Wimbledon BookFest Sunset Festival

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Wimbledon BookFest returns for “Sunset Festival” from 15 – 19 September – its second in-person festival of 2021 featuring over 40 live events!

The much loved Wimbledon BookFest is back with its second live in-person festival of the summer. Sunset Festival is a five-day event comprising more than 40 talks, workshops and activities for public and schools audiences. It follows the huge success of Sunrise Festival in June – one of the first arts festivals to return to in-person events. 

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 place to ensure the comfort and safety of audiences, artists and staff.  

Sunset Festival offers a diverse programme catering to a wide range of interests. This year sees a particular focus on memoir and life writing, alongside fiction, poetry, current affairs, history, science, performing arts, the return of our popular sports night, an expanded programme for young people, and a number of participatory events: 

  • The “poet laureate of punk” John Cooper Clarke looks back over an extraordinary career as a musician, performer and fashion icon in his memoir, I Wanna Be Yours.  
  • At the age of 80, BAFTA-winning veteran of stage and screen Miriam Margolyes OBE presents her autobiography, which is as naughty and entertaining as you would expect. 
  • Continuing the theme of memoir, 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. 
  • 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.  
  • Much-loved celebrity chef and restaurateur Rick Stein has travelled the world in search of culinary perfection. Now he invites you into his own kitchen to share his favourite home-cooked recipes in his latest release, Rick Stein at Home
  • 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. 
  • Regarded as the one of the greatest historical novelists of his generation, Sebastian Faulks, author of multi-million-selling Birdsong, introduces his latest book, the gripping Snow Country
  • 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.  
  • Philosopher A.C. Grayling examines what we know about science, history and psychology – and what we are yet to discover – in his latest book The Frontiers of Knowledge. We also welcome the QI Elves – the team of writers and researchers behind the hit TV quiz show. 
  • 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 remarkable 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. 
  • 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
  • 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 our Young Writers 2021 Competition, hosted by celebrated 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. 

The continued ability of Wimbledon BookFest to deliver its annual live festivals, and year-round programme of education and outreach work has been made possible thanks to the ongoing support of audiences, BookFest Friends, sponsors (including lead partners University of Roehampton and Baillie Gifford) and Arts Council England.   

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 are on sale now. Hop over to Wimbledon BookFest for more info and to book yours!

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