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, and we can already announce that the 2022 Festival will be from Friday November 18 to Sunday November 20, and the Saturday session will be opened by one of our favourite authors, Tracy Borman. Moreover, our inspiring dinner speaker for the 2021 dinner, Alan Johnson, will join us as a Festival speaker in 2022. Many who were at the dinner have expressed enthusiasm at the opportunity to engage with Alan on a different platform.

And the very latest exciting news is that none other than Kate Humble has just accepted our invitation to be the dinner speaker for 2022. The dinner will be on November 18 2022, as customary in the wonderful Gallery Restaurant of the Swan Hotel in Lavenham.

Let's revisit for a moment the 2021 annual Festival Dinner which took place as always in The Swan Hotel, Lavenham, with Guest Speaker Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary, memoirist and now author of the crime novel The Late Train to Gipsy HillHis sparkling wit and good humour, plus a delicious meal, ensured a fabulous evening for 80 guests dining in the Swan Hotel at Lavenham. 

Some reactions about the event:

Alan Johnson went down a treat leaving all of us wanting more!

It would have been impossible not to admire and appreciate Alan Johnson's speaking and his personality seemed most engaging.

Alan was just perfection. 

The best Festival Dinner I have ever been to.

We loved his humour, intellect and ability to engage with everyone.


Click HERE for more images of speakers from the Festival Dinner 2021 and earlier

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.
And for December we have added three children books which might make a great present for Christmas

Elena Arevald Melville, Umbrella

Umbrella by Elena Arevald Melville
Winner of the Queen’s Knicker Award
Clara has gone to the park but there’s no-one to play with. She finds an umbrella on the ground and does a good deed by putting it on a bench. The umbrella says "Thank you" and invites Clara to make a wish. So unfolds a magical chain of events where kindness and forgiveness go hand-in-hand.
Every child will love the idea of finding a magical umbrella in the park. This is a delightful book about generosity which draws the reader in by inviting them to choose what sort of wish they would make.


Melissa Harrison, By Rowan abd Yew

Melissa Harrrison, Costa Award winner’s second children’s book By Rowan and Yew is inspired by the 1940s classics The Little Grey Man and The Borrowers.  As autumn arrives Moss, Sorrell, Burnet and Dormer want to find out why their people are fading from the Wild World. Their journey of discovery is filled with danger and delight, gold leaves, shiny conkers, bright berries and the storms and frosts of winter. Timely and magical, this tale by an acclaimed nature writer will open the young readers’ eyes to the wonders of the natural world.

Recommended by Barbara Segall

Marjoke Henrichs, NO! said Rabbit

NO! said Rabbit, by Marjoke Henrichs, is a hilarious bedtime story about an everyday battle of wills between a mother and child where everyone ends up a winner!
Rabbit is happy doing his own thing and he doesn’t want to listen to his mum telling him to get up, get dressed, have breakfast, play outside, come inside and least of all … have a bath!  NO, NO, NO! he says, but at last they hit on something they both love doing together.
This is perfectly pitched and re-assuring for parents whose child is being contrary.


David Laws, The Fuhrer's Orphans

Based on true events The Fuhrer’s Orphans is a moving novel set during the Second World War.
In wartime Munich, 27 children hide from the Gestapo scared and hungry. Their parents have been sent to concentration camps.
Teacher Claudia Kellner discovers the group, risking her own safety by giving them shelter.
Commando Peter Chesham is a spy working for the British. But his top secret mission is threatened when he discovers the hiding place of the orphans. If he continues with his mission it will have fatal consequences for everyone around him, but if he doesn’t, the Nazis could win the war. What he decides could determine the fate of history….


Simon Edge, The End of the World Is Flat

Simon Edge’s fifth novel follows the fortunes of an eccentric Californian billionaire attempting to foist flat-earth beliefs on an unsuspecting planet via an unscrupulous London charity.  He persuades gullible online zealots that old-style "globularism" is hateful, and teachers and airline pilots face ruin if they reject the new "True Earth" orthodoxy.  Can a band of heretics expose the plot before insanity takes over?  Francis Wheen calls The End of the World is Flat "a bracingly sharp satire on the sleep of reason and the tyranny of twaddle", while The Times hailed it as "nifty, often snort-inducingly funny satire".

Craig Brown, One Two Three Four

The Beatles are back – not that they’ve ever gone away, but a new three-part documentary goes behind the scenes of their 1970 disc "Let it Be". Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four is a kaleidoscopic mixture of history, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, essays, parallel lives, party lists, charts, interviews, announcements and stories. Not so much a biography, more a group portrait in vignettes of their heyday which won the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction. For Beatle fans and those yet unconverted this is a fascinating and entertaining read.

Recommended by Neil Ashton.

Cover of Nicola Upson's Sorry For The Dead

In the summer of 1915, the violent death of a young girl brings grief and notoriety to Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs.
Years later, Josephine Tey returns to the same house - now much changed - and remembers the two women with whom she once lodged as a young teacher during the Great War. As past and present collide, with murders decades apart, Josephine is forced to face the possibility that the scandal which threatened to destroy those women's lives hid a much darker secret.
Sorry for the Dead is the eighth book in the "Josephine Tey" series, at once a compelling murder mystery and a moving exploration of love and grief.

Cover of Edward Wilson's Portrait Of The Spy As A Young Man

1941: William Catesby, a waif from the Lowestoft docks who speaks French owing to a Belgian barmaid mother, abandons a degree course at Cambridge to join the army. He is recruited into SOE and parachuted into Occupied France, where the line between Resistance hero and traitor is a grey one. It is the prelude to his career as an MI6 spy.
2014: now in his nineties, Catesby recounts his life to his granddaughter and reveals himself as a complex and conflicted man torn by betrayals, war and lost love – but still full of hope. The book is a prequel to the seven novels of the Catesby series.

Cover of Patrick Barkham's Wild Child: Coming Home To Nature

We know that being outside makes us happy and keeps us well. And yet today’s children spend less time outdoors than prisoners. How can we fix this? In Wild Child, Patrick Barkham draws on his own experiences as a parent and as a forest school volunteer to explore the relationship between children and nature. No matter who we are, or where we live, we can still find joy and wonder in the neighbourhood nature that surrounds us.

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