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2023’s Best Literary Festivals To Get Excited For

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Reading glasses at the ready: there’s plenty for book-lovers to celebrate at these literary festivals

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Calling all book lovers: there’s plenty to be excited about on the 2023 literary calendar. Here are the literary festivals not to miss in 2023.

Your 2023 Literary Festivals Calendar:

  • March: Bay Tales Live
  • April: Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival
  • May: Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair
  • June: Southbank Summer 2023 Literature and Spoken Word Season, The Last Word Festival, Queen’s Reading Room Festival, Bradford Literature Festival, Wealden Festival
  • July: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Petworth Festival
  • September: Queen’s Park Book Festival, North Cornwall Book Festival, Marlborough Literature Festival, Cliveden Literary Festival
  • October: Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, Cheltenham Literature Festival, London Literature Festival, Henley Literary Festival
  • November: Bridport Literary Festival, DESIblitz Literature Festival

2023’s Best Literary Festivals

Bay Tales Live

When? 4 March 2023

Where? Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear

What? Having launched in February 2022, Bay Tales Live is back for a second annual one-day literary festival focussing on crime fiction. Confirmed speakers include local authors Ann Cleeves OBE and Trevor Wood, alongside more than 15 of the UK’s bestselling crime and mystery writers. Better still, there’s a keen focus on uplifting the local area. Co-director Simon Berwick says: ‘We’re working with pubs, restaurants and cafes to provide offers for show attendees, we’ve got The Bound bookshop on-site all day selling books, and between now and March we’re working with local charities on some special elements for the show.’

How? Tickets are £35 plus a £1.50 booking fee.

Sherborne Travel Writing Festival poster

Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival

When? 14–16 April 2023

Where? Sherborne, Dorset

What? The first Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival will take place in the beautiful Dorset abbey town over the weekend of 14–16 April 2023, where 10 of Britain’s best-known travel writers will talk about their experiences of roaming the world’s jungles, cities, rivers, deserts, plains, oceans, and mountains. It will be a welcome reminder, after the traumas and restrictions of recent years, that travel is a powerful force for good, a necessary tonic for the human soul. The festival curator is Rory MacLean, himself a well-known travel writer. The speakers are John Gimlette, Sophy Roberts, Philip Marsden, Anthony Sattin, Justin Marozzi, Sara Wheeler, Colin Thubron, John Blashford-Snell, Rory Maclean himself with Demi Anter, and Jay Griffiths. Read about everything we can expect at the Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival here.

How? For the full programme and to purchase tickets, visit

Firsts London's Rare Book Fair at the Saatchi Gallery

(© Clare Hughes Photography)

Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair

When? 19–21 May 2023

Where? Saatchi Gallery, London

What? If old and rare books are your bag, this literary festival might be the one for you. With the 2023 theme (‘Shakespeare: 400 Years of Influence’) celebrating four centuries since Shakespeare’s First Folio was published, visitors can expect over 100 international antiquarian dealers, showcasing a wide range of material, but especially that which illustrates the Bard’s wide-reaching impact. A highlight of the fair will be a copy of Shakespeare’s Third Folio, the rarest of the four Shakespearean folios published in the 17th century, with most copies thought to have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Guests can also see a first edition of Madagascar (the first book of poems by Shakespeare’s godson, William Davenant), one of E H Shepard’s original drawings from The Wind In The Willows, a first edition of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a rare signed presentation copy of Karl Marx’s Capital, and T.E. Lawrence’s personal proof copy of his memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

How? Tickets for the preview evening (18 May, 5–9pm) are £50, while tickets for Friday 19 May are £10, and entry is free on 20 and 21 May.

Southbank Summer 2023 Literature and Spoken Word Season

When? June–October 2023

Where? Southbank Centre, London

What? Running in tandem with the Southbank Centre’s eco-focussed Planet Summer series of events this summer, a star-studded line-up of writers has been announced for the Summer 2023 Literature and Spoken Word Season. Celebrating new novels are the likes of Yomi Adegoke, Julian Barnes, Stephen Buoro, Jacqueline Crooks, Guy Gunaratne, Zadie Smith and Colson Whitehead; Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kate Molleson, Caitlin Moran and Elliot Page will talk about their non-fiction books; Yanis Varoufakis will launch his new book on economics, capitalism and inequality, while Theresa May will discuss her The Abuse of Power; and, in poetry, the National Poetry Library will explore autism and poetry and celebrate emerging poets with Hong Kong connections, while Out-Spoken will return for its monthly residency.

How? Tickets on sale to Southbank Centre Members from 4 May and to the general public from 5 May 2023.

An image from The Last Word literary festival 2022

Poetry slam heats 2022 (image courtesy of The Last Word, cropped)

The Last Word Festival

When? 1–18 June 2023

Where? The Roundhouse, London

What? Celebrating its tenth year, The Last Word literary festival is back for 2023, starring the beloved and renowned Roundhouse Poetry Slam at its core (applications for pioneering 18–25 year-old spoken word poets are now open for the opportunity to win a cash prize and the coveted ‘Slam Champion’ title). Expect to also hear performances and discussions from the likes of Speakers Corner Quartet, Sophia Thakur, Kayo Chingonyi, James Massiah, Lemara (#MERKY Books), Jordan Stephens, FACESOUL and many more.


Queen’s Reading Room Festival

When? 11 June 2023

Where? Hampton Court Palace

What? The inaugural Queen’s Reading Room Festival is set against the stunning Hampton Court Palace, an unmissable one-day literary festival featuring the best street food, spoken poetry, literary tours and Q&As with the likes of Dame Judi Dench.


Bradford Literature Festival

When? 23 June–3 July 2023

Where? Bradford, West Yorkshire

What? The City of Culture for 2025, Bradford Literature Festival changes lives through widening access to world-class arts and literature for all. Inspiring over 100,000 children and young people through their events since 2014, this annual literary festival is a leader in social inclusion, accessibility and representation, showcasing trailblazing voices from the UK and beyond. The first fully live event since the pandemic, 2022’s festival involved 484 events, 470 world-class authors, and speakers, poets and performers from around the globe – and 2023 promises to be just as amazing.

How? Stay up to date at

Wealden Festival

When? 24–25 June 2023

Where? Boldshaves Garden in Woodchurch, Kent

What? Some of the biggest names in literature will lead workshops focused on the environment, mental health and the arts at Wealden Festival 2023. Michael Morpurgo, Dara McAnulty, Kimberley Wilson, AC Grayling, former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Will Gompertz, Keggie Carew, Gaia Vince and Madeleine Bunting will all speak at the family-friendly weekend, which was launched in 2015 to celebrate nature, creativity and the outdoors. Talks,  debates, creative workshops and hands-on outdoor events will examine the key issues that affect us today, from the lifestyle changes we can make to be more environmentally friendly to how to improve wellbeing through nutrition, mindfulness and meditation.

How? Tickets are on sale now. 

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

When? 20–23 July 2023

Where? Harrogate

What? This award-winning festival celebrates crime fiction at its best. Curated by chair Denise Mina, 2022’s line-up included The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins, Lynda La Plante and Michael Connelly, writer of the acclaimed Harry Bosch series. Festival favourite Val McDermid also returned with her New Blood panel, showcasing four exciting debut crime writers to look out for. Keep your eyes peeled for news about 2023.


Hugh Bonneville

Gavin Bond

Petworth Festival

When? 12–29 July 2023

Where? West Sussex

What? You can always guarantee a star-studded line-up of guests at this illustrious literary extravaganza. The 2023 lineup is yet to be announced, but the 2022 instalment featured a whole host of big names, from Hugh Bonneville to Ben Okri and Kate Mosse, Charlotte Mullins discussing the power of art, Michael Parkinson on the world of sport, Andrew Gimson on being Boris Johnson’s biographer, and much more.


Queen's Park Book Festival

Queen’s Park Book Festival

When? 2–3 September 2023

Where? Queen’s Park, London

What? Queen’s Park Book Festival boasts a wonderful literary history as a home to authors, artists, poets, and actors, carrying on this legacy by creating a platform for other young aspiring writers to be discovered. Visitors this year had the chance to see names like Robert Harris, Clover Stroud and Juliet Rosenfeld, plus Oskar Jensen and Dr John Woolf discussed the hidden stories of marginalized Victorians.



North Cornwall Book Festival

When? 21–24 September 2023

Where? St Endellion Church, Port Isaac

What? North Cornwall Book Festival offers something slightly different. As an independent, locally-run literary festival, this largely unknown event may not pull some of the bigger names you’ve seen at the country’s larger literary celebrations, however, for what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in passion and authenticity. With an abundance of workshops, readings and performances on offer across the weekend, this is certainly not one to miss.


Marlborough LitFest

When? 28 September–1 October 2023

Where? Marlborough, Wiltshire

What? This year sponsored by Fermoie, Marlborough LitFest is back for 2023, championing new and upcoming writers alongside established names, with Irish author Sebastian Barry just announced as this year’s Golding Speaker. With a focus on encouraging a love of reading in children, expect author talks, competitions and fun for all the family.

How? Stay up to date at

Cliveden House Hotel near London

Cliveden Literary Festival

When? 30 September–1 October 2023

Where? Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire

What? Situated amongst the spectacular surroundings of British country estate, Cliveden House – renowned for its literary salons since 1666, favoured by the likes of Alexander Pope and Sir Winston Churchill – this historic literary festival is not one to be missed. This year, highlights included Succession‘s Brian Cox on becoming Logan Roy, expert panels on Putin’s Russia, and Louise Perry on the sexual revolution.


Henley Literary Festival

When? 30 September–8 October 2023

Where? A series of fantastic venues including Phyllis Court and The Hibernia at Hobbs Boat Yard in Henley

What? Henley Literary Festival returned this autumn with an impressive line-up of speakers, workshops, performances and Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors. Highlights included David Dimbleby, Ella Mills, Lenny Henry, Rosemary Shrager, Jenny Packham, Mel C and many more big names. Stay tuned for details of the 2023 event.


Susie Dent

John Lawrence

Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival

When? 19–22 October 2023

Where? Harrogate

What? Previous speakers have included a host of literary icons, such as Louise Minchin, Sir Tim Waterstone, and Tom Bradby. In 2019, former Prime Minister David Cameron appeared for an exclusive conversation with James Langlade, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, discussing his controversial memoir For the Record. In 2022, speakers included Susie Dent, David Lascelles, Stephen May and more.


Cheltenham Literature Festival

When? 6–15 October 2023

Where? Select venues across Cheltenham

What? The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is the UK’s oldest literary festival. Each year’s fantastic line-up welcomes some of the best and brightest of the literary and entertainment spheres for an exciting programme of over 500 workshops, interviews and debates. Highlights for 2022 included Stanley Tucci, Kamila Shamsie, Ian McEwan, Mary Berry and many more top names.


Greta Thunberg

Kim Jakobsen To

London Literature Festival

When? 19–29 October 2023

Where? South Bank Centre

What? There’s always a heavy-weight line-up of the biggest authors and speakers at the capital’s most talked-about literary festival of the year. Previous speakers have included the likes of Hilary Clinton, Philip Pullman and Tom Hanks take to the stage for individually-ticketed events. The equally sensational programme for 2022 includes Graham Norton, Anne-Marie, Malorie Blackman, plus a panel of climate voices hosted by Greta Thunberg. Keep your eyes peeled for 2023’s announcements.


Bridport Literary Festival

When? 5–11 November 2023

Where? Bridport, Dorset

What? Bridport’s annual literary festival will return for 2023, filling autumnal Dorset with bookish joy. Details for this year are still TBC, but 2022’s guest authors included Kit de Waal and Chris Patten.

How? Tickets on sale late summer 2023.

Saima Mir

Saima Mir

DESIblitz Literature Festival

When? 2023 TBC (in 2022, the DESIblitz Literature Festival took place from 12–25 November 2022)

Where? Birmingham

What? The DESIblitz Literature Festival is all about celebrating British South Asian talent in the books sphere. In 2022, it featured a mix of in-person and digital events, from author talks to panel discussions and workshops. The line-up included the likes of Ready Steady Cook chef Romy Gill, author Saima Mir, DJ Tommy Sandhu and children’s author Bali Rai. Budding writer? A whole host of literary names also took to the stage to discuss their top tips for getting published.


Featured image: Cliveden House Hotel