Literary Leicester

Festival archive

Founded in 2008, Literary Leicester is among the city’s leading annual festivals of the written and spoken word, bringing together a wealth of award-winning and renowned writers from different fields. Here you can enjoy video and podcast highlights from past festivals.

Literary Leicester 2023

Our 2023 festival featured Slow Horses author Mick Herron, renowned journalist Samira Ahmed, Leicestershire born-and-bred author and brilliantly funny Nina Stibbe, novelist and memoirist Kit de Waal, TS Eliot Prize-winning poet Joelle Taylor, celebrity chefs Felicity Cloake and (Leicester-born) Gurdeep Loyal, and many more.

Wednesday 22 March

  • Lesley Wylie: ‘Slow’ living as ecological practice
  • Reading and Dissent in Soviet Russia
  • Mick Herron in conversation with Kit de Waal
  • Nina Stibbe: Life, Fiction, Comedy

Thursday 23 March

  • Samuel Pepys's Cheese
  • Letters from the Archive
  • Joanna Walsh: Autobiography and Oversharing
  • Samira Ahmed: My Life in Books 
  • Renaissance One presents Family of Words: Joelle Taylor and Patience Agbabi

Friday 24 March

  • Writing Climate Fiction: A Workshop with Liz Jensen
  • First Story: Young Writers' Showcase
  • LIAS presents: 10 Meals That Changed the World
  • 'But is it authentic?': Food and Culture with Felicity Cloake and Gurdeep Loyal
  • Writing the Climate Emergency: Liz Jensen, Laline Paull, Gregory Norminton
  • My Name is Leon: Page to Screen with Kit de Waal and Guests

Saturday 25 March

  • For kids! Writing Worlds with PolarBear: A Letterbox Club Event

Monday 27 March

  • Creative Writing Student Showcase

Literary Leicester 2022

Our fantastic 2022 festival featured alumna and bestselling author Adele Parks MBE, Booker-Prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson, and 2021's Costa Prize-winning novelist Monique Roffey. Children's author Pippa Goodhart helped us celebrate 15 years of the Letterbox Club, while Colin Thubron and Tharik Hussain discussed the future of travel writing after the pandemic. We also had spoken word from Hannah Lowe, Roy McFarlane and a whole lot more.

Listen to a growing selection of podcasts from our 2022 festival through ‘Arts Podcasts at Leicester’ on SoundCloud.

Wednesday 23 March

  • The Waste Land (1922): A ‘Mad’ Poem in a ‘Fallen’ World. Dr Scott Freer’s centennial talk looked at the literary legacies of T. S. Eliot’s modernist poem, focusing on novels by three Catholic authors – Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O’Connor, and Muriel Spark – that respond, in similar and different ways, to Eliot’s apocalypticism.
  • Creative Writing Student Showcase. A showcase event for University of Leicester BA, MA and PhD Creative Writing students who read and performed their poetry, stories and scripts.
  • Parks’ Life: Adele Parks in Conversation. Multi-million bestselling author and University of Leicester alumna Adele Parks returned to talk about her life as a writer. Adele is the author of twenty-one bestselling novels including most recently the Sunday Times and eBook Number One bestseller Both of You. This event was livestreamed and is available to watch again.
  • Howard Jacobson: Mother’s Boy – A Writer’s Beginnings. Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson talked about his latest book Mother’s Boy, the story of a writer’s beginnings – as well as the twists and turns that life takes – and of learning to understand who you are before you can become the writer you were meant to be. This event was livestreamed and is available to watch again.

Thursday 24 March

  • A Medieval Woman Talks to God. Dr Ben Parsons introduced the Holkham Prayers and Meditations (c.1400), a neglected example of medieval female authorship which gave a rich and vivid insight into the complex religious culture of its period.
  • Making Our World Better – Anthology Launch. Celebrating the launch of this Arts Council supported anthology writing project, published by local publishing house Dahlia Books. Featuring flash fiction and poetry about living positive lives while sustaining our environment, performed by the authors.
  • 100 Years of Fascism(s). One hundred years after Mussolini’s rise to power in October 1922, Prof. John Foot (University of Bristol), Dr Ali Jones (Coventry University), Dr Alexander Korb and Dr Simona Storchi (University of Leicester) discussed the legacies of a century of Fascism and their impact in today’s world.
  • Monique Roffey: Writing the Caribbean. Monique Roffey is an award-winning, Trinidadian-born writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and memoir. She came to Leicester to talk about her Costa Book of the Year winning The Mermaid of Black Conch, and her experiences ‘Writing the Caribbean’.
  • Family of Words: Kayo Chingonyi and Nisha Ramayya. Kayo Chingonyi, poet, emcee, Bloomsbury poetry editor, presenter of the acclaimed Spotify music and culture podcast ‘Decode’, and poet and lecturer Nisha Ramayya, explored poetry, friendship, words and ecology.

Friday 25 March

  • The Life and Times of Mary Attenborough – Book Launch. Celebrating the life of a remarkable woman, this biography covers topics such as social history, women’s history and education to reveal a passionate advocate of equal opportunities for women and an uncompromising opponent of fascist regimes in Europe.
  • First Story: Young Writers’ Showcase. Following a special preparatory workshop, this showcase featured First Story’s young writers performing their work, alongside leading local performance poets Andy Craven-Griffiths and John Berkavitch.
  • 10 Books That Changed the World. The Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies presented an afternoon of intellectual discovery, featuring ten academics putting the case for the lasting impact of their chosen books on the world.
  • Leicester Liming. Liming offers exciting possibilities for spoken word and wordplay. It refashions Trinidad and carnival’s ‘liming’ culture, showcasing acclaimed poets, wordsmiths and performers who elevate words and ideas and encourage us to respond. The event featured Hannah Lowe, Roy McFarlane, Michael Brome, Tobago Crusoe and Psykhomantus.

Saturday 26 March

  • A Hundred Years of Stories: A Letterbox Club Celebration. This magical session of stories, poems, pictures, music and puppets, celebrated the University's centenary and our wonderful partnership with BookTrust.
  • Leicester's Multilingual Golden Mile. Dr Michelle Harrison investigated written Gujarati in the linguistic landscape of Leicester’s fabulous Golden Mile. Drawing on interviews and a survey of signs, she discussed the meaning behind different displays of written information and their impact on the local community.
  • Spring into Languages. Poet Kaozara Oyalowo and novelist Mahsuda Snaith reflected on the way cultural and linguistic difference had inspired their writing. This event also launched an exhibition co-curated by the School of Arts and local school students celebrating their heritage and highlighting the enormous benefits of the cultural and multilingual hybridity that has shaped Leicester’s and Britain’s identity and creativity.
  • Unknown Destinations: Where Can Travel Writing Go Next? Acclaimed travel writers Colin Thubron (The Amur River) and Tharik Hussain (Minarets in the Mountains) joined Tim Hannigan, author of The Travel Writing Tribe, to explore this venerable but sometimes controversial genre, and to ask what the future of travel writing might look like in a postcolonial – and post-covid – world.
  • Mi Duck: Writers Changing Leicester. Love poems, spirited and tender speech, and musical tributes to the writers who continue to shape and transform Leicester, with a special focus on Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Sue Townsend and Graham Joyce. The evening included a special tribute to Breeze, Honorary Doctorate of the University of Leicester and a former Creative Writing Fellow, who passed away in July 2021. This event was livestreamed and is available to watch again.

Literary Leicester 2021

In 2021, the festival was relaunched in digital form. It featured noted cultural commentator and University of Leicester graduate Jeffrey Boakye, the School of Arts’ own Professor Corinne Fowler in conversation with author Peter Kalu, and was headlined by Booker Prize-winning Jamaican novelist Marlon James.

Past programmes

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