Stellar Line-up For Return of Wimbledon BookFest

Over 40 live events taking place at 'Sunset Festival'

The Wimbledon BookFest village
The Wimbledon BookFest village

Wimbledon BookFest is back with its second live in-person festival of the summer with a programme packed with celebrity authors.

Sunset Festival is a five-day event from 15-19 September comprising more than 40 talks, workshops and activities for public and schools audiences. It follows the Sunrise Festival which was held in June – one of the first arts festivals to return to in-person events.

The organisers say that Sunset Festival will follow the same Covid-secure protocols used for Sunrise, taking place in reduced-capacity, open-sided marquees on Wimbledon Common. Pre-allocated seating and other safety measures remain in force.

This year sees a particular focus on memoir and life writing, alongside fiction, poetry, current affairs, history, science, performing arts, the return of the popular sports night, an expanded programme for young people, and a number of participatory events.

Highlights include the “poet laureate of punk” John Cooper Clarke who looks back over an extraordinary career as a musician, performer and fashion icon in his memoir, I Wanna Be Yours.

John Cooper Clarke
John Cooper Clarke. Picture: Paul Wolfgang Webster

In the field of politics, Labour MP Jess Phillips shares the realities of the House of Commons in her book, Everything You Really Need to Know About Politics. Political journalist Robert Peston and former Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson go behind the scenes at Westminster. Former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and journalist Ian Williams discuss the role of China as a global superpower.

Labour MP Jess Phillips
Labour MP Jess Phillips

Rugby legend and Wimbledon BookFest Patron Brian Moore returns for an informal evening of stories and conversation about the sport. Dog lovers and those new to dog ownership are sure to enjoy an event with Britain’s best dog trainer Graeme Hall and dog walker Kate McDougall.

At the age of 80, BAFTA-winning veteran of stage and screen Miriam Margolyes OBE presents her autobiography and award-winning TV and radio presenter Anita Rani shares her personal story of growing up in Yorkshire and navigating multiple identities in The Right Sort of Girl.

Anita Rani (left). Picture: Jay Brooks. Brian Moore (right). Picture: Nick Gregan
Anita Rani (left). Picture: Jay Brooks. Brian Moore (right). Picture: Nick Gregan

Ify Adenuga, mother of grime musicians Skepta and JME, shares a stage with Yvonne Bailey-Smith, mother of author Zadie Smith and rapper Doc Brown - two women following their children into the world of publishing.

Rick Stein invites you into his own kitchen to share his favourite home-cooked recipes in his latest release, Rick Stein at Home.

Sebastian Faulks, author of multi-million-selling Birdsong, introduces his latest book, the gripping Snow Country and up-and-coming fiction writers include performance poet Salena Godden presenting her debut novel; Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi winner of the 2021 Jhalak Prize; bestselling author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri; and Turkey’s most widely read female writer, Elif Shafak.

The QI Elves, the team of writers and researchers behind the hit TV quiz show, will also be in attendance .

Virtuoso cellist Steven Isserlis CBE discusses Bach’s much-loved Cello Suites in an event for classical music fans. Russian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin talks about his career as the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer. British actor Giles Terera MBE, winner of an Olivier Award in 2018 for his role in hit musical Hamilton, appears alongside other members of the cast.

Workshops and participatory events include an embroidery masterclass from the Royal School of Needlework; a guided meditation by 'shamen to the stars’ Jo Bowlby; and the return of mindful pottery with Lucy Davidson. Audiences can take part in guided walks focusing on birdsong with Charlie Corbett, and a new walk by Peter Walker that shines a light on Wimbledon’s historical links to slavery.

This year's programme includes an expanded number of events for young people, including illustrator and former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell (best known for the Ottoline, Goth Girl and Edge Chronicles series); picture book author and former model Sophie Dahl; and author Eoin McLaughlin with illustrator Polly Dunbar.

Sunset Festival will also feature the prize-giving ceremony for the Young Writers 2021 Competition, hosted by local author Michelle Paver. This year, entries were received from 72 schools across London in 15 categories. The overall winner is Jonathan Esenga, a Year 9 pupil at Raynes Park High School, for his powerful poem about the pandemic, My Name is 2020.

A number of events for school audiences will be simultaneously live streamed, including Emma Carroll on the Cuban missile crisis; Jess Phillips MP on politics; and spoken word artist Sophia Thakur on contemporary British icons. Wimbledon BookFest also takes part in footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign You Are A Champion by encouraging customers to donate a book to primary schools in Merton. Finally, Critical Minds will offer higher education taster talks to sixth form students – delivered in partnership with BookFest’s Principal Partner, University of Roehampton.

Festival Director Fiona Razvi said: "We exceeded all our expectations with our Sunrise Festival in June, so it’s wonderful to be running another five-day event this year with such a fabulous range of writers and speakers. Audience safety remains our priority at the Sunset Festival in September, and although capacities have been increased, we are continuing to run on reduced levels in open-sided marquees to ensure everyone feels safe.”

Tickets for Sunset Festival went sale to BookFest Friends on Friday 30 July and will be available to the general public on Friday 6 August.

Value Reading Articles Like This? Help Us Produce More

This site remains committed to providing local community news and public interest journalism.

Articles such as the one above are integral to what we do. We aim to feature as much as possible on local societies, charities based in the area, fundraising efforts by residents, community-based initiatives and even helping people find missing pets.

We've always done that and won't be changing, in fact we'd like to do more.

However, the readership that these stories generates is often below that needed to cover the cost of producing them. Our financial resources are limited and the local media environment is intensely competitive so there is a constraint on what we can do.

We are therefore asking our readers to consider offering financial support to these efforts. Any money given will help support community and public interest news and the expansion of our coverage in this area.

A suggested monthly payment is £8 but we would be grateful for any amount for instance if you think this site offers the equivalent value of a subscription to a daily printed newspaper you may wish to consider £20 per month. If neither of these amounts is suitable for you then contact and we can set up an alternative. All payments are made through a secure web site.

One-off donations are also appreciated. Choose The Amount You Wish To Contribute.

If you do support us in this way we'd be interested to hear what kind of articles you would like to see more of on the site – send your suggestions to the editor.

For businesses we offer the chance to be a corporate sponsor of community content on the site. For £30 plus VAT per month you will be the designated sponsor of at least one article a month with your logo appearing if supplied. If there is a specific community group or initiative you'd like to support we can make sure your sponsorship is featured on related content for a one off payment of £50 plus VAT. All payments are made through a secure web site.

August 2, 2021