The 13th Knutsford Literature Festival was held from
Friday 5th to Sunday 21st October 2012.
The enthusiastic response from audiences at our 13th Knutsford Literature Festival and the very positive feedback we have received suggest that this has been one of the most successful festivals ever. It has certainly been a bumper year with a record number of events. We have had some excellent and stimulating speakers and a record number of festivalgoers have chosen to become Friends of the Festival. Several events - notably (and unsurprisingly) Michael Portillo and Prue Leith were very quickly sold out and all events were very well attended.
Prompted by the Dickens bi-centenary, interest in the Victorians was high and we had a number of speakers exploring this period. Suzanne Fagence Cooper gave a fascinating talk on Effie Gray, who was, intriguingly, wife and muse to both Ruskin and Millais, while Helen Rappaport delved into the mysteries of Queen Victoria's "magnificent obsession" with Prince Albert both in life and death. Kate Summerscale introduced her new book "Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady" attracting a highly appreciative audience. The "In Conversation" format for her talk went down very well.
As always, we tried to have a wide range of speakers so that we had "something for everybody". Anna Reid's excellent account of the siege of Leningrad was both detailed and harrowing, drawing as she did on recently - released Soviet archives and contemporary diaries and letters. Her talk pulled no punches in its depiction of the true story of the siege, prompting a number of members of the audience to say how much they had been moved by what they had heard.
Diana Souhami's introduction to her new book, "Murder at Wrotham Hill", also raised important issues, dealing as it did with a real-life murder - case involving both Fabian of the Yard and the hangman, Albert Pierrepoint. The subject - matter was a new departure for Diana and led to some very interesting questions from the audience regarding detection, the death penalty and other related issues.
On a lighter note, Hannah Rothschild introduced us to her rebellious great - aunt, Pannonica, while Andrea Clark read selections from the many love-letters held in the British Museum. Peter Baxter kept his audience entertained with highlights from his 34 years with Test Match Special, and who would have thought science could be as fascinating and amusing as Mark Henderson made it in his excellent talk on the vital need both in Parliament and in public life to take the insights and evidence provided by science a lot more seriously.
We were delighted to welcome Artemis Cooper to talk about her long-awaited Patrick Leigh Fermor biography, which was attracting excellent reviews. It was literally hot off the press and only Cheltenham had got in before us!!
This year's Literary Lunch speaker was Prue Leith, who described her early life and let us into some of the secrets of her very varied career, while Michael Portillo kept his large audience smiling with an entertaining and amusing talk about his former life as a politician and his re-invention as a media personality. He told us he has more Great Railway Journeys coming up - this time trans-continental - and a programme on , of all things - Meerkats!
Special mention must be made of the Poetry Night at The Angel. It was, once again, well-attended and it never ceases to surprise with its excellent poetry-readings from poets as diverse as Omar Khayyam to Sylvia Plath and the number of poets who come - sometimes from long distances -to read their own impressive and wide-ranging poems.
A fitting close was brought to the festival by actor David Shaw with his tour de force recreation of Charles Dickens' final stage performance - first, comic incidents from "Pickwick Papers" and then a highly dramatic rendition of Bill Sikes' murder of the ill-fated Nancy from "Oliver Twist".
We would like to thank all those who attended the festival, our festivalgoers and our speakers, and all those who helped so much behind the scenes to make the 13th Knutsford Literature Festival such a success. If you would like to become a Friend of the Festival you will find all details our Friends' page. Plans are now already under way for next year's festival and we look forward to seeing you then.