Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival was founded by committee in 2017. We continue to be led by a small team of volunteers with a couple of people in paid roles to plan the festival and get us through the year.
In 2017 the town's first literature festival started as it meant to go on with a sparkling literary line-up including Louis de Bernieres (Captain Corelli's Mandolin), Helen Callaghan (Dear Amy), Elly Griffiths (Dr Ruth Galloway novels) and Sarah Perry (The Essex Serpent). The festival also had a great non-fiction offering - with events from nature writer, Patrick Barkham and Ann Kronbergs - and there was something for younger readers too, with children's authors Amanda Gee and James Campbell. The events took across the town centre at Oakes Barn, Waterstones, Angel Hotel, Hunter Club and St John’s Centre.
2019 saw the festival return with another stellar line up including poet Wendy Cope and local authors Erica James, Sam Byers, Matt Gaw and Am Howell being joined by Ruth Hogan, Georgina Harding, Sophie Hannah, Francis Young and Nicola Upson who shortly after became a patron of the festival. This was the first year that the festival found its home in Bury's beautiful and historic, Unitarian Meeting House.
Then came 2020...but let's not talk about that!
In 2021 and 2022 the festival ran two, slightly scaled back and socially distanced festivals, but there were still some fantastic events, including appearances by Liz Trenow, Jenny Uglow, William Shaw, Jan Etherington and Rachel Hore.
2023 saw the festival regroup after a quiet couple of years with a diverse line-up to appeal to readers of all ages and persuasions. For the first time there were panel events, including a conversation with four brilliant debut authors whose work is set or influenced by East Anglian connections, a spooky exploration of the mysteries of the Suffolk coast with Polly Crosby (Vita and the Birds) and SA Harris (Seahurst) and The Women They Called Witches a discussion between non-fiction author Marion Gibson (witchcraft: A History in 13 Trials) and novelist Margaret Meyer (The Witching Tide), on the history and literature of 'witch' hunts, so many of whichtook place in Bury St Edmunds. The offering for children returned to the festival with award winning Hannah Gold talking to a sold out enraptured house. And fiction lovers were spoiled for choice with appearances from bestelling and award-winning authors across the genres, including from Annie Garthwaite (Cecily), Ashley Hickson-Lovence (Your Show), Kate Sawyer (This Family) and Elly Griffiths (The Brighton Mysteries).
Details of our programme for 2024 will be revealed shortly. Please check our website and social media for updates or sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know about all of our grand plans.
We remain deeply grateful for the support of our Patrons: Nicola Upson and Mike and Judy Spenser-Morris, and our Sponsors: The Trustees of the beautiful Unitarian Meeting House and Greene & Greene Solicitors. We also want to thank our wonderful volunteers. Without all of you this Festival would not happen!
A message from our patrons, Mike & Judy Spenser-Morris
“It is with the greatest pleasure that Judy and I are again the proud Patrons of the Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival. As avid readers, we feel a particular affinity with the Festival’s desire to bring so many wonderful authors to Bury St Edmunds to talk about their work. Our incredible town, that has such a depth of history, is the perfect setting for a Literature Festival.
“Once again, we have an exceptional gathering of wonderful authors ready to perform and talk about their work. We are really looking forward to this year’s outstanding programme. We hope you are too.”
A message from our patron Nicola Upson
“With the isolation of recent years still so fresh in our minds, festivals feel more precious than ever, and the one in my home town is particularly special – so I’m thrilled to be looking ahead to this year’s Bury Litfest for the first time as one of its patrons.
“Growing up in a beautiful town where there’s a story around every corner is a wonderful gift for a writer. Stories are important. They enrich our lives and show us new possibilities. They help us understand who we are and who we’d like to be. And, as this year’s Abbey celebrations have shown, they connect us to our past and lay hopeful foundations for the future.
“The 2022 Litfest programme is a gloriously eclectic mix of stories: some fact, some fiction; some gritty, some heart warming; all inspirational. Please do join us in celebrating them.”