The 2016 Chester Literature Festival October 8th to 23rd - Alexei Sayle - Kalevala - Hollie McNish - Paul Morley - Lemn Sissay - Matthew Parris - Victoria Hislop - Sara Pascoe - Sir Ranulph Fiennes - Edward Ross - Workshop Writing

Chester Literature Festival


Chester Literature Festival returns 8 – 23 October with over 60 events! This year features appearances from best-selling authors, adventurers, comedians and poets as well as strong strands of film, politics and performance. Highlights include leading names and rising stars including Ranulph Fiennes, Victoria Hislop, James Kelman, John Osborne, Sara Pascoe, Matthew Parris, Ian McMillan, Laura Barnett, Ann Cleeves, Lemn Sissay and Margaret Drabble.



Saturday 8 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £15.50


Austentatious are saddling the horses for a Grand Tour! Join the all-star cast as they improvise a brand new Jane Austen work before your very eyes, based on a single audience suggestion.

Previous ‘lost’ masterpieces have included Sixth Sense & Sensibility, Double 0 Darcy and Mansfield Shark. No two shows are ever the same!

Performed in period costume with live musical accompaniment, Austentatious is a Regency treat. Hold on to your bonnets: this hilarious show is not to be missed. (Swooning guaranteed.)


Friday 21 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £12.50


Alexei Sayle

‘What I brought to comedy was an authentic working class voice plus a threat of genuine violence – nobody in Monty Python looked like a hard case who’d kick your head in’

In 1971 comedians on the working men’s club circuit imagined that they would be free to go on telling their tired, racist, misogynistic gags forever but their nemesis, a nineteen year- old Marxist art student with a bizarre concern for the health of British manufacturing was slowly coming to meet them.

Through the next decade Alexei Sayle would be a student at Chelsea Art School, a clerk in a DHSS office (where nobody did any work), one of London’s bottom ten freelance illustrators, a school dinner lady and a college lecturer (who kidnapped his students), before he became the original MC of London’s first modern comedy club, the Comedy Store, and the landscape of British comedy was altered forever.

Thatcher Stole My Trousers chronicles a time when comedy and politics came together in electrifying ways. Recounting the opening season of the Comedy Store and his friendships with the comedians who, like him would soon become household names, this is a unique and beguiling blend of social history and memoir.


Thursday 13 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £15.50



Be transported by songs, adventure and the stories of Kalevala – Finland’s national epic – equal to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, or the old English Beowulf.

Travel to the extremes of the Finnish landscape – the vast forests and lakes, the harshness of winter, the intoxicating summers. Experience authentic creation myths, tales of Finland’s illustrious heroes alongside very human stories of love, loss and longing.

Leading UK storyteller Nick Hennessey and three virtuoso Finnish musicians make these 2000 year old traditional stories come alive with a touch of offbeat fun, enchantment and evocative music that moves between dancing flutes, infectious rhythms and hauntingly beautiful sung melodies.

Experience Kalevala returned to its oral roots in this dynamic, intimate and surprising performance.

“They conjure up the landscape of the Karelian lands; we hear the birds singing, creatures stirring in the woods and, out to sea, the ice breaking as the seasons turn… we have been held entranced.”

Cath Barton, Wales Arts Review

UK storyteller Nick Hennessey and

Three of Finland’s leading traditional musicians

Anna-Kaisa Liedes (singer)

Kristiina Ilmonen (flutes, percussion, vocals)

Timo Väänänen (kantele, pyngyr, vocals)

Adverse Camber productions presents Fire in the North Sky: Epic Tales from Finland (Saatuja Sanoja)

Commissioned in association with mac birmingham and Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival with support from Sage Gateshead



Tuesday 18 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £10.00


Hollie McNish

With Benjamin Zephaniah stating ‘I can’t take my ears off her’, Kate Tempest describing her poetry as ‘welcoming, galvanising and beautiful’ and fans ranging from Robin Ince, Pink, Tim Minchen, Marian Keyes to most of the UK’s midwives, Hollie McNish is a poet whose readings are not to be missed. She is an Arts Foundation Fellow in Spoken Word, has garnered over two million YouTube views for her online poetry performances and was the first poet to record at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios.

Here, she will be joining us to perform poems, read from and chat honestly and openly about her latest book, Nobody Told Me. The book is a unique blend of poetry and storytelling, taken straight from Hollie’s personal diaries. As she states herself ‘it is not a polished collection’; rather, it is a very candid, at times gutting, at others hilarious, look at her experiences from pregnancy to the pre-school drop off. Expect strong language as she talks colours, cravings, politics, transformers, sex, tree-climbing, feeding, train journeys, lots and lots of love and occasionally locking herself in toilets to cry a little.

About the author

Hollie McNish is a published UK poet based between London, Cambridge and Glasgow. She has two poetry collections – Cherry Pie and Papers – and an album, Versus, which made her the first poet to record at Abbey Road Studios, London.

In February 2016, Blackfriars published her memoir of poetry and parenthood, Nobody Told Me. Taken from Hollie’s journals while pregnant and in the early years of raising her daughter, through the passages and poems she wrote, she explores raising a child in modern Britain, of trying to become a parent in modern Britain, of sex, commercialism, feeding, gender and of finding secret place to scream once in a while.

In 2017, Picador will publish her third poetry collection, as yet untitled.


Monday 10 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £12.50

Paul Morley

Respected arts commentator Paul Morley, one of the team who curated the highly successful retrospective exhibition for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, David Bowie Is . . . constructs the definitive story of Bowie that explores how he worked, played, aged, structured his ideas, invented the future and entered history as someone who could and would never be forgotten. Morley will capture the greatest moments of Bowie’s career; from the recording studio with the likes of Brian Eno and Tony Visconti; to iconic live performances from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, as well as the various encounters and artistic relationships he developed with rock luminaries John Lennon, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. And of course, discuss in detail his much-heralded, and critically-acclaimed comeback with the release of Black Star just days before his shocking death in New York.

Morley will offer a startling biographical critique of David Bowie’s legacy, showing how he never stayed still even when he withdrew from the spotlight, how he always knew his own worth, and released a dazzling plethora of mobile Bowies into the world with a bloody-minded determination and a voluptuous imagination to create something amazing that was not there before.

Also on 10 October, music journalist Lesley-Ann Jones will discuss her new book, Hero: David Bowie. 

About the author

Writer, broadcaster, and cultural critic Paul Morley has written about music, art, and entertainment since the 1970s. A founding member of the electronic collective Art of Noise and a member of staff at the Royal Academy of Music, he is the author of Ask: Chatter Of Pop, Words And Music: A History Of Pop In The Shape Of A City, Joy Division: Piece By Piece: Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007, Earthbound and Nothing, and he collaborated with music icon Grace Jones on her memoir, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.



Saturday 15 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £12.50


Lemn Sissay 

Lemn Sissay was seventeen when he wrote his first poetry book, which he hand-sold to the miners and mill workers of Wigan. Since then his poems have become landmarks, sculpted in granite and built from concrete, recorded on era-defining albums and declaimed in over thirty countries.

He has performed to thousands of football fans at the FA Cup Final, to hundreds of thousands as the poet of the 2012 Olympics and to millions across our TV screens and the airwaves of BBC Radio. He has become one of the nation’s best loved voices. Gold from the Stone, Lemn’s first collection in almost 10 years brings together both new and best loved works to form this career defining collection.

From poems inspired by the topics touched upon in his recent BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs such as his Ethiopian heritage and growing up as an ethnic minority in Lancashire, to words that reflect the ordinary, the love, hate, prejudices and politics of everyday life, Lemn’s voice is original, satirical, streetwise and funny.

‘Inventive, funny and touching’ – Guardian

‘His name is magic, his poems are songs on the street’ – Independent

About the author

An an award-winning writer and popular broadcaster as well as being the author of five poetry books, Lemn Sissay was made an Honourary Doctor of Letters by the University of Huddersfield and the University of Manchester. He was awarded an MBE by the Queen for services to literature and was the official poet for the London 2012 Olympics. He has worked throughout the world, is patron of the Letterbox Club, supporting children in care. Lemn’s work in the Arctic has featured at the Royal Academy and in galleries throughout the world. His Landmark poems can be found on buildings in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Addis Ababa. In 2015 Lemn was appointed Chancellor of the University of Manchester and on July 1st he performed his poem “Listening Post” at a national ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of The Battle of The Somme. He is British and Ethiopian.



Thursday 20 October, 1.00pm

Chester Town Hall 

Full Price from £10.00


Matthew Parris

‘Authors are easy to get on with – if you’re fond of children.’ Michael Joseph, publisher

‘I married beneath me – all women do.’ Nancy Asquith

‘Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.‘ Albert Einstein

There’s no pleasure like a perfectly-turned put-down (when it’s directed at somebody else, of course) but Matthew Parris’sScorn is sharply different from the standard collections. So here is a selection of the funniest, sharpest, rudest and most devastating insults in history, from ancient Roman graffiti to the battlefields of Twitter. Drawing on bile from such masters as Dorothy Parker, Elizabeth I, Boris Johnson, Groucho Marx, Princess Anne, Winston Churchill, Mae West and Alastair Campbell – which form an exchange between voices down the ages – Scorn shows that abuse can be an art form, and this collection includes extended literary invective as well as short verbal shin-kicks.

Encompassing literature, art, politics, showbiz, marriage, gender, nationality and religion, Matthew Parris’s sublime collection is the perfect companion for the festive season, whether you’re searching for the perfect elegant riposte, the rudest polite letter ever written, or a brutal verbal sledgehammer.

About the author

Matthew Parris worked for the Foreign Office before serving as an MP. He now writes as a columnist for The Times and the Spectator, and in 2011 won the Best Columnist award at the British Press Awards. He is the author of several books, including his autobiography Chance Witness and the bestselling The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase.


Wednesday 19 October, 6.45pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £20.00

Victoria Hislop 

Join us for an evening with the multi-million-copy bestselling author of The Island, to hear about her latest novel Cartes Postales from Greece, deliciously accompanied by wine and cheese before the event (included in ticket price).

Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man’s odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A’s tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

Beloved, bestselling author Victoria Hislop’s Cartes Postales from Greece is fiction illustrated with photographs that make this journey around Greece, already alive in the imagination, linger forever in the mind.


Thursday 20 October, 7.30pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £15.50


Sara Pascoe 

Sara is a comedian who has talked and joked about female sexuality, psychology and the media’s portrayal of women on stage and screen. While researching her most recent live show, Sara realised that she had a lot more to say. In Animal, her first book, she combines autobiography and evolutionary history to make us laugh and reconsider the female body, from armpit hair to zygots.

In each chapter Sara examines a specific part of aspect of the human female body; why it has evolved and how it is exalted, oppressed, fetishized or misunderstood in modern culture. So much of how we feel about ourselves is programmed by millions of years of successful mating behaviour: our obsession with youth, comparing ourselves to other women, wishing for tiny waists or massive breasts, jealousy, broodiness, infidelity and homosexual feelings. Along the way, she’ll take on plastic surgery, pubes, consent, clitorectomys, gonads, hormonal influences, monogamy, masturbation and virginity.

‘The funniest, best book about sexuality, sex and sexy – (and not so sexy) time EVER WRITTEN.’ Jessica Hynes

‘A hilarious look at what makes us human – it taught me so much about myself, and equally as much about why Sara is one of the funniest and most astute writers around.’ Isy Suttie

About the author

As a stand up, Sara Pascoe has starred on Live at the Apollo, QI, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Room 101, as well as 8/10 Catsand is a regular contributor on the channel 4 series Stand Up for The Week. Sara Pascoe vs History earned her a prestigious Fosters Comedy Award nomination for Best Show at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival. Sara won the 2014 Chortle Award for Best Breakthrough Act. As an actress, Sara has enjoyed regular roles in W1A and Twenty Twelve. She’s also written for the Guardian, the Independent and Standard Issue magazine.


Sunday 23 October, 1.00pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £15.50


Sir Ranulph Fiennes 

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has climbed the Eiger and Mount Everest. He’s crossed both Poles on foot. He’s been a member of the SAS and fought a bloody guerrilla war in Oman. And yet he confesses that his fear of heights is so great that he’d rather send his wife up a ladder to clean the gutters than do it himself. In Fear, the world’s greatest explorer delves into his own experiences to try and explain what fear is, how it happens and how he’s overcome it so successfully.

In Fear, he examines key moments from history where fear played an important part in the outcome of a great event. He shows us how the brain perceives fear, how that manifests itself in us, and how we can transform our perceptions. With an enthralling combination of story-telling, research and personal accounts of his own struggles to overcome fear, Sir Ranulph Fiennes sheds new light on one of humanity’s strongest emotions.

Fear will be published on 6 October.

About the author

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is an English explorer and holder of several endurance records as well as a prolific writer. Fiennes served in the British Army for eight years including a period on counter-insurgency service while attached to theArmy of the Sultanate of Oman. He later undertook numerous expeditions and was the first person to visit both the Northand South Poles by surface means and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot. In May 2009, at the age of 65, he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest. According to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1984, he was the world’s greatest living explorer. Fiennes has written numerous books about his army service and his expeditions as well as a book defending Robert Falcon Scott from modern revisionists.


Friday 21 October, 7.00pm

Chester Town Hall

Full Price from £10.00


Edward Ross

In Filmish: A Graphic Journey through Film, cartoonist Edward Ross takes the reader on a journey through the history of cinema, using comics to uncover the magic and mechanics behind our favourite movies. Exploring everything from censorship to set design, Ross spotlights the films and film-makers that embody this provocative and inventive medium, from the pioneers of early cinema to the innovators shaping the movies of today, from A Trip to the Moon to Inception and beyond. A witty and insightful reflection on the enduring power of the cinema, Filmish is a lucid and lively guide to the stars and stories that have shaped our lives for more than a century.

About the author

Edward Ross is a comic book artist, writer and illustrator. Working alongside Dr James Hall, he has created many science-themed comics for universities, museums, charities and research bodies. Ross is a Film Studies graduate and regularly leads workshops in comic book creation. Filmish, published by SelfMadeHero, is his first graphic novel. He lives in Edinburgh.



Have you written a book that ought to be in print? Here’s a unique opportunity to have fifteen minutes face to face withCatherine Cho who works at the world famous Curtis Brown agency; this is an exclusive chance to ask questions and get expert feedback.

Writers can book onto individual time slots for either Saturday 8 (12.00 – 3.15pm) or Sunday 9 October (Sunday 9th October  11.00 – 11.50am).

To facilitate an in-depth discussion, participants will be asked to send Catherine a sample of their work in advance.

Workshop: Writing Dystopian Fiction with Francesca Haig – Sunday 9 October, 11:30 | £12.50 |

Ever wanted to write dystopian fiction? This workshop will discuss why authors and readers keep returning to dystopian stories, and will push you to consider how you can make your own dystopian fiction striking and new. Come prepared to write, as this interactive workshop will have you interrogating your ideas, and trying out new ones.



Workshop: Writing Non-Fiction with Simon Garfield – Sunday 9 October, 12:00 | £20.00 | 

Whether you have a book you’re developing or a series of features that you would like to write, in this interactive workshop you will receive advice on everything from content to commercial viability. Plus you’ll learn how to resolve common problems with the writing process and what appeals to editors and publishers.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity!


Emma Wells; The History of Your House – Sunday 16 October, 11am | £20.00 |  

Ever wondered who lived in your house before you? Join Emma Wells in discovering how to uncover the history of your house.


Workshop: How to finish your novel, with Laura Barnett – Sunday 16 October, 13:30 | £20.00 | 

Endings are crucial to a successful novel or short story! This two-hour workshop is a rare chance to pick the brains of a successful and experienced novelist and short story writer. Content will include good and bad examples, editing and trouble-shooting, planning ahead and structuring to ensure that your ending feels inevitable plus knowing when to stop writing and advice on how to sharpen up your ending ahead of potential publication.


Workshop: Creative Writing with Ian McMillan – Monday 17 October, 17:00 | £20.00 | 

Aspiring writer? Looking for advice and inspiration? Don’s miss the chance to join Ian McMillan, one of the UK’s best known contemporary poets for creative writing workshop as part of Chester Literature Festival.


Jonathan Korejko; Paper Making – Saturday 22 October, 10am & 2pm | £15.50 |  

Jonathan travels across the country demonstrating his papermaking techniques- now it’s your turn to get creative. Learn from Jonathan and develop your own skills in papermaking during this workshop.



Sarah Hyndman; What’s Your Type – Font Workshop – Saturday 22 October, 10:30 & 12:00 | £12.50 |  

This one-hour workshop will take you on a roller coaster ride of experiments, games and demonstrations exploring the personalities of fonts and a chance to use the ‘Font Selfie machine’ to generate your own type personality analysis. We will prove that a font can transform the meaning of your words—it’s not just what you say it’s the way that you say it.



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