The Richmond Literature Festival returns this November. Here’s all you need to know ahead of the annual celebration of the written word in the London borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames. Words: Will Gore

Richmond has, throughout history, been something of a haven for literary types, so its no surprise that during the last two decades the Richmond Literature Festival has been able to establish itself as a vital part of the borough’s cultural life – and the 2015 edition, which runs from 6 to 27 November, looks set to be another memorable year for local lovers of the written word.

The festival is organised by Richmond Council’s Arts Service, and Emma Cookson, arts festival manager, says its dual ethos remains the same as ever; to bring popular and successful authors from across the UK to Richmond and to give an opportunity for local writers to promote their books.

‘Our festival programme explores everything from music, art and theatre, to science, history, economics and even brain surgery,’ explains Emma. ‘Not only is it hugely important to involve local authors in the festival in order to keep the programme relevant and of interest to our audience, but it is also important for us as the borough’s Arts Service that we show support for writers living and working in our borough; giving them a platform to showcase the wonderful talent that continues to flourish in Richmond.’

With this in mind, a number of writers who live in or close to Richmond will be appearing at the festival, with surely the most famous name among them being former business secretary, Vince Cable, who will take to the Richmond Theatre stage on 15 November to discuss his book, After The Storm, which assesses the state of the British and global economies since the financial meltdown of 2008. ‘I am delighted to have the chance to appear at the local festival without the baggage of party politics and simply to talk about my book and to convey my enjoyment of books,’ he says.


Other writers from the area set to appear include Claire Tomalin, the multi-award winning historian whose previous subjects include Samuel Pepys, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen, who will be in discussion with renowned critic John Carey (Duke Street Church, 11 Nov), Henry Marsh, a medic-turned-author, who will lift the lid on the extraordinary art of brain surgery (Old Town Hall, 19 Nov), and Guardian theatre critic (and Chiswick resident) Michael Billington, who will discuss his recent tome, 101 Greatest Plays (Orange Tree Theatre, 22 Nov), a countdown of his favourite stage plays that caused quite a stir in the hysterical world of social media when it was published earlier this year.

A novel with local interest, Matthew Plampin’s Will and Tom, will also be featured, focusing as it does on the great artist, JMW Turner, who painted a number of Richmond landscapes and designed and built Sandycombe Lodge, in Twickenham, in 1813. Matthew’s fiction focuses on Turner’s early life and his rivalry with now little know artist Tom Girtin. The event will be held, appropriately enough for this arty novel, at Orleans House Gallery on 22 November.

Along with these highlights Emma has a few recommendations of her own for people looking to book up tickets for the festival. She says she is delighted to be featuring debut author Anna Thommasson, discussing her new book A Curious Friendship. Another book about a famous artist, this one is an account of the relationship between the writer Edith Olivier and the young artist Rex Whistler in the 1920s (York House, 12 Nov).

‘There are too many great events to pick from but I am also looking forward to Virginia Nicholson in conversation with Julia Somerville at the Bingham (24 Nov),’ says Emma. ‘I saw Virginia discussing her new book Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes at the Charleston Festival earlier this year and I think the Richmond audience will thoroughly enjoy hearing some of the stories and anecdotes from her research on the social history of women in the 1950s.’

Cookson says the Richmond Literature Festival ‘continues to evolve and develop year after year’. Proof of this is demonstrated by the inclusion of more ‘fringe’ events and the addition of new venues, such as the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace.

There is also a programme for keen young readers, including appearances by Abie Longstaff at Orleans House Gallery, discussing her much loved Fairytale Hairdresser series and her latest collection of stories, The Magic Potions Shop (both 14 Nov), and David Mackintosh, who will present his What’s Up, MuMu? tales (Orleans House Gallery, 21 Nov).

Emma adds that two creative writing workshops ‘to inspire and engage young minds’ are also part of the Children and Young People’s programme. Maybe some of the budding young scribblers taking part in them will be the star names to look out for at Richmond Literature Festivals in the years and decades to come.

Richmond Literature Festival, 6–27 November, to book tickets, visit

Richmond Literature Festival highlights at a glance…

Sunday Times journalist Christina Lamb assesses the impact and legacy of the war in Afghanistan (American University, Nov 6) Killer Women panel: A trio of female crime authors will dissect their writing in all its gory glory (Twickenham Library, Nov 18) Archaeology expert Mike Pitts, author of Digging for Richard, explains what the recent discovery of Richard III’s skeleton reveals about our collective history (National Archives, Nov 18) The recent Rugby World Cup might have been a disaster for England, but Stephen Cooper discusses his book about the first ever tournament, After the Final Whistle: The First Rugby World Cup and the First World War (Orleans House Gallery, Nov 23) US writer John Lahr on his colourful memoir that covers his two decades as drama critic for The New Yorker (East Sheen Library, Nov 26)

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