

Founded in 1990, Durham Book Festival is one of the country’s oldest literary festivals. For many years it was a well-kept secret in the region’s cultural calendar, but it has grown significantly in recent years.

The festival is now part of Durham County Council’s festival programme, and since 2011 has been produced by New Writing North, with support from Durham University and Arts Council England.

Discover Durham Book Festival

David Almond in conversation at Durham Book Festival

Pat Barker & Michael Morpurgo at Durham Book Festival, in association with the International Literature Showcase

Philip Pullman in conversation with Caroline Beck, Durham Book Festival 2015

The latest from Durham Book Festival

How to get involved

Visit Durham Book Festival

Durham Book Festival 2022 will take place between 13–16 October 2022. Tickets will go on sale in mid-August. Join us live and online for a programme of exciting events and commissions.

The Big Read

Each year we distribute 3,000 copies of our selected Big Read title to communities throughout County Durham, including through schools, university staff and students, council staff, libraries, businesses, hospitals, and prisons. We invite you to pick up a free book and rediscover the joy of reading.

The Little Read

In 2018, we launched The Little Read, especially for children under seven and their families. Every primary school and nursery setting in County Durham receives a copy of a specially chosen picture book and resources and creative activities inspired by the book.

“The events were just great: socially diverse, engaged, enthused audiences and some terrific speakers and themes.”

Professor Selina Todd, author of The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010

In numbers

Listen again

Shade by Inishfree Collective

In October 2016, a group of seven writers and musicians took part in a songwriting retreat as part of Durham Book Festival. They performed their new work as the Inishfree Collective at Durham Book Festival on 15 October 2016.

Excerpt from ‘Shade’ by Salena Godden, from The Good Immigrant, performed by Salena Godden, James Yorkston, Polly Paulusma, Kathryn Williams, Laura Barnett, Kirsty Logan and Tom McRae.


There is a Light That Never Goes Out

There is a Light That Never Goes Out tells the story of a Durham pit village from the 1950s to the present, and shows how its peoples’ memories, beliefs and ghosts still influence life there today.

Author Richard Benson (The Valley, The Farm) and photographer Keith Pattison spent four months in 2015 recording stories and conversations with people in Easington Colliery.

Recorded at Durham Book Festival 2015

Peter Straughan

We were delighted to welcome screenwriter and film director Peter Straughan to Durham Book Festival to talk about the challenges and rewards of adapting well-known novels into film and television scripts, including his adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for BBC television and his BAFTA-winning and Academy Award-nominated work adapting John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Recorded at Durham Book Festival 2015

To listen to other events from Durham Book Festival, head to our SoundCloud page.

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