Henley Literary Festival line up 2015

Image: Jane Hawking

Henley Literary Festival and children's festival runs from Monday 28th Sept to Sunday 4th October. For the first time there are more women speakers than men including Bonnie Greer, Emma Kennedy, Caroline Criado-Perez, Gill Hornby, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Polly Vernon. Here are the feminist / female led highlights...

Monday 28th September

Santa Montefiore, 12.30pm
Festival favourite Santa returns to talk about her latest novel, Songs of Love and War, following three women born in 1900.

Jane Hawking, 2.30pm
No one who saw the Oscar-winning The Theory of Everything left without great admiration for Stephen Hawking’s first wife Jane. Her fascinating and frank memoir, Travelling to Infinity, on which the film was based, tells the inside story of their extraordinary marriage.

Candace Bushnell, 8.30pm
Sex and the City in Henley? The real-life Carrie Bradshaw – whose columns and books charting the single and not-so-single life in New York spawned the TV and film phenomenon – makes her UK literary festival debut.

Azi Ahmed, 8.30pm
By the age of 12, Azi had been fully trained in all the skills her mother thought necessary to become the perfect traditional Muslim housewife. So how did she end up in the SAS, followed by the Ministry of Defence and running as a Conservative candidate in this May’s election?

Tuesday 29th September

Princess Michael of Kent, 10.30am
Her Royal Highness makes a welcome return to talk about her Anjou Trilogy of historical novels.

Born Survivors: Wendy Holden and Eva Clarke, 10.30am
Seventy years on from the end of the Second World War, in Born Survivors Wendy has chronicled the moving and courageous stories of three young women – Priska, Rachel and Anka – who were all pregnant when they were sent to Auschwitz in 1944.

Pam St Clement, 6.30pm
Pam became part of British popular culture over more than two decades as Pat Butcher in EastEnders. Her departure from the show in 2012 has given her the chance to reflect on her life and career in End of an Earring.

Natalie Livingstone, 6.30pm
If you thought the Profumo Affair was the first scandal linked to Cliveden you were a good few hundred years out. Conceived in the 17th century by the Duke of Buckingham (as a retreat for his scandalous affair with Anna- Maria, Countess of Shrewsbury), the house was occupied over the next 300 years by a dynasty of remarkable women, as told by in Mistresses of Cliveden.

Wednesday 30th September

Michael Smith and Jane Fawcett, 10.30am
Few people know more about Bletchley Park than Henley Literary Festival favourite, Michael – who this year is joined by Jane Fawcett, herself catapaulted into a career as codebreaker just months after coming out as a debutante in 1940. More than half of those at Bletchley were women... yet their stories have been kept secret until The Debs of Bletchley Park.

Dazzling Debuts: Rachael Ball, Emma Hooper & Vaseem Khan in conversation with Joe Haddow, 12.30pm
One our most popular recurring strands, where three debut novelists come together to talk about books that have each made a tremendous impact in the world of publishing.

Anita Anand, 2.30pm
As presenter of Radio 4’s Any Answers, Anita is a familiar voice. Now she has written an acclaimed first book Sophia – Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, the true story of Sophia Duleep Singh.

Jane Wellesley, 2.30pm
On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, there could be no more apt time for a journey through the Wellington family history by Lady Jane, the daughter of the 8th Duke who died last New Year’s Eve.

Virginia McKenna and Stephen Walton, 4.30pm
Established as an icon of British cinema with films like Carve Her Name With Pride and Ring of Bright Water, it was Born Free that set both Virginia and her late husband Bill Travers on a very different course.

Thursday 1st October

Bonnie Greer - Rosa Parks: Mother of the civil rights movement, 10.30am
The broadcaster and playwright returns after last year’s sell-out to give a talk celebrating Rosa Parks, 60 years after her famous protest in Montgomery, Alabama, when she refused to give up her seat to a white person.

Unity Spencer and Carolyn Leder, 10.30am
Unity reflects on her relationship with her father, the great Cookham- based artist Stanley Spencer. An accomplished artist herself, she had an unconventional childhood and a turbulent relationship with the father of her own child.

Christine Lee: The Midwife’s Sister, 10.30am
Call the Midwife has become one of the most loved and watched television programmes of recent years; now get an insight into the childhood of Jennifer Worth, on whose books the series is based, from her sister Christine.

Yasmin Khan, 12.30pm
The Second World War saw India produce the largest volunteer army in world history, comprised of 2.5 million men. Oxford University history professor Yasmin has written the first comprehensive account of this extraordinary army.

Sonia Purnell 2.30pm
As Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine was a pivotal figure in his becoming Prime Minister – a fact he publicly recognised in saying that his efforts during the war would have been ‘‘impossible without her”.

Caroline Criado-Perez 8.30pm
Activist and journalist, Caroline made headlines in 2013 with her campaign to make sure there was at least one woman featured on British bank notes. In Do It Like A Woman…and Change the World, she tells how every day, all around the world, women are reinventing what it means to be female in cultures where power, privilege or basic freedoms are all too often equated with being male.

Friday 2nd October

Anne de Courcy, 12.30pm
Behind the staid exterior of Downing Street, the lives of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and his wife Margot were far from straightforward. She was unconventional, known for her wit, style and bluntness, transforming Number 10 into a glittering social and intellectual salon.

Book Club Friday: Cesca Major, Amanda Jennings & Nicola May, 12.30pm
After last year’s sell-out – earning a repeat outing at this year’s BritMums Live event in London – Amanda returns to Henley, this time in the role of host. Cesca’s acclaimed debut, The Silent Hours centres around an event that devastated a small, unoccupied French village in the Second World War. Fellow local author Nicola this year signed a seven-book deal for a series of romantic comedies.

MC Beaton, 2.30pm
The creator of the wonderfully successful Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth comes to Henley for the first time. The most-borrowed UK adult author in libraries, the writer’s own life is worthy of a novel: Glasgow-born, she was in turn bookseller, theatre reviewer and crime reporter.

Caroline Lucas, 4.30pm
Caroline Lucas became Britain’s first Green MP in 2010 and was re- elected in May, with a majority of almost 8,000, after being endorsed by David Attenborough and Joanna Lumley. She is very much an outsider who has made her way inside the House of Commons to fight for parliamentary reform and for the interests of her constituents.

Polly Vernon - In conversation with Bryony Gordon 6.30pm
Following on from their hugely popular event at last year’s festival, the tables have turned as Polly is grilled by Bryony about her book, Hot Feminist.

Sue Perkins, 8.30pm
A copy of a much-anticipated memoir and an evening with one of our funniest presenters, for less than the RRP of the book? What a treat. Everything Sue touches turns to broadcasting gold.

Saturday 3rd October

Caitlin Davies, 1pm
Brace yourself for a dip into the history of swimming in the Thames – in a perfect setting aboard the Hibernia. The river that meanders 215 miles from Gloucestershire to the North Sea through London has long been a bathing favourite. Organised racing began in Victorian times, and official bathing pools and islands soon appeared at Oxford, Reading and here in Henley.

Jessica Fellowes, 3pm
Now this is something special: an hour with the official chronicler of all things Downton Abbey – a sought-after writer and speaker in her own right, and niece of the hit series’ creator, Julian Fellowes.

Tracey Thorn in conversation with Hannah Beckerman, 3pm
Having enjoyed huge success on both sides of the Atlantic as singer-songwriter for Everything But The Girl, Tracy has more recently been receiving acclaim as a writer. First came her best- selling autobiography, Bedsit Disco Queen, where she recalled the highs and lows of a 30-year career in pop music.

The actual, real-life truth about motherhood : Adele Parks, Anne Marie Scanlon, Bryony Gordon and Clover Stroud with Victoria Young, 7pm
Victoria assembled 20 top writers to contribute to Things I Wish I’d Known: Women Tell the Truth about Motherhood and tonight invites three talented writing mothers to reveal what it’s really like, according to their own experiences (as opposed to how things ‘should’ be).

Emma Kennedy, 9pm
A Henley favourite returns, having gone from strength to strength. Her breakout hit The Tent, the Bucket & Me has now inspired BBC1’s The Kennedys – and she even managed to find time to win Celebrity Masterchef between writing and performing.

Sunday 4th October

Glynis Barber and Fleur Borrelli, 11am
Just look at actress Glynis as she approaches her 60th birthday with eight shows a week at West End hit Beautiful, and you will say “how does she do it?’ Here is your chance to find out, as the Blake’s 7 and Dempsey and Makepeace star swoops into Henley to talk about her stage career and beyond.

Christina Lamb, 11am
Twenty-seven years ago, Christina Lamb left Britain to become a journalist in Pakistan and crossed into Afghanistan as mujahaddin fought the Russians.

Helena Coggan and Samantha Shannon - In conversation with Amanda Jennings, 11am
Two of the brightest young writers on the literary scene grace Henley.

Helen Lederer, 1pm
Helen has been making us laugh for years on television screens, in everything from Absolutely Fabulous to Splash!, and now she returns to Henley with her debut novel. Naturally Losing It is very, very funny.

Diversity in publishing in 2015 : Azi Ahmed, Bidisha, Valerie Brandes and Stephen Thompson in conversation with Danuta Kean 3pm
This year’s Writing the Future report, commissioned by Spread the Word, made bleak reading: in an increasingly diverse culture, the UK publishing industry was found to be seriously lagging behind. This was the case in terms of authors, publishers and making sure that all readers are catered for.

Writing Workshop: Claire McGowan and Tasmina Perry, 5pm
Have you always wanted to be writer? Want to know how to get published? These are the questions that haunt would-be novelists. Come along and meet two successful authors who can answer your questions, offer top writing tips and tell you about how they came to be published and what that means to them.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 5pm
England may be a small country on a small island, but its inhabitants have always had a boundless curiosity about the world beyond their shoreline. In Exotic England – The Making of a Curious Nation, Yasmin, a respected broadcaster and Independent columnist, says the English have within them a capacity to soak up new experiences and ideas, and to weave them into every aspect of life – from language and literature to customs and culture.

Full programme and tickets are available at http://henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk/

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