Sunday, July 21st, 2024

New event for children starts new chapter at this year’s Sevenoaks Literary Festival

AS part of this year’s Sevenoaks Literary Festival (21 September – 5 October) – now in its 16th year – an inaugural Sevenoaks Young Readers Festival Day, organised by Sevenoaks Bookshop, will be taking place on Saturday 29 September at three local venues.

Like the Festival as a whole, the Young Readers Festival is proving so popular that many events have already sold out. However there is still a chance to book your tickets to meet some of the UK’s top authors by going to

Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell, the creator of How to Train Your Dragons, opens the Young Readers Festival with a talk on her latest novel, Twice Magic at The Drive Methodist Church. Authors Emma Carroll, Hilary McKay and Katherine Woodfine will be discussing historical children’s fiction on a panel to be recorded live for the online radio show Down the Rabbit Hole.

Cressida Cowell will be signing copies of her books in Sevenoaks Bookshop immediately after her talk. Another event involving author Axel Scheffler has also sold out but he too will be signing books after his talk so children have an opportunity to meet him.

Sevenoaks Bookshop is being used as one of the venues during the festival. Emma Fischel is to lead two intimate writing workshops for 9-12 year olds in the Bookshop café.

There will also be free story times for younger children taking place throughout the day at The Vine Gardens with authors/illustrators Rachel Valentine, Katharine McEwen, Candy Gourlay and David Litchfield. Litchfield will be joined by his Bear Band for a live performance inspired by his new picturebook The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle. There will also be free bookish arts and crafts activities for children throughout the day.

The Strangeface Theatre Company will be performing a puppet show – a silent puppet disco – throughout the day. They will be situated in a gazebo on the Vine Gardens. (Free entry). There will also be musical entertainment, face-painting, and a churros van serving food throughout the day.

Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop, says: “We are really excited to be bringing so many brilliant and much-loved authors to Sevenoaks. It’s a wonderful opportunity for children in the town to meet and be inspired by some of the very best writers and illustrators in the business, and we hope to make it a yearly event.”

For enquiries about the event you can contact Fleur Sinclair or Olivia Husband at 01732 452055 or email at

Sevenoaks Young Readers Festival Day is forming part of the existing Sevenoaks Literary Festival ( which is taking place at the same time – see separate story below.

Special lunch and tea on the menu at Festival

SEVENOAKS Literary Festival runs from 21 September to 5 October. The 10 events of this year’s Festival are held in accessible venues in the town. Each event involves the now well-developed and successful formula of presenting face-to-face appearances by leading novelists, journalists, poets and biographers discussing their work and signing copies of their books.

As in previous years, an essential element of the Sevenoaks Literary Festival is the special free event for more than 500 local school to be held at Sevenoaks Primary School on Wednesday 03 October. This year, the pupils will get a chance to meet award winning children’s writer Piers Torday who will talk about his work and read extracts from his books.

The annual Festival Literary Lunch with a talk by the author Nell Stevens will be held at St Julians Club on Tuesday, 2 October whilst the Literary Tea with Vanessa Nicolson will take place on Saturday, 22 September in the Undercroft at St Nicholas’s church Sevenoaks.

Dates and Events:

Friday 21 September: Sebastian Faulks, writer of Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion d’Or and Charlotte Gray. The Oaks Theatre, Knole Academy, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50

Saturday 22 September 2.30pm: Vanessa Nicolson, writer of The Truth Game. St Nicholas’ Undercroft, Sevenoaks. Tickets £14.

Tuesday 25 September 7.30pm: Tessa Dunlop, presenter of BBC series Coast and writer of The Bletchley Girls. Ship Theatre, Walthamstow Hall School, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50.

Wednesday 26 September 7.30pm: Patrick Barkham, writer of The Butterfly Isles. Methodist Church, 6 The Drive, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50

Thursday 27 September 7.30pm: Patrick Gale, writer of Richard and Judy bestseller, Notes From an Exhibition. Ship Theatre. Walthamstow Hall School, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50

Friday 28 September 7.30pm: Gina Miller, social justice activist who wrote her memoirs, Rise. The Oak Theatre, Knole Academy, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50.

Saturday 29 September 10am: Cressida Cowell, creator of How to Train Your Dragon. Methodist Church, 6 The Drive, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50

Saturday 29 September 12pm: Down the Rabbit Hole: Emma Carroll, Hilary McKay and Katherine Woodfine, writers of children’s books Secrets of the Sun King, The Skylark’s War and Peril in Paris. Methodist Church, The Drive, Sevenoaks. Tickets £6.50.

Saturday 29 September 1.30pm: Emma Fischel, writing workshop for 9-12 year olds. Methodist Church, The Drive, Sevenoaks. Tickets £9

Saturday 29 September 3pm: Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo. Methodist Church, The Drive, Sevenoaks. Tickets £6.50.

Tuesday 2 October 12.30pm: Nell Stevens, guest for literary lunch and writer of Mrs. Gaskell and Me: An Unconventional Love Story. St Julian’s Club, St Julian’s Road, Sevenoaks. Tickets £38 including  lunch.

Wednesday 3 October 7.30pm: Jane Glover, writer of Handel in London: Making of a Genius and professor at Oxford University. Ship Theatre, Walthamstow Hall, Sevenoaks. Tickets £10.50.

Thursday 4 October 2pm: Photographer poet Virginia Astley, author of The English River: A journey down the Thames in Poems and Photographs. Methodist Church, 6 The Drive Sevenoaks. Ticket £10.50.

Friday 5 October 7.30pm: Journalist and author Luke Harding updates his extraordinary account of Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win. The Oaks Theatre, Knole Academy, Sevenoaks.

For more information on all the above events go to:

History of the Sevenoaks Literary Festival

The Festival was born in 2002 in response to a complaint about the lack of literary events in Sevenoaks Summer Festival. “Then do it yourself” was the answer. Amongst the first speakers were Edna Healey and Nigel Nicolson. With the encouragement of the Summer Festival, the number of events expanded and in 2004 the Sevenoaks Literary Festival became fully independent. It continues to be run by a small group of volunteers and is almost totally self-funded.

A distinctive feature of the festival is the annual free event for local primary school children. In 2017 Michael Rosen kept 500 children captivated and laughing for over two hours in the new hall at Sevenoaks Primary School before signing copies of his books in a very crowded Sevenoaks Bookshop and then returning to the school to run a poetry workshop on the subject of ‘Paradox’! Other well-known children’s authors include Malorie Blackman and William Grill. This free event for schools has been supported for many years by Sevenoaks Town Council, although further costs have to be met by surpluses generated by other events in the Festival.

This year, the Festival introduces a special Young Readers Day organised by Sevenoaks Bookshop. This will take place on and around the Vine on Saturday 29 September.

The history of the Sevenoaks Literary festival has not been without controversy. When Jeffrey Archer was invited, local headlines referred to the ‘ex-jailbird peer’, and writer and actor Ian Kelly was taken to court after talking about his biography of Vivienne Westwood. But the Festival is distinguished by the stream of excellent and well-known speakers. Hilary Mantel spoke about Wolf Hall three days before being awarded the Man Booker Prize, and Lionel Shriver on We Need To Talk About Kevin was a minor sensation.

Labour party politician Alan Johnson attended the Sevenoaks Literary festival in 2017.

Other superb novelists have included Sarah Waters, Kate Mosse, Penelope Lively, Sarah Dunant and Patrick Gale, Sophie Hannah and Mick Herron – “the John Le Carré of our generation” according to Val McDermid. The festival has also attracted politicians, such as Alan Johnson in 2017, biographers, historians, journalists, musicians, film-makers and poets.

Poet Laureates Andrew Motion and Carol Ann Duffy have graced the Festival whilst both Simon Armitage and Lemn Sissay held the audience in the palm of the hand with their powerful poems.  Films have accompanied talks: Orlando with a talk by Robert Sackville-West in 2015 and A Room With A View – filmed in part and around Sevenoaks – was introduced in 2016 by the producer and director James Ivory (of Merchant Ivory Productions).

The Weald Literary Walk ran for many years, and the annual Literary Lunch and Literary Tea are fixtures in many book-lovers’ diaries.


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