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No Strapline

Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival 2017

Thursday 8 June–Saturday 10 June 2017

Held in the creative surroundings of the Emma Bridgewater Factory, the UK’s only “festival in a factory” welcomes the best name authors to celebrate brilliant books and outstanding writing.


TIM SMIT:  Thursday 8th June at 2pm – The Meakin Room
 “Our opening event will be a stirring call to regenerate! Tim Smit, he who discovered the Lost Gardens of Heligan, dauntless creator of the Eden Project and all round hero of the West, will talk to us about gambling against long odds and bringing new jobs and optimism to Cornwall.” 

Described as ‘the eighth wonder of the world‘, The Eden Project rose as a remarkable and ambitious venture to become one of the world’s greatest gardens. We are delighted to welcome Eden’s inspirational co-founder, the visionary Tim Smit, to open the 2017 Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival to share the story of the Project’s enormous success and how it has changed perceptions by communicating and interpreting scientific concepts through art, drama and storytelling, whilst also living up to its mission to take a pivotal role in local regeneration.

Tim will talk about the nature of entrepreneurship, his approach to environmentalism (‘pragmatism, with a touch of idealism‘) and the passion for horticulture that also led him to restore the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Click here to book this event

JOHN GRINDROD – Outskirts: Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt
Thursday 8th June 3pm – The Eastwood Room
The Green Belt -a modern mystery of life. It doesn’t appear on maps, it isn’t signposted and it is hard to know where it lies. Green belts prevent urban sprawl from spreading and in this enlightening talk John Grindrod tells of the vision behind their creation, discusses the fiery emotions they stir up and tells a story of growing up there, recounted in his poignant social history Outskirts. John is also is the author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Re-Building of Post War Britain, described as a new way of looking at modern Britain.
Click here to book this event

TRISTRAM HUNT Thursday 8 June 4pm  The Meakin Room
“From Stoke to South Kensington – Secrets of the V&A”

Since departing Stoke-on-Trent earlier this year to take up the role as Director of the world’s leading museum of art and design, Festival trustee and former Stoke Central MP Tristram Hunt has been discovering the secrets and stories of the Victoria and Albert Museum which was founded on principles of making works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers.

The Festival is delighted to welcome Tristram back to the city to share his encounters and experiences so far of working with the V&A’s world famous permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity in every art form from textiles, furniture, fashion, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.
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 “Christopher Simon Sykes was tour photographer with the Rolling Stones in 1975 and is much sought after for having a quintessentially English eye. He is known for beautiful images of romantic places and at the Festival he will talk about his recent departure – a project in Stoke-on-Trent to capture the Faces of the Potteries.”

LOYD GROSSMAN: Thursday 8th JUNE 6pm – The Meakin Room
The definition of a true polymath, Loyd Grossman began his career in journalism before being diverted into television where he has written, presented and devised of some of our best known programmes. Through a lifelong interest in history he has become a national champion for heritage and the arts and has been involved with organisations ranging from the Museums and Galleries Commission to NADFAS (where he is President) from The Heritage Alliance to the Churches Conservation Trust and the Worshipful Company of Arts to the Royal Parks (where he is Chairman).

We welcome Loyd to Stoke-on-Trent where he will ask us to consider “What’s the use of heritage in the post-truth world?”  for what promises to be a thought-provoking event.
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POETRY PANEL : Thursday  8th JUNE  7pm – The Eastwood Room
A panel of poets, including the county laureates, who will read and discuss their work, chaired by John Prebble of The Poetry Exchange. The panel will include:
Isobel HorsleyStaffordshire Young Poet Laureate for 2016-2017.  Isobel is 16 years and attends King Edward’s school in Lichfield and as part of her year long tenure is responsible for helping to promote an enjoyment of poetry in younger people across the county.
Bert Flitcroft is currently Staffordshire Poet Laureate. He grew up in Lancashire, where he was born in 1946, he now lives in the Midlands. A graduate of Sheffield University, for some time he has been quietly, unassumingly spreading the poetry word as teacher, mentor, workshop leader, poet-in-residence, and reader. He has two collections of poetry published.
John Lancaster is a local poet who grew up in Biddulph Moor. He has published several collections and anthologies including a collection entitled Potters: A Division of Labour specifically about pot bank workers.
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ALEXANDER ARMSTRONG: Thursday 8th June 8pm – The Meakin Room
“If Alexander Armstrong were not quite the nicest person I’ve ever met, with the most charming manners and the ability to make me snort with laughter in an unladylike way, well I’d have to hate him, because he is so good at EVERYTHING.  Top comedian, star of innumerable TV dramas, carelessly erudite, he sings like an angel AND he hosts the addictive cult quiz show Pointless…. you’d be MAD not to come and meet him!”

One of the most charming and sophisticated personalities in British entertainment, the Festival is delighted to welcome Alexander Armstrong to Stoke-on-Trent. Perhaps best known for being one half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller, Alexander is not only a word class comedian but also an actor, quiz show host, singer adventurer and presenter.

Alexander recently discovered a new field of interest and dedicated himself to history on an exploration on the hidden tunnels of Italy’s capital in Rome: Invisible City for the BBC.  He has also released his recording debut to share his huge love for music with a celebration of songs of the British Isles. Join us for this very special “in conversation” event which promised to be a real highlight of the Festival.
Sold out

FRIDAY 9th JUNE 2017

PAULA BYRNE: Friday 9th June 12pm – The Meakin Room
We welcome acclaimed biographer Paula Byrne to the Festival to discuss her award winning biographies exploring the lives of legendary figures Jane Austen, Dido Elizabeth Belle and Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy.
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LIZ BERRY & MARK HUBAND: Friday 9th June 1pm – The Eastwood Room

Well known Birmingham poet Liz Berry visits the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival to read from her collection “Black Country” which received the Somerset Maughan Prize, Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2014. Liz’s poems have been broadcast on national media and in the press and she is a judge of several prizes. Lix works as a poetry and writing tutor.

Liz will be joined on stage buy poet Mark Huband. Mark is a modern poet with a strong sense of traditional form who’s emotionally-charged poetry explores the mystery of experience which his life as a traveller, writer and newspaper journalist has brought him. Mark will be reading from his collection “American Road” as well as from his most recent work, whose themes range from the direct experience of war to the relationship between a father and his children, and the challenge to civilization posed by extremist populism. Above all a love poet, Mark’s work is both a celebration and a vivid exploration of what poetry alone can reveal of the world both within us and around us.

The session will be chaired by John Prebble of The Poetry Exchange.
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JULIAN GLOVER: Friday 9th June 2pm – The Meakin Room
Few people have done more to shape our nation than Thomas Telford who’s story spans almost eight decades of gloriously obsessive and prodigiously productive energy. Drawing on contemporary accounts, Julian Glover’s intimate and expansive modern biography of Telford is an utterly original portrait of how one man transformed himself into the greatest engineer Britain has ever produced.

Builder of churches, harbours, bridges,canals, docks and aqueducts, Telford also created the backbone of our national road network. His constructions were the most stupendous in Europe for a thousand years, and – astonishingly – almost everything he ever built remains in use today. A complex, ambitious, but private man, Telford cherished a vision of a country connected to transform mobility and commerce. In an age in which economics, engineering and national identity came together, Thomas Telford’s life was a model of what can be achieved by persistence, skill and ambition.
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BENNETT OF THE FIVE TOWNS: Due to high demand extra date added: Friday 9th June 3pm (SOLD OUT) – The Eastwood Room
Saturday 10th June 3pm (SOLD OUT) – The Eastwood Room
Ray Johnson as Arnold Bennett in a fascinating insight into our greatest local writer in his own words. Extracts from Bennett’s letters, magazine articles, journals, novels and short stories have been edited by Ray to bring life not only to a great novelist and critic, but the man from the Potteries telling how his birthplace influenced his career. Join us for a celebration on Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous literary son as we mark 150 years since his birth.

JONATHAN BATE: Friday 9th June 4pm – The Meakin Room
One of the world’s foremost literary scholars, Jonathan Bate is renowned for his expertise on Shakespeare and the poetry of nature. He is also an acclaimed biographer, critic, broadcaster, Provost of Worcester College Oxford and Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford.

We are delighted to welcome Jonathan to the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival for a stimulating examination of “The Bard and his Afterlife from the Romantics to Ted Hughes.
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ISABEL AND JULIAN BANNERMAN: Friday 9th June 5pm – The Eastwood Room
Isabel and Julian Bannerman have been described as ‘mavericks in the grand manner, touched by genius’ (Min Hogg, World of Interiors).
In conversation with Emma Bridgewater, Isabel and Julian will discuss their approach to design, that is rooted in history and the classical tradition, but is fresh, eclectic and surprising. Designers to the highest in the land, they have made gardens for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove, Lord Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor, the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk at Arundel Castle in Sussex, John Paul Getty II at Wormsley in Buckinghamshire, the great walled garden at Houghton, home of the Marquess of Cholmondeley, and they designed the British 9/11 Memorial Garden in New York.

Their garden at Hanham Court near Bath was acclaimed by Gardens Illustrated as the top garden of 2009, ahead of Sissinghurst. When they moved from Hanham it was to the fairytale castle of Trematon overlooking Plymouth Sound, where they have created yet another magical garden.

‘Their work of grand architectural gestures, of mock ruins and oaken temples has made them famous. But it is the houses and gardens they have made for themselves that … eclipse any of these aristocratic delights’ (Mary Keen, Daily Telegraph).

Landscape of Dreams celebrates, in the Bannerman’s inimitable, evocative, humorous and highly personal style, the imaginative and practical process of designing, making and planting all of these gardens, and many more.
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On the night of 7 May 2015, Ed Balls thought there was a chance he would wake up the next morning as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. Instead, he woke up without a job. Having spent two decades occupying a central position within Labour where throughout one of the most tumultuous periods in recent British.

history, Ed made a point of speaking out, whatever the consequences. But on that May morning he was silenced.

Ed will be in conversation with the formidable columnist and former newspaper editor Anne Robinson, well-known for her forensic examination of any subject and her acerbic wit.

Ed’s memoir Speaking Out is a record of a life in politics, the mechanics of Westminster and Government, of how power can be used for the benefit of others and the lessons that can be learned when things go wrong. It is a unique window into a rarely seen world. Most importantly, it explains the true meaning of politics and why it still matters
Sold out

***Programme Change*** EMMA BRIDGEWATER: Friday 9th June 8pm – The Meakin Room
***CLOVER STROUD: Friday 9th June 8pm – The Meakin Room***
We are sorry to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances, Clover Stroud has unfortunately had to withdraw from the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival. In her stead, her sister, entrepreneur, pottery designer and manufacturer Emma Bridgewater will discuss the emotional aftermath of a family tragedy which inspired both Clover’s wild adventures and the surprising and challenging ways she found to cope at the young age of sixteen. Emma will be in conversation with the broadcaster and author Rowan Pelling about Clover’s raw but ultimately uplifting memoir and also the impact upon her own life and career.
Please call Box Office for more information or click here to book tickets for  Emma Bridgewater & Rowan Pelling


SCOOP MAGAZINE WORKSHOP: Saturday 10th June: 10.30 – 11.45am – The Decorating Studio YOUNG READER EVENT
Learn to make your own magazine in this fun, interactive, creative session for 8-12 year olds. Brought to the Festival by Scoop Children’s Magazine, the event will enthuse children with the written word and a love for stories by creating articles, comic strips, reviews and a chance to design their own magazine.
Call 01782 381381 to book

JUST SOPH: Saturday 10th June 11am – The Eastwood Room YOUNG READER EVENT
Just Soph is an exciting new piece of interactive, theatrical storytelling for curious children and their best beloveds! Have you ever

wondered how the camel got his hump or the elephant got his trunk? Based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories with original live music, puppetry and physical theatre, join storyteller Soph and a host of curious characters on a very special journey. Ideal for children aged 4-7 and their families.
(Please note: access to the Eastwood Room is via a metal staircase. Please speak to Box Office for more details)
Click here to book this event

HORRID HENRY: Saturday 10th June: 12pm – The Meakin Room YOUNG READER EVENT
Join the team from the Horrid Henry TV programme for a fun and interactive workshop where they’ll share behind-the-scenes secrets, top tips for writing and performing and generally will spill the beans! This is the perfect chance to find out the answers to all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Be there and be horrid; very horrid! For Horrid Henry fans of all ages.
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SUSAN MOORE: Saturday 10th June: 1pm – The Eastwood Room YOUNG READER EVENT
Meet Susan Moore. the creative power behind the gripping, action-packed Nat Walker series. The orphan heiress to her parents’ games empire, in The Emerald Secret, together with her guardian Jamuka and her dragon robot Fizz, Nat finds that adventure – and danger – are never far away.

Susan Moore used to work at Skywalker Ranch and her writing is  cinematic, fast-paced and epic in scale. A brilliant meet the author event for young gamers who love adventure. Ideal for ages 10 and over.
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CHARLOTTE GREEN: Saturday 10th June 2pm – The Meakin Room
The broadcaster Charlotte Green is a true national treasure. When news broke that she was to replace James Alexander Gordon as the voice of BBC Radio 5’s football results, The Times announced, “Exquisite voice to announce results of the beautiful game”.

Until she left in 2013, Charlotte was the voice of Radio 4. Her warm and perfectly modulated tones reassured millions of devoted listeners that, despite some of the dreadful news stories she had to read out to the nation over a period of 27 years, we were safe in her hands. From the Shipping Forecast to the news bulletins, Charlotte’s highly entertaining autobiography is a delight for all Radio 4 and Classic FM devotees and we are looking forward to welcoming to Stoke this wonderfully warm, funny and modest woman whose writing is as beautiful as her voice.
Click here to book this event

BENNETT OF THE FIVE TOWNS: Due to high demand extra date added: Friday 9th June 3pm – The Eastwood Room
Saturday 10th June 3pm (SOLD OUT) – The Eastwood Room
Ray Johnson as Arnold Bennett in a fascinating insight into our greatest local writer in his own words. Extracts from Bennett’s letters, magazine articles, journals, novels and short stories have been edited by Ray to bring life not only to a great novelist and critic, but the man from the Potteries telling how his birthplace influenced his career. Join us for a celebration on Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous literary son as we mark 150 years since his birth.

Saturday 10th June 4pm – The Meakin Room
The Festival is delighted to welcome writer, presenter and broadcaster, the hugely talented Sue Perkins to Stoke-on-Trent to share stories about her award-winning memoir “Spectacles” for a very special in-conversation event with TV presenter and producer Anna Richardson.

Sue has been a firm favourite on British television for nearly fifteen years and best known for entertaining the nation with her unique brand of wit on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, alongside her presenting partner, Mel Giedroyc. Sue has also worked on a wide range of solo projects, including documentaries on art, popular fiction and history.

Anna, who grew up in North Staffordshire, is also well known for her witty and frank down-to-earth style and is a regular Channel 4 presenter of documentaries and lifestyle programmes including the award-winning series The Sex Education Show, her own food and lifestyle series My Big Fat Diet Show; undercover hit surveillance series Secret Eaters; and her own beauty series How Not To Get Old.


BEE WILSON: Saturday 10th June 5pm – The Eastwood Room (Please note: previous time 4pm in The Meakin Room)
Food writer, journalist and historian Bee Wilson has been described as “the ultimate food scholar” and we welcome her to Stoke where she will ask us to consider the psychology of eating, the subject of her latest book First Bite: How We Learn to Eat. “We are not born knowing what to eat. We all have to learn it as children sitting expectantly at a table. For our diets to change, we need to relearn the food experiences that first shaped us.

First Bite draws on current research from both neuroscience and psychology, and the author’s experience parenting three children and visiting numerous school canteens, as well as talking to dieticians, biologists and consumer researchers, to look at where our food habits come from and what it would really take to change them for the better.

An acclaimed food writer, historian and author of four books, including Consider the Fork and Swindled. Bee Wilson writes about food and other subjects for a wide range of publications including the Guardian and the London Review of Books. She writes the weekly “Kitchen Thinker” column in The Sunday Telegraph, and previously was the food critic for the New Statesman. She has been named BBC Radio 4’s Food Writer of the Year and Fortnum & Mason Food Writer 2016.
Call Box Office for further details

MICHAEL CRICK: Saturday 10th June 6pm – The Meakin Room

One of Britain’s most formidable and engaging journalists; Michael Crick, political correspondent for Channel 4 News, will discuss the monumental political changes witnessed in the past twelve months.

A former Washington correspondent and reporter for both Panorama and Newsnight, Crick is well known for his award-winning dogged, investigate journalist and pursuit of politicians. Richard Nixon famously said that whilst visiting the Oxford Union in 1978, his toughest question came from Michael, then a student.
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Crick is the author of many books including biographies of Alex Ferguson, Jeffrey Archer and Michael Heseltine. His recently updated and expanded exploration of the Militant Tendency has 

been widely acclaimed as a masterly work of investigative journalism, revealing how the secret Trotskyite organisation operated clandestinely within the Labour Party, causing damaging rifts and closed the door to Downing Street for almost a generation.

DEBBIE HORSFIELD: Saturday 10th June 8pm – The Meakin Room

Debbie Horsfield’s award winning adaption of the trials and tribulations of Ross Poldark has captured the imaginations of a whole new generation of fans making the BBC’s Cornish saga one of the most highly rated dramas of recent times.

Also the dramatist behind some of our best known contemporary dramas, including Cutting It and The Riff Raff Element, Debbie visits Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival for a special session looking at the success of Poldark and the challenges of adapting literature for television.

Join us for the Festival’s finale event to toast great literature and wonderful drama with insightful discussion, delicious pasties and thirst quenching cider and cheer another successful Stoke Literary Festival at the Emma Bridgewater Factory!
Click here to book this event

Tickets for all events are £6.00

Book now at, at the New Vic Box Office or by phone on 01782 381381 or through the Festival website Keep up to date with Literary Festival news: follow the Facebook page or Twitter @SOTLitFestival for news and updates.

Thursday 8 June–Saturday 10 June 2017

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