For the names of our speakers prior to October 2015, please see our History page.
To see film clips of our most recent speakers, please see our Video Archive page.
For the names of our speakers prior to October 2015, please see our History page.
To see film clips of our most recent speakers, please see our Video Archive page.
Salley Vickers is the author of many highly acclaimed novels, including Miss Garnet’s Angel, The Cleaner of Chartres, Cousins, The Librarian, which was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller, Grandmothers, and two short story collections, the latest, The Boy Who Could See Death (Viking 2015). She was born in Liverpool and grew up in the Potteries, in Stoke-on-Trent, where her parents were active members of the Communist Party. She will be talking about her new book, The Gardener (November 2021) in which two sisters buy a ramshackle cottage together and embark on a journey of history, hurt and the healing power of nature.
Claire Wilcox has been Senior Curator of Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum since 2004. She has staged many successful exhibitions for the museum including Radical Fashion, Vivienne Westwood, The Art and Craft of Gianni Versace, The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, and Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up. Professor in Fashion Curation at the London College of Fashion, Claire’s latest book Patch Work, A Life Amongst Clothes, won the PEN Ackerley Prize in 2021.
In a talk-cinema collaboration, the Depot Cinema will be screening The Phantom Thread on 24th February at 5.30pm. Details here
[Photo credit: Julian Stair]
Dean Atta’s debut poetry collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and his debut novel, The Black Flamingo, won the Stonewall Book Award. He was named as one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK by the Independent on Sunday. Dean has appeared on BBC One, BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, and Channel 4, and he is a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. Dean is based in Glasgow, and is Co-director of the Scottish BAME Writers Network and a patron of LGBT+ History Month. No stranger to Lewes and Brighton, Dean graduated from the University of Sussex in 2006.
[Photo credit: Thomas Sammut]
Alice O’Keeffe’s new novel, Skylark, which is published this November, is set against a backdrop of the anti-roads protests of the 1990s and the undercover policing tactics that have since come to light. Alice’s first novel On the Up, ‘a poignant tale of family life’ (Woman & Home) explored the isolation of new motherhood. As well as being a novelist, Alice is a journalist and writes for various publications including the Guardian, Observer and the New Statesman. [Photo credit: Moose Azim]
Alison Light’s first book, Forever England, was hailed by the New Statesman as occupying ‘a seminal place in cultural history’. Mrs Woolf and the Servants was runner up for the Longman’s History Prize in 2007, and in 2014 Common People, The History of an English Family was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction (now the Baillie Gifford). Alison will be talking about her latest work, A Radical Romance. A Memoir of Love, Grief and Consolation, which was awarded the 2020 PEN Ackerley Prize for memoir and biography.
Frances Spalding CBE is an art historian, critic and biographer, specialising in 20th century art. She has written fifteen books, including biographies of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is formerly editor of the Burlington Magazine and is Emeritus Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Appropriately, for this year of home holidays, Frances will be talking about ‘Looking at England: John Betjeman, John Piper and the Shell Guides’. The talk, which will be followed by a Q&A, starts at 7pm, and tickets are available here.
Amanda Craig is an author, critic and journalist. Her most recent novel, her ninth, The Golden Rule, has just been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was inspired by both Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train and the fairy-tale of Beauty and the Beast. Previous novels include Hearts And Minds and The Lie of the Land, which was a Radio 4 Book At Bedtime. Author photo by Charlie Hopkinson.
Lucy Atkins is an award-winning author of four novels and several non-fiction titles. She is a Sunday Times book critic and has written for many publications including The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, and The T.L.S. Lucy teaches on the creative writing Masters degree at Oxford University. The Guardian called her most recent novel, Magpie Lane, ‘the word of mouth success of lockdown’.
Lynne Truss describes herself as a flighty writer. She’s currently producing an award-winning series of comic crime novels set in Brighton in the 1950s (the Constable Twitten mysteries). She has also been a top columnist, critic, sportswriter and radio dramatist, as well as (accidentally) Queen of the Apostrophe with her massive bestseller, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. She’ll be talking in general about the art and craft of writing, and in particular why she has killed people with milk bottles in her latest novel.
Sean O’Brien is a critic, novelist, translator, playwright and broadcaster. However, it’s as a poet that he is best known, and his poetry has received numerous awards. His new collection, It Says Here, has been described as ‘masterly’ and ‘gripping’, and O’Brien himself as ‘WH Auden’s true inheritor.’ He will be reading from It Says Here, and talking about his writing life, at this live online event.
Henry Marsh’s acclaimed memoir, Do No Harm, about his work as a neurosurgeon, was published in 2014 and has won numerous awards. It has been described as ‘an elegant series of meditations at the closing of a long career.’
We are sorry to announce that this talk has been cancelled.
Alexander Masters is the author of Stuart, A Life Backwards, which won the Guardian First Book Award and the Hawthornden Prize. It was turned into a film for BBC and HBO, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy. His second book, Simon, The Genius in my Basement, was a study of an eccentric mathematical prodigy. A Life Discarded, 148 diaries found in a skip, is the third in this trilogy of memoir/biographies.
Fiona Sampson is an award-winning poet, writer, broadcaster and critic. She has published twenty-seven books in thirty-seven languages, and received an MBE for Services to Literature. Her recent books include Limestone Country and In Search of Mary Shelley, a critically-acclaimed biography which was serialised on Radio 4, and was the Times Literary Non-fiction Book of the Year. Her forthcoming poetry collection, Come Down, will be published in 2020.
In a collaboration with the Depot Cinema, there will be a screening of Boris Karloff’s 1931 film, ‘Frankenstein’ a few days before Fiona’s talk, on Saturday 7th March.
Sathnam Sanghera is an award-winning columnist and feature writer for The Times. He has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards twice, for his memoir The Boy With The Topknot and his novel Marriage Material, the former being adapted by BBC Drama in 2017. He has won numerous prizes for his journalism, including Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2002 and Media Commentator of the Year in the 2015 Comment Awards.
Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers The Turn of the Key, In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game and The Death of Mrs Westaway have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. Her books have been optioned for film and TV, and she is published in more than forty languages.
Jacqueline Wilson is an award-winning children’s novelist. Her 100+ books – including the Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather series – have sold more than 40 million copies in the UK alone, and been adapted for stage and TV. As well as receiving an OBE in 2002 for Services to Literacy in Schools, Jacqueline was awarded a DBE in 2008.
Susie Boyt is the author of six acclaimed novels and a much-loved memoir of love, loss and hero-worship, My Judy Garland Life, which was Book of the Week on Radio 4 and staged as musical at the Nottingham Playhouse. Her latest novel is Love & Fame. Susie writes columns and reviews for the Financial Times Weekend, and last year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories by Henry James for Penguin Classics. Susie is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre.
Linda Grant is an author and journalist. She has written seven novels, including the Orange prize-winning When I Lived in Modern Times (2000) and the Man Booker-shortlisted The Clothes on Their Backs (2008). Her most recent novel, The Dark Circle (2017), was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction.
She has also written a number of non-fiction books, including the acclaimed memoir Remind Me Who I Am, Again (1998), about her family’s history and mother’s dementia.
Lesley is the author of the best-selling The Detective’s Daughter series, featuring Stella Darnell. The final book in this seven-book series, The Playground Murders, will be published in April 2019.
Her standalone crime novel, A Kind of Vanishing, set around the abandoned village of Tide Mills, near Newhaven, won the People’s Book prize for fiction in 2010. Lesley lives in Lewes and runs a crime-writing course at West Dean College.
Charlotte Higgins is a classicist, author, and the Guardian’s chief culture writer. Her latest book, Red Thread (2018), explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths. It was described by Craig Brown in the Mail on Sunday as ‘thrillingly original… on every page there is a sparkling idea.’
See the movie, then hear the talk! The classic Cocteau film, Orphee, with its theme of labyrinths, will be screened at the Depot to tie in with Charlotte’s talk, on Sunday Feb 10th, at 2pm.
Miriam Darlington is a prize-winning poet and nature writer. She was born and brought up in Lewes, and studied at Sussex University. She now lives in Devon, and teaches creative writing at the University of Plymouth.
Her books include the acclaimed nature-travel memoir, Otter Country (2012). Her latest book, Owl Sense (2018), has been described as ‘captivating’ by The Times, and ‘achingly beautiful’ by the Guardian.
Jo Shapcott is a multi-award winning poet. Her most recent collection, Of Mutability, won the Costa Book Award in 2010. She is President of the Poetry Society, and teaches on the MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Her earlier poetry collections – Electroplating the Baby (1988), Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998) – are gathered in a compendium, Her Book, published in 2000. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2011.
Robert McCrum is a critic and author. He also broadcasts regularly on Radio Four and is an associate editor of The Observer. Previously he was editor-in-chief at Faber & Faber, where he edited many outstanding writers.
His own books include six novels, a definitive biography of PG Wodehouse, and an acclaimed memoir, My Year Off, which concerns a massive stroke he suffered in 1995. His new book is Every Third Thought: On life, death and the endgame, described by Kate Mosse as ‘thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous’.
VICTORIANS UNDONE: OUR ANCESTORS’ EMBARRASSING BODIES
Kathryn Hughes is an award-winning journalist, and the author of much-admired biographies of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot. She is also professor of life writing at the University of East Anglia. Her most recent book is Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum.
A PERSONAL STORY OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
Philippe Sands is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at University College London. His latest book, East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, was awarded the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction.
In a joint venture between us and the wonderful Depot Cinema, Phillipe’s documentary film, My Nazi Legacy, will be shown at the Depot on Sunday 18th March at 3pm, two days before he comes to Lewes to speak.
Before becoming a crime writer, William Shaw was an award-winning music journalist. He’s the author of a series of highly praised detective books set in 1960s London featuring DS Breen and WPC Tozer, the most recent of which is Sympathy for the Devil. He has also written a standalone novel, The Birdwatcher. His website is here.
LESSONS FROM HISTORY: BRAVERY, FORGIVENESS & UNITY
Chris Cleave is the author of Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Gold, The Other Hand and Incendiary. His novels have been published in thirty languages and have been adapted for screen and stage worldwide. He is a regular newspaper and broadcast contributor to the cultural debate on parenting, literature and human rights. His website is here.
THE FUTURE OF PRINT JOURNALISM
Emma Tucker has been deputy editor of The Times since 2013. Previously she worked at The Financial Times, covering politics and economics, including reporting on the EU in Brussels for six years. She grew up in Lewes and went to Priory School.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY AS FICTION
Margaret Drabble DBE is a highly-acclaimed novelist, biographer and critic. She is the author of nineteen novels including A Summer Bird-Cage, The Millstone, and the most recent, The Dark Flood Rises. She was the editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. She was awarded the 2011 Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature.
A WRITING LIFE
Polly Samson will be with us to talk about her life as a writer of two novels, two collections of short stories and the lyrics to many Pink Floyd songs. But her career has also included jobs in publishing (she was on the board of Jonathan Cape at the age of 24), as a journalist and book reviewer, and as a judge for several literary prizes.
You can read much more about her here.
EARLY ONE MORNING: FRIENDS, FAMILY, LOVE AND RESCUE
Virginia Baily is the author of Early One Morning and Africa Junction. Both novels have won awards, both have been highly praised by critics, and both are set against a backdrop of historical events while delving deep into their characters’ emotional lives. Early One Morning, Virginia’s second novel, is set in 1970s Rome and, according to the Guardian, ‘masterfully explores themes of identity, belonging and loss’.
You can find out more about Virginia and her work here.
THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF SHAKESPEARE’S WORLD
Ben Crystal is an actor, author and producer, and much of his work revolves around Shakespeare.
What would it have been like to go the theatre in Elizabethan times? Ben will be helping us experience Shakespeare’s plays through the eyes, ears and minds of the audiences of his time – audiences who had a great appetite for stories, who had no problem with suspending their disbelief, and who, like Shakespeare, were living through a time of great political and social change.
Do have a look at Ben’s website here.
A NOVELIST WRITES FICTION
Charlotte Mendelson has turned her tiny urban garden into a place to grow over a hundred different things to eat, and the experience has led her away from the fictional landscape she’s inhabited until now and into the unknown territory that is non-fiction. The result is Rhapsody in Green: A Novelist in the Garden.
To find out more about her work, have a look at her website.
IN MONTMARTRE: THE WORLD OF PICASSO AND MATISSE
Sue Roe’s talents are many – she’s a biographer, poet, novelist and critic – but she’ll be focussing on her intimate knowledge of two of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, Picasso and Matisse.
Her most recent books are The Private Lives of the Impressionists and In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910. You can read more about these here.
WRITING THE PAST, AND WRITING ABOUT THE PAST
We’re delighted to be welcoming Tessa Hadley as our first speaker of the new season. She’ll be talking about writing The Past (her most recent novel) and writing about the past (more generally). Tessa has six novels and two collections of short stories to her name, and she’s regularly praised for her ability to capture the subtleties of relationships and the complexities of family life.
You can read more about her here.
Jan Pieńkowski, the legendary illustrator and creator of Meg and Mog, reflects on half a century’s work and a journey which has taken him from Haunted House to the Royal Opera House.
In a change to our programme, Oliver Kamm will be standing in for Anthea Bell whose ill-health has meant that she won’t be able to make the trip to Lewes. Oliver is the author of Accidence Will Happen: the Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage, and he will be talking about language and languages. He is a leader writer and columnist for The Times, and by a strange coincidence happens to be Anthea Bell’s son.
Mick Jackson, whose novel The Underground Man was shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize, discusses using the Brontës as a backdrop to a contemporary mystery.
Dispatches from the front-line of beauty journalism: leading style columnist and broadcaster Sali Hughes shares her beauty secrets on and off the page.
The award-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo, author of The Emperor’s Babe and Mr Loverman, discusses subverting the mainstream, challenging boundaries and pushing back literary limits.
Neel Mukherjee talks about his most recent novel, The Lives of Others, which explores the soul of a nation through family history. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Novel Award in 2014 and won the Encore Award in 2015.