Guest Curator Announcement: The Times And The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is delighted to reveal the Guest Curators helping shape the world’s oldest literature festival for its highly anticipated return this autumn, when it will bring literary revelry to the heart of regency Cheltenham from Friday 8 to Sunday 17 October 2021.


Following last year’s FutureBook award-winning hybrid Festival, the 2021 instalment is set to welcome live audiences to all its venues, with highlights curated for the CheltLitPlayer and a ‘Today at Cheltenham’ daily broadcast. The theme – Read the World – will draw on the Festival’s international connections as well as digital technology to showcase the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers and thinkers from around the world.


The Festival is thrilled to welcome Booker-winning trailblazer Bernardine Evaristo for the opening weekend with the first major event on her powerful, urgent manifesto charting a remarkable life and career of creative rebellion. Evaristo will also develop events around her Penguin ‘Writing Back’ series, rediscovering novels by Black writers for Black Britain, as well as panels discussing queer writing, African feminism and LatinX poetry.


Author, journalist, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords Joan Bakewell returns to Cheltenham as the Festival’s first Guest Curator to reprise the role, and will, aptly, curate a series that reflects on a woman’s lifetime and the passing of time, history, memory and home.


Creators of the wildly popular Talk Art podcast – actor Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament – will bring their show to Cheltenham with a very special guest, as well as sharing their characteristically fun and approachable take on all things contemporary art in a series of specially curated events.


Tolly Shoneye, Milena Sanchez and Audrey Indome – hosts of the chart-topping The Receipts podcast – will be solving scandalous dilemmas and creating conversations with their trademark honesty. They’ll discuss dating, love, race, culture and how to be loud, authentically yourself and empowered in your own skin.


The multi-award-winning team at The Week Junior are collaborating with the Festival to expand the hugely popular current affairs and non-fiction events and workshops for younger audiences, presenting facts and exploring ideas that will inspire curious young minds.


Finally, writer and editor Ann Morgan will be appearing at the Festival as the inaugural Literary Explorer in Residence, marking ten years since her ‘Year of Reading the World’ challenge. Morgan will be developing a range of talks, panels and interactive sessions around international writing, literature in translation and how to broaden your reading horizons and habits.


The Guest Curators will lend their voices, insight and expertise to the programming team led by Nicola Tuxworth, who said: ‘Cheltenham wouldn’t be Cheltenham without our Guest Curators, they are key to keeping our programme fresh and original each year. We are honoured and delighted to welcome this extraordinarily talented group to work with us – giving generously of their time and their creativity and lending their unique perspectives and insights to the programming process.’


Bernardine Evaristo said: ‘Curating for this Festival has been a brilliant opportunity to gather together some of the most exciting and trailblazing storytellers, soul explorers and mind-expanders; word-travellers and world-builders; people-connecters and community champions; everyday philosophers and psychological investigators — all otherwise known as writers. Welcome to their perspectives, welcome to our worlds.’


Joan Bakewell said: “Oh, what a joy to be back in Cheltenham. Not only a beautiful place, with fine buildings and green spaces, but at its heart one of the country’s greatest literary festivals. Something for all, and easily accessible. Look at the variety of books and authors you can meet. I’m thrilled to be curating a weekend of events that focus on a woman’s lifetime: a look back to the early 1960s, when Britain stood on the cusp of social and cultural revolution; a discussion about the often fraught relationships between mothers and daughters; and my own musings on the process of moving forward to the next slice of life and downsizing from my dear home of 50 odd years. I can’t wait to get the conversations going… please come and join me.”


Russell Tovey & Robert Diament: ‘We are so thrilled to be invited as guest curators at this year’s Festival and in the spirit of Talk Art, we hope that our events will simultaneously make art more accessible as well as provide a platform to just geek out with us. Art is all about storytelling and we are wanting to express a diverse mix of exciting and relevant stories through this curatorship.’


Audrey Indome, Tolani Shoneye and Milena Sanchez from The Receipts Podcast said: We are excited and honoured to have the opportunity to work alongside Cheltenham Literature Festival. The magnitude of this is not lost on us. Our book Keep The Receipts, is life according to our lenses, our voices and our style of storytelling, and we can’t wait to bring this energy to the Festival. We are really looking forward to bringing panels and events that represent us and prove the magic that can be made when worlds collaborate.’


Anna Bassi, Editorial Director at The Week Junior said: ‘Feeding curiosity and nurturing reading for pleasure is at the heart of everything we do, so we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to curate events at Cheltenham. The editorial team will be giving children a peek behind the scenes of the magazine and sharing some of the tricks of the trade in the workshops, and we’ll be exploring our readers’ passions and interests in the panel events. We’re really looking forward to bringing The Week Junior to life with the support of so many amazing authors and hope our audiences are just as excited as we are.’


Ann Morgan said: Reading the world changed my life, and I continue to be amazed and delighted by the power books have to connect us across cultural, political and religious divides. I can’t wait to introduce festival goers to the joys of broadening your literary horizons and exploring stories from elsewhere.