Cambridge Literary Festival winter '17

Nicola Foley takes a look at the highlights of our city's vibrant celebration of words and wordsmiths

Literature, laughter, poetry, prose and politics are in store at this month’s Cambridge Literature Festival, which returns for its largest event yet from 24 to 26 November. A vibrant celebration of the written word, the festival has been running since 2003 and will once again bring a sparkling line-up of speakers to the city. 

Launching the event is former Liberal Democrats party leader Nick Clegg (above), one of the UK’s most prominent ‘Remainers’, who will be discussing his book How To Stop Brexit. A practical guide to resisting the UK’s departure from the European Union, the book argues that the simplest, easiest, most pragmatic and certainly cheapest option for Britain would simply be to stop. Can the country be reunited? And most importantly is Brexit inevitable? Join the debate on 24 November. 

Jess Phillips, Steve Richards and Johnny Mercer will also be considering where Britain might be headed in the aftermath of the EU referendum, along with other burning political issues of the day, when the Union Chamber will become the New Statesman Politics Briefing Room on 26 November. 

Also talking current affairs are Evan Davis (above) and Matthew d’Ancona, who will be offering some navigation through the turbid waters of the ‘post-truth era’. Head along on the 26th and equip yourself in the fight against fake news, conspiracy theories and alternative facts. 

The fiction cohort at this year’s festival is especially exciting, featuring Man Booker Prize-winner Roddy Doyle on the 26th, debut novelist Fiona Mozley on the 25th, and the peerless Ali Smith, also on the 26th. Discussing Winter, the second book in her dazzling seasonal quartet, Cambridge-based Smith brings warmth, laughter and love to the coldest season. 

Another local author, Sophie Hannah, will be joined by fellow crime fiction doyennes Nicola Upson and Alison Bruce on the 26th, as part of a discussion about just what makes their genre so utterly addictive.

If you’re prone to forgoing sleep in favour of hungrily finishing the latest suspense-filled murder mystery novel, this one’s definitely for you. 

A little light relief will be on offer courtesy of stand-up comedian Sarah Millican on the 25th. Join her for a chat about her debut book, How to be Champion, which sees her cogitating on divorce, IBS and many other of life’s little blips. 

Dubbed the ‘hard man of satire’ by The Telegraph, Armando Iannucci is best known for razor-sharp political comedies such as The Thick of It, but he’ll be discussing his less-publicised passion at the festival: classical music.

Another comic star showing a different side of himself will be Robert Webb (below) of Peep Show fame, who will be talking about his recent book, How Not to Be a Boy, which considers masculinity, manhood, fatherhood – and the crushing weight of expectation that arises from each. Both will appear on the 25th.

Whetting our appetites with a look at his new book Modern Kitchen is Tim Hayward, the food writer responsible for turning around the fortunes of Cambridge’s much-loved Fitzbillies. Join him on the 25th for an appetising exchange with the Guardian’s excellent food columnist Felicity Cloake. 

From food to feminism, with the refreshing and radical Rebecca Solnit, who visits the festival for a preview event on 2 November. The woman responsible for coining the term ‘mansplaining’, her oeuvre contains more than 20 books about art, feminism and politics, including The Mother of All Questions: Further Feminisms, which was released in August this year. Join her for a hopeful discussion on what feminism means today and how everyone can be included in the discussion.  

Ending the festival on the 26th with a poetic flourish will be Scotland’s poet laureate Jackie Kay and the Man Booker Prize-winning Ben Okri. In conversation with literary critic, Ángel Gurría-Quintana, Okri will reflect on his life and luminous literary career, from his seminal, much-celebrated book The Famished Road to his recent, mystical and meditative offering The Magic Lamp: Dreams of Our Age.