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Ilkley Literature Festival reveals free digital weekend programme

Ilkley Literature Festival has announced the programme of its first ever digital events weekend, 23-25 October.

Fifteen events, produced exclusively by the festival, will be broadcast free online from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 October.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit live events like the annual literature festival very hard. The festival is committed to returning to live events with full audiences in attendance as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, the team have taken the opportunity of moving online to try something different – taking one key theme from the original plans for this autumn’s event, an exploration of concepts of justice and injustice, as the focus for the weekend’s discussions. 

A series of fascinating events will uncover the fights for equal rights in some unexpected places – from the history of tennis to the story of the humble potato, examining who does the housework and how street names map out our values as well as our geography. There will be contributions from writers of fiction, poetry and non-fiction, participating from around the UK and locations across globe. 

Highlights include bestselling crime writer Ann Cleeves discussing how her own experience working as a probation officer helped to shape her characters, like popular detective Vera Stanhope; Hashi Mohamed speaking about the challenges to social mobility he encountered on his journey from being raised on benefits to becoming a barrister; foreign correspondent Andrew Harding telling the story of the aftermath of one night of violence on a fragile South African community; and novelists Nikita Lalwani and Keighley’s own Shahnaz Ahsan discuss the importance of giving voice to immigrant experiences through fiction. 

Other authors taking part include Deirdre Mask, Chris Daw QC, Sally Howard, Lee Lawrence, Samir Puri, David Berry, Tom Hazeldine, S. A. Cosby, and Rebecca Earle.  The University of Leeds Poetry Centre will host a showcase of with works touching on the themes of the weekend. 

Director Erica Morris, said: “While it feels very strange not to be welcoming authors and audiences to Ilkley this October as usual, we’re excited to use these unusual circumstances as an opportunity to present a programme that’s a little different. 

Rather than programme the kind of high-profile writers you’d see on stage at the King’s Hall in a normal year, we’ve taken the opportunity to raise up and showcase the work of some brilliantly talented authors whose thought-provoking books you might have otherwise missed this year amongst the crush of endless news and changes to our lives. When we started planning the festival back in January, we knew we wanted to include books that looked at different aspects of justice and injustice in literature and society. 

As the events of 2020 have unfolded, discussions around these issues have become even more urgent. We have been educated, entertained, sometimes shocked, and ultimately uplifted by these authors and their books. We hope audiences will be keen to try something new and join us for our first digital weekend.”

There is no charge to access events, but advance booking is essential. Bookers who miss the streamed broadcast will also be able to watch the events on demand up until 30 November.

For information on the full programme and to book, visit:

A pdf of the full programme can be downloaded here.

As always, the festival’s official bookseller The Grove Bookshop will be stocking copies of the author’s books, including signed copies or bookplates where possible. Books can be purchased online at The Grove Bookshop’s website or in the Ilkley store.

ILF is already planning for a second season of events in Spring 2021 looking at writing exploring our connections to the natural world. Details will be announced in the new year.

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