Welcome to the

Lavenham Literary Festival

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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. He has now written his first novel The Late train to Gipsy Hill.  Join us for what promises to be a memorable evening of fascinating insights and humour.

Tickets will be exclusively available from the Swan’s website via a separate link.  They will go on sale on Wednesday 1 September and you are advised to apply quickly as we anticipate another sell-out event.  Details of how to access the booking link will be sent out nearer the time.  There will be no reservations possible before this date and tickets will be limited to two per applicant.

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.

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.

In At the Field's Edge: Adrian Bell And The English Countryside, Richard Hawking brings Adrian Bell’s prescient, beautifully written, and still timely observations about the ecology, economy and culture of the British countryside to a new generation of readers. Largely neglected, Bell’s voice is one we should listen to, coming from one of our greatest writers about farming and rural life. If we pause at the field’s edge with him for a moment, we get a lesson in aesthetic appreciation and about what is disappearing from the countryside.

Before handbags there were tie-on pockets where women carried pencils, thimbles or a lover's picture. Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux have researched the story of this essential accessory of 18th and 19th century life in museums and private collections, letters, accounts of court cases and newspaper advertisements. Pockets were worn by duchesses and country gentry, prostitutes and washerwomen, and immortalised in a children's nursery rhyme.

cover of Haverscroft by S.A. Harris

Kate Keeling moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage but Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity and her husband, and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. In this modern gothic tale, S.A. Harris plays on the expectations of the role of women, the manipulation of their mental health and the risks they will take for their children. It will grip you from the start, and keep you guessing till the end!


In a luxury lodge on Botswana’s sunny plains four friends, once known as the Wild Girls, reunite for a birthday celebration. The birthday girl has it all but chose love over her friends, the teacher feels the walls of her classroom closing in, the mother desperately needs a break and the introvert yearns for adventure after much suffering. Arriving at the lodge a feeling of unease grows. There’s no sign of the promised party, and no phone signal. They’re alone, in the wild.  Phoebe Morgan’s latest book is an atmospheric thriller of secrets, lies and betrayals. Phoebe ran a "how to get published" workshop at our 2019 Festival.


Howard and Kitty have recently moved to Lodeshill after a life spent in London; now their marriage is wordlessly falling apart. Jamie has lived in the village for all of his nineteen years and dreams of leaving it behind, while Jack, a vagrant farm-worker arrives in the village on foot one spring morning, bringing change. All four of them are struggling to find a life in the modern countryside.
At Hawthorn Time, shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2015 is both a clear-eyed picture of rural Britain, and a heartbreaking exploration of love, land and loss.

In 1649, Jan Brunt, a Dutchman, arrives in England to work on draining and developing the Great Level, an expanse of marsh in the heart of the fen country. It is here he meets Eliza, whose love overturns his ordered vision and whose act of resistance forces him to see the world differently.

Jan flees to the New World, where the spirit of avarice is raging and his skills as an engineer are prized. Then one spring morning a boy delivers a note that prompts him to remember the fens, and confront all that was lost there.