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Line-up revealed for Durham Book Festival

Published August 12, 2022 10.48am


The annual literary festival returns this October with headline guests including LJ Ross, Jeremy Vine, Fiona Hill, Richard O'Neill and the announcement of the Gordon Burn Prize.

Between 13 and 16 October 2022, the festival returns to Durham's Millennium Place, illuminating the Gala Theatre and Clayport Library with leading writers, artists and thinkers.

Durham Book Festival is commissioned by us and produced by New Writing North, with funding from Durham University and Arts Council England. The festival hosts an array of talks, workshops, readings and performances, as well as new commissions, films, walks and unique experiences. In 2022, Durham Book Festival invites people to take part in the festival in a range of ways. Audiences can attend events in-person at Gala Theatre and Clayport Library or remotely by live stream. They can pick up free books as part of the Big and Little Read initiatives, borrow festival titles from County Durham libraries, and read, watch and listen to a range of free digital content

Connecting communities

Rebecca Wilkie, Durham Book Festival Director said: "It's a pleasure to welcome you to Durham Book Festival this autumn, as we connect communities across the county through reading. This year the festival will bring Millennium Place to life with events at the Gala Theatre and Clayport Library, where you'll see bestselling writers, homegrown talent and leading thinkers discussing their work, alongside new films and commissions and the announcement of the Gordon Burn Prize.

"Be sure to pick up a free copy of our specially published (and Durham-set!) Big Read story by crime-writing sensation LJ Ross and look out for the Little Read picture book, Polonius the Pit Pony, by Richard O'Neill in schools and community centres across the county.

"This year we are live-streaming events from the Gala and working with Stagetext to make all our events accessible to everyone. So if you can't make it to Durham, you can also join us from the comfort of your own home."

Exciting programme

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, our Cabinet member for economy and partnerships said: "This year's festival features another really exciting programme of talks, workshops and activities, with something for everyone to enjoy both in person and online. Durham Book Festival is full of entertainment and escapism, and is one of the key events that demonstrate the rich and dynamic cultural offer we have in the county."

Professor Karen O'Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University said: "As a global top-100 university with a world-leading Arts and Humanities faculty, we believe in the power of literature to bring people together and inspire. We're pleased to be once again sponsoring the Durham Book Festival, which has become one of the most keenly anticipated dates in the calendar for the University, city, county and region. It is very good to be able to return to in-person events this year and we look forward to hosting, contributing to and supporting another successful festival."

Free books 

A highlight of the festival is an event with bestselling crime writer LJ Ross, whose books have sold over 7 million copies worldwide. The Mystery of the Vanishing Mayor is a brand-new short story, written especially for Durham Book Festival, which is this year's Durham Book Festival Big Read.

In the lead up to the event, the festival will work with Durham County Council's library service to distribute 3,000 free copies of The Mystery of the Vanishing Mayor throughout the county. LJ Ross will be appearing at Gala Theatre to talk about her career and the books that have inspired her.

The Little Read project brings picture books to life for the under 10s, sending free copies of Polonius the Pit Pony by Richard O'Neill to every primary school in the county. Children and families will have the chance to take part in special storytime with the internationally acclaimed storyteller and author at Clayport Library, while schools can watch Richard's specially recorded video event from the classroom.

Reimagining the north

The North East proves fertile ground to inspire many of this year's authors. Broadcaster and writer Jeremy Vine will talk about his love for the poet W.H. Auden and the county's landscapes that inspired him. Jeremy has also produced a self-guided walk exploring the North Pennines with Ruth Robson, available to download from the Durham Book Festival website.

Former presidential advisor Dr Fiona Hill will share her own journey from Bishop Auckland to the US National Security Council, where she worked as a specialist in Russian affairs. Brian Groom will introduce Northerners, his authoritative new history of place and people that lays out the dramatic events that created the North. Elsewhere, an event and linked series of short films, The New Great Britons, produced with Durham University's Dr Natalie Mears, takes its inspiration from the BBC's 2002 campaign to find the Greatest Briton. Twenty years on, writers and academics will champion northern, working-class figures whose stories rarely make it into the traditional canon of 'greatness'.

Gordon Burn Prize

The announcement of the Gordon Burn Prize will this year take place on Thursday 13 October. Celebrating bold and innovative fiction and non-fiction, this is one of the UK's most anticipated literary awards with the 2022 shortlist featuring books by Margo Jefferson, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Preti Taneja, David Whitehouse and Lea Ypi. The event will celebrate the shortlisted titles before the £5,000 prize is awarded to the winner.

These are just some of the exciting talks and events planned for Durham Book Festival. For the full programme, visit the festival's website.