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Cheltenham Events & Festivals

Internationally renowned Cheltenham Literature Festival was first held in 1949, making it the oldest literature festival in the world. The festival was started by the Spa Manager George Wilkinson, in conjunction with the Tewkesbury-based author John Moore, who served as its first director. Actor Ralph Richardson, who was born in Cheltenham, launched the festival, and poet Cecil Day Lewis, who used to teach at Cheltenham College, read a selection of contemporary verse.

Hundreds of literary events take place over ten days each October to which visitors come from all over the world. Stars of the literary world, such as Sue Townsend, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Ruth Rendell, or Martin Amis, together with internationally famous actors, comedians, journalists, historians, as well as politicians, such as Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Rik Mayall, Rory Bremner, Michael Palin, Jon Snow, Michael Buerk, and Simon Schama come to Cheltenham to share their experiences with the audience.

Cheltenham Festival of Literature

Almost 80,000 visitors attend lectures, discussions, performances and workshops held within the town for the two weeks of . The festival is now firmly established as one of the country's principal literary events, as well as one of the world's largest literature festivals, most of the great names in modern literature having appeared at the festival at some time during its history.

The literary events take place in the Town Hall, Imperial Gardens, and Montpellier Gardens.

The time between events can be spent in the Festival Book Tent which is situated in Imperial Gardens. You can browse through titles on sale, have your book signed by your favourite writer, or just soak up the atmosphere. There are newspapers, a lounge area and cafe with live entertainment. Garden Theatre, additional venue set up in Imperial Gardens, hosts some of the festival events, while the Book It! Tent provides setting for the Children's festival at the weekends. The Festival Lounge in the Pillar Room provides a relaxing environment to have a cup of coffee. By night it comes to life as a venue for Festival cabaret events with late night bar.

2006 festival saw record-breaking ticket sales as the likes of Gordon Brown, Bob Geldof, Rupert Everett and Julie Walters spoke to packed audiences. Jeremy Paxman, Ronnie Corbett, Patrick Stewart, Frank McCourt and Brenda Blethyn were among the all-star line-up, with Tony Benn, Sebastien Faulks, Terry Jones and Nick Hornby coming back as regular visitors to Cheltenham. Family Fun Day attracted around 2,000 people. The day included juggling, drawing, poetry, bouncy castles and everyone's favourite characters from children's books.

In 2011 The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival will welcome over 600 of the world's greatest writers, poets, politicians, thinkers and stars to Cheltenham for an inspiring mix of debate and discussion. Now in its 62nd year - 2011 promises the most ambitious and varied programme to date with Screen legend Christopher Lee, BAFTA-award winning Joanna Lumley, musician and radio broadcaster Jarvis Cocker and presenter and film critic Jonathan Ross all taking to the Cheltenham stage.



7th October - 16th October 2011


In person at the Town Hall, or by telephone on 01242 227979. You can also book online at www.cheltenhamfestivals.com



Michael Palin

Melvyn Bragg

David Baddiel

Sue Townsend






Everyman Theatre
Regent Street
Cheltenham GL50 1HQ
01242 572573

Cheltenham Town Hall
Imperial Square
Cheltenham GL50 1QA
Mon - Sat   9:30 - 5:30
01242 227979

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