Highlights from the Cambridge Literary Festival
The weekend’s Cambridge Literary Festival welcomed prize-winning novelists, comedians, nature writers, a children’s laureate, political panels, Michelin-starred chefs and a ballerina.
Festival director Cathy Moore said: “It is a privilege to welcome such a varied bunch of clever, inspirational, passionate writers to the Cambridge stage. I am proud of the capacity of the Cambridge audience who always embrace our challenging and exciting programme.”
Some of the highlights of the festival, which was supported by the Cambridge Independent, included Waterstones’ Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, telling parents the secret of encouraging their children to read.
She said: “Parents, read to your kids. Just 10 minutes a day will instill the sense that books are magical objects: things which can make the dads cry, and the mums laugh.”
Meanwhile, Twitter sensation Led by Donkeys made their stage debut in Cambridge University’s Union Chamber in conversation with writer and campaigner Melissa Benn, and revealed what inspired them to create their satirical posters.
“We had to do something in the real world so that Brexiteers were held to account,” they explained.
Reflecting the national mood in the days following the first ever televised leaders’ climate debate, audiences were inspired by Richard Mabey, Rob Hopkins and Isabella Tree, who shared insights into our relationship with the natural world – exploring the impact on the environment and the current political landscape.
Lemn Sissay’s boundless energy brought Saturday to a close with the deeply poignant tale of his life growing up in care.
Dame Darcey Bussell, former principal of the Royal Ballet and the most famous ballerina of her generation, delighted with an honest account of her life in dancing, judging Strictly Come Dancing and her latest passion, working with children in state schools. And fiction was high on the list too with Ian McEwan, Goldsmiths Prize winner Lucy Ellmann – talking for the first time since winning – and Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo, as well as shortlisted writer Elif Shafak.
Bernadine Evaristo talking about the joy of reaching a new audience of readers which came with winning the Booker Prize and which she shares with Margaret Atwood, said: “I can’t imagine not sharing it with her.”
Comic relief came from Richard Ayoade and Jenny Eclair, who rolled up her her trousers to show the audience her knees.
“The upsetting thing is, if I took my glasses off and put on shorts, I look like Boris Johnson!” she said.
Meanwhile, chef Raymond Blanc talked about the impact of fast food and intensive farming, saying:
“It’s only value and virtue is its cheapness, for which we have paid a very heavy price”.
The Cambridge Literary Festival will be back from April 17 to 19, 2020.
More by this authorAlex Spencer