Welcome to the

Lavenham Literary Festival

Latest news

A warm welcome to our website.  Lavenham Literary Festival usually takes place in our beautiful medieval village in November over a long weekend.  It is renowned for its friendly atmosphere where authors and audiences can come together to celebrate a shared love of books. We hope to return to that format in 2022.

For 2021, we are excited to announce our Festival Dinner which will take place as always in The Swan Hotel, Lavenham on Friday 5 November 2021. Our Guest Speaker this year is the wonderful Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary and author of four books of memoirs who has now turned to writing crime fiction

Tickets for the 2021 Festival Dinner on 5 November are now sold out.  The Swan is maintaining a waiting list and any enquiries may be addressed to functions@theswanatlavenham.co.uk

Please follow the link in the footer to subscribe to our newsletter which will keep you up to date with our plans, and tell your friends about LLF.

Photo of Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson started life in the slums of Kensington and reached one of the highest offices of state, serving in the Gordon Brown government as Home Secretary.

Having left school aged 15 and failed in his attempts to become a rock star, he joined the Post Office as a postman and rose to be the Union of Post Office Workers’ youngest ever General Secretary. As Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle Alan was one of the most popular and respected MPs on either side of the House. He now captivates audiences with his warmth, wit  and easy-going charm, talking about his childhood, his political career and his lifelong passion for music – including the Beatles.

Author of four volumes of award-winning memoirs starting with This Boy, Alan has now written his debut novel, the thriller The Late Train to Gipsy Hill,  to be published in September 2021.


Lavenham Buildings

Some quotes about past festivals:

Tracy Borman: This is my favourite Festival! I relished the chance to return to beautiful Lavenham, and this year’s Festival was even better than ever (if that’s possible!). It was wonderful to see so many people in the audience, and everyone I spoke to afterwards was lovely.

John Higgs: “A brilliant Festival. I enjoyed every moment of it!”

Toby Buchan: Lavenham Literary Festival gets some marvellous speakers and a lot of richly-deserved support, and I know just how much care and thought goes into the organisation of the event.”

Kate Mosse: One of my favourite events. I just love coming back to Lavenham.”

We are proud that East Anglia is buzzing with distinguished authors. 

Here are a few suggestions of their books to enjoy.

Ruth Scurr's Napoleon: A Lif in Gardens and Shadows

Napoleon as emperor is a familiar figure, but as gardener?  Less so. This innovative biography Napoleon - a Life in Gardens and Shadows shows how gardens ran like a thread through Napoleon's life from childhood olive groves and Josephine's creation in Paris to the final one on St. Helena. This is a fascinating and vivid portrait of a giant historic figure made human, seen through the eyes of those who knew him in his gardens, summed up by the image of the man in an old straw hat leaning on his spade. Ruth Scurr is a distinguished historian and a superb storyteller – she knows her gardens, too. The book will appeal to both historians and gardeners alike.
Recommended by Widget Finn

Elizabeth Haynes's You Me and the Sea

I shivered with the cold and warmed up with the passion. Take a trip to the Isle of Must and spend time with people who are trying to find something that will stop the pain of loneliness. Rachel is escaping the disasters of her former life when an unexpected job offer takes her to a remote Scottish island. Here she meets Fraser Sutherland a taciturn loner and Lefty, his unofficial assistant. Rachel is homesick and out of her depth, but as spring turns to summer the wild beauty of the island begins to captivate her. Whether they be temporary or permanent inhabitants – they will all stay with you long after you’ve closed this great book.

Recommended by Nicola Hilder

Barbara Seagall's Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Secret Gardens of East Anglia
The big skies and extraordinary light of East Anglia offer natural conditions in which to create gardens. Horticulturist and garden writer Barbara Segall has spent valuable time with each of the 22 garden owners to understand their specific styles and talents and the challenges they have encountered. The results are highlighted in Marcus Harpur’s stunning photography which evokes the beauty and diversity of each garden. This is a glorious book to inspire and to treasure.

Recommended by Susan Burton


Cover of The Stranding by kate Sawyer

Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her life is set against a background hum of dark news reports from which she turns away. When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth leaves it to pursue her dream working with whales in New Zealand. But the news cycle she has been ignoring is now the new reality. With no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before. Beautifully written, Kate Sawyer's debut novel The Stranding is both haunting and hopeful.

Cover for Blood Rain by André Mangeot

Released on the eve of the 2020 lockdown, André Mangeot's Blood Rain is a highly topical and moving meditation on what we’re doing to the planet and ourselves. Lyrical and allusive, ranging from the personal to the global, the poems explore environmental degradation, climate change, populism, radicalization and other challenges to our future – each through the prism of individual lives and perspectives.
“Turns a weathered and acute eye on Man and The Sublime. A thought-provoking book for turbulent times” – Matthew Caley. “Contains some of the most beautiful yet unsettling lyric poems I’ve read” – Helen Mort.

Cover of Matt Graw's Under the Stars: A Journey into Light

Artificial light is everywhere. It is damaging to humans and to wildlife, disrupting our natural rhythms, and it obliterates the subtler lights that have guided us for millennia. When nature writer Matt Gaw steps outside without a torch, he experiences the world completely afresh. He gets terrified on Dartmoor; disoriented in the forests of Scotland; takes his family stargazing on the Dark Sky Community of the Isle of Coll, gets dazzled by the lights of London at night and explores his home town of Bury St Edmunds. Under the Stars is an inspirational and immersive call to reconnect with the natural world, showing how we only need to step outside to find that, in darkness, the world lights up.

cover of The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes

The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes. After eight years travelling in 1840s Europe with her vicar husband, Mildred Holland finds life in a tiny Suffolk village stifling. A chance encounter fires Mildred's imagination and she starts decorating the chancel of the village church with angels and saints in vivid colours, despite the suspicion of the locals and her husband's exasperation. The book is inspired by the true story of the real Mildred Holland who decorated the ceiling of the church of Huntingfield in Suffolk which can still be seen today in all its glory.

Cover of Two Minutes to Midnight by Roger Hermiston

Cavendish author Roger Hermiston’s Two Minutes to Midnight is a masterful survey of a pivotal year. January 1953 and the Cold War has entered its most deadly phase. An Iron Curtain has descended across Europe, the Soviet Union and Britain have both tested their own atom bombs and the United States has detonated its first thermonuclear device. The Doomsday Clock is set at two minutes to midnight, with the chances of a man-made global apocalypse becoming increasingly likely.
“Popular history at its best” – Andrew Marr.

cover of Bombshell, by Douglas Thompson

Drawing on unseen police files, Marilyn Monroe's private diary and first-hand testimony, Lavenham author Douglas Thompson's Bombshell proves that Robert Kennedy was directly responsible for her death. It details Marilyn Monroe's tumultuous involvement with him and his brother President John Kennedy. The new evidence is provided by Mike Tothmiller who, as an agent of the Organised Crime Intelligence Division (OCID) of the Los Angeles Police Department, had access to hundreds of secret files on what happened at Marilyn Monroe's Californian home on August 5 1962.