What To Expect From The First Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival
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What To Expect From The First Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival

Richard Hopton outlines everything we can look forward to

Taking place from 14–16 April 2023, the Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival will be the UK’s first travel writing festival in recent years, hosted in the pretty town of Sherborne in Dorset. Here’s everything you need to know.

What To Expect From The First Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival

Over the weekend of 14–16 April 2023, 10 of Britain’s finest travel writers will converge on the beautiful abbey town of Sherborne in Dorset to take part in the first festival of travel literature to be held in Britain for some time. 

For many of us, the world has become a smaller, more threatening place in recent years: Brexit, the pandemic, the unprovoked brutality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the horror of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria have all contributed to this narrowing and a more general sense of disquiet. The Sherborne Travel-Writing Festival will be an antidote to this, broadening our horizons once again. The speakers will transport their audiences – travellers, armchair or dusty-booted, readers, and the plain curious alike – to the four corners of the globe with their stories of adventure and revelation, reminding us of the richness of travel and its importance to the human spirit. 

The festival curator is Rory MacLean, a garlanded travel writer who lives in Dorset. He is the author of many well-known books – including Berlin, of which the late Jan Morris wrote he ‘recreate[s] through art and imagination the whole historic presence of a great capital […] a wonderful achievement’.

John Gimlette will open proceedings on Friday 14 April, talking about his journey around Madagascar’s fantastical landscapes and his encounters with many of the island’s  isolated tribes and its exotic creatures. He will be followed by Sophy Roberts giving her account of her trip across Siberia in search of the lost pianos.

Sherborne Travel Writing Festival poster

On the Saturday, the first speaker will be Philip Marsden talking about his single-handed voyage sailing around the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. He will be followed by Anthony Sattin discussing his Nomads, a remarkable book which explains the history of nomadic peoples and their importance. Then Justin Marozzi will talk about the extraordinary Arab conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, which took them from the Middle East to the River Loire.

The next speaker will be Sara Wheeler, who will discuss her Glowing Still, a fascinating and thought-provoking memoir of her life on the road, roaming the world. Colin Thubron will then talk about his epic trek along the River Amur – on the border between Russia and China – at the grand old age of 81.

On the Sunday, the renowned explorer John Blashford-Snell will get us going with a talk about his experiences on the Blue Nile and the Congo. Following him, Rory MacLean and Demi Anter will discuss Berlin, unveiling David Bowie’s creative sojourn in the city. The final speaker will be Jay Griffiths, who will take us to the Peruvian Amazon where she confronts the call, fundamental to all humans, of the wild.

All the talks will be staged in Sherborne School’s Powell Theatre in the centre of town. On both the Saturday and the Sunday, there will be an opportunity for ticket-holders to chat with the authors over tea provided in the Japanese style by Comins of Sturminster Newton and Bath.  

VISIT: For the full programme and to purchase tickets, visit sherbornetravelwritingfestival.com

Featured image: Sherborne Abbey, Dorset.