Photo: charleston.org.uk

The idyllic cottage, Charleston, which was once home to members of the Bloomsbury group, plays host this summer to a wide range of literary and artistic treats at the annual Charleston Festival. Running from the 20th –28th May at the house and gardens which are situated in Lewes, the Festival celebrates our finest literature, drama and art, whilst linking many of its events to Bloomsbury themes. The Charleston Festival provides a feast of discussion, debates and reading that are sure to thrill anyone with a passion for the arts world.

Kicking off the festival on the 20th May, popular author David Nicholls, writer of the best-selling ‘One Day’ joins ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ author, John Boyne, in the discussion ‘Perspectives on Fiction’, in which the audience will be able to discover how these successful authors tailor their work to different audiences, bearing in mind their works have been subject to adaptation for the big and small screen.

Film fans and history buffs will relish the chance to discover more about the truth behind the recent critically and commercially acclaimed film ‘The King’s Speech’, as Mark Logue, grandson of speech therapist Lionel Logue, and Peter Conradi, co-author of the book that accompanied the film discuss the details of Logue’s revealing diaries.

Talking about a fascinating and lengthy literary life, ‘Murder She Wrote’, a discussion with crime writer P.D. James will take into account her background in the civil service, her work in the House of Lords, as well as her prolific writing career. Fans of

crime fiction may also be interested in Henning Mankell discussing ‘The Troubled Man’, the final instalment in his Wallander series, something which has become quite a phenomenon in the recent surge in interest regarding Scandinavian crime, and seen the books adapted for British TV starring Kenneth Branagh as the eponymous detective. Diana Athill, Jane Miller and Paul Bailey will discuss growing old and wise in ‘Crazy Age’, a subject that all three have put pen to paper about in the past.

For those interested in learning about the intimate family histories of famous figures in our artistic world, Charleston also has a range of guests appearing that fulfil this requirement. Deborah Devonshire, the last remaining Mitford sister, discusses her dramatic and tumultuous life alongside five sisters that were shockingly and amusingly diverse in their passions and pursuits. Robert Sackville-West and Charlotte Moore talk about their inherited family homes, Knole in Kent and Hancox in Sussex respectively, and what it is like to be part of aristocracy.

In ‘Artistic Legacies’, Elizabeth Chatwin, wife of author Bruce Chatwin, and Judy Golding, daughter of William Golding, discuss the issues concerned with publishing works about family members posthumously – is it distasteful, or a necessary right? Michael Frayn, author of ‘Spies’, will discuss the life of his father in ‘My Father’s Fortune’, in an event that promises to be as much an act of recovery as one of revelation.

Charleston also features events that examine issues that are prevalent in our society today. Fascinating debate is inevitable between philosopher A.C. Grayling and our MP, Caroline Lucas, in ‘The Secular Bible’. Grayling insists that, through the need to promote the work of philosophers in society, an alternative bible should exist, and the audience may judge for themselves whether he has created this when he talks about his latest work, ‘The Good Book’. Presenter of Radio 4’s Today Programme, Evan Davis, will examine the lack of goods currently produced in Britain in ‘Made in Britain’, and even ponder the question of whether it is really necessary for us to manufacture our own products. In an event that goes right to the heart of Charleston itself, The Charleston Debate will assess different responses to the idea that ‘Our obsession with the past is a distraction from reality’, asking whether we really do learn from our mistakes or whether they hold us back as we work towards the future.

The Charleston Festival must not be missed by anyone that seeks to engage in prevalent and exciting debate in an environment that is not only beautiful, but steeped in the history of our literary and artistic culture.

Jessie Thompson

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